DENVER – Quarterback
In Sunday’s regular-season finale, Manning completed 23-of-29 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns despite leaving before the start of the fourth quarter.
The performance gave the quarterback his ninth outing of the season with at least 300 yards passing, and it also marked his ninth game of the year with three touchdown passes.
“As I have mentioned many times, what he has done, to be coming off that kind of rehab, that type of injury at his position in a new city with a new team is unprecedented,” Head Coach John Fox said. “Historical would be the word I would use.”
Manning now owns the Broncos’ single-season records in nearly every major passing category, including completions (400), completion percentage (68.6), passing yards (4,659), touchdown passes (37) and quarterback rating (105.8).
Sunday’s 38-3 win over the Chiefs capped Manning’s emphatic return to action after spending 2011 recovering from a neck injury. Manning, who often deflects questions about his individual performance to talk about the play of his team, admitted he had earned himself some time to look back at the regular season.
“Well, certainly it’s about our team, but I think Coach Fox made a certain point for us to take a day to reflect on what we have done this season and think about how far we have come,” Manning said. “I know I’ll certainly do that. It’s been quite a year for me. It’s been like no other year I’ve ever been through. It really goes back almost a year-and-a-half, as far as my injury, but 2012 has been unique, so once it comes to an end on Tuesday, we’ll move on to 2013, which for us means the postseason, which is exciting. It’s been a gratifying regular season and very humbling. I have to admit that.”
Stellar play by Manning helped the Broncos finish the regular season on an 11-game winning streak that gave Denver the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs, meaning the team will enjoy both a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the postseason. A big part of the Broncos’ ability to reel off such a lengthy stretch of undefeated football was their offensive consistency, as the team scored 30 or more points in nine of the 11 wins.
But Manning remains adamant that the offense can get even better going forward.
“I still think there are still things we can improve on,” Manning said. “I still think there still are things that just take time, that you just can’t get done in a year. In some ways, I still think we’re just doing the very best we can in a year, considering all the changes—the changes for me, the changes for the team, with what Coach (Offensive Coordinator Mike) McCoy has done with the new offense—that’s been pretty impressive.”
The offensive success has been all the more notable considering Manning’s recovery from injury and the difficulty of carrying out an offensive scheme drastically different from the one in place a year ago.
“Things are harder but I’ve had a lot of help with the season, with the receivers, guys making plays, (wide receiver) Demaryius (Thomas) and (wide receiver Eric) Decker making those one-handed catches and our offensive line has just fought incredibly hard all season long,” Manning said. “I’m grateful for their protection. I really see those as team things but I definitely will take the time to reflect. It’s been a gratifying regular season. I will admit that. It is certainly more than I expected. I’m grateful and I’m humble for it.”