DENVER -- Peyton Manning didn't throw a touchdown pass on Sunday against the Bills, marking the first such occasion for him since November 14, 2010 against the Bengals.
You can be sure Manning wasn't disappointed after that game against Cincinnati -- which ended with Manning's Colts on top 23-17 -- just as he wasn't disappointed when the Broncos' win streak moved to three on Sunday afternoon, even as his 51-game streak with a touchdown pass ended three games shy of Drew Brees' NFL record (54 games).
"I've broken a lot of records and set a lot of records due to playing for a long time and I guess playing well at times, but it's never been something that I've been about," Manning said after the game. "So I don't need to break or set another record. It was important to get a win tonight."
When later asked if he's comfortable in the suddenly run-heavy offense, Manning responded, "I'm comfortable with winning. That's what I'm comfortable with and that's what I'm pleased about."
Browse photos of the second half of the Broncos' home game against the Bills.
Manning attempted just 20 passes -- his lowest total in a game as a Bronco by six attempts -- as the Broncos continued a fervent commitment to the run game that has led to clock-controlling victories in each of the last three weeks. That low number of attempts was also influenced by a lack of total plays for the Broncos (49), as the clock ticked by quickly. Even so, 59.2 percent of those 49 snaps were run plays, the second-highest percentage of run plays in a game during Manning's 45 games in Denver (61.6 at Baltimore in 2012).
The past three weeks have now accounted for three of the 11 times in that span that Denver's offense has run at least as much as it has passed in a game. When someone suggested after the game that this style might be less exciting than the air-it-out performances of games past, Manning joked, "I hope fans will still keep coming to the game."
"But yeah there's no question it's been a little bit of an adjustment," he added. "Everybody kind of has to adjust to it and be ready and still trying to do their job."
Even with the adjusting, it appears Manning is getting used to handing off and watching C.J. Anderson and others make plays with their legs. Those plays have been so impressive at times that they're occasionally drawing Manning's attention away from finishing handoffs to make run plays look like play action.
"Sometimes I get a minus on my grade sheet for not carrying out my fake but I like to watch," Manning said, smiling. "I like to see [Anderson] because I have a good view of it back there and he makes a lot of guys miss."
Anderson's production near the goal line proved crucial against Buffalo, as he picked up all three of the team's touchdowns and helped the Broncos rebound from a 1-for-7 performance in the red zone against the Chiefs in Week 13. If not for a Jacob Tamme fumble near the end of the first half, the Broncos' offense may well have gone 4-for-4 scoring touchdowns inside the 20 on Sunday.
"C.J. did a good job down there in the red zone, getting in there on those runs," Manning said. "Those are hard earned runs down there.
"It was good to improve our red zone. We didn't score many touchdowns last week and that was the difference tonight, being able to score touchdowns in the red zone as opposed to settling for field goals."
Browse still shots of the field action during the first half of the Broncos' game against the Bills.
While Adam Gase has noted that his emphasis on calling more runs was partly a response to the one-dimensional performance against the Rams in Week 11, that type of game plan has also catered to each of the last three opponents. The Dolphins, Chiefs and Bills all feature deep front sevens with talented sets of pass rushers that can tee off on opposing quarterbacks in obvious passing situations.
It seems the Broncos have been determined to keep that from happening the way it did against Robert Quinn and the Rams in St. Louis.
"Every game takes on kind of a different formula, different ways to win and that's kind of the way this game worked out," Manning said.
Head Coach John Fox's comments reflected the same idea: "[The Bills] play to their defense and they play to their front. I think we did the things -- game plan and execution on offense -- that we needed to do to find a way to win the game."
Whether such a run-heavy game plan will continue against the Chargers next week -- or against the Bengals and Raiders in the weeks following -- remains to be seen, but Manning is obviously quite capable of racking up the passing statistics again when needed. Despite a modest final line on Sunday (173 yards, two interceptions), he still made several pinpoint throws, including deep passes to Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders and a gorgeous back-shoulder toss to Welker that set up the team's third touchdown.
The newfound balance could certainly factor into the late-season and postseason games when weather can deteriorate, but the Broncos aren't looking that far ahead. With their fifth clash with the Chargers in less than 13 months on the way in Week 15, Denver has plenty to prepare for right now.
"I think we are trying to beat the opponent that we are playing that week," Manning said. "This is a good win against Buffalo this week and try to find a way to beat San Diego, a team that is playing well.
"[It is] a team that there is a lot of familiarity between the two teams and the coaching staffs, A team that we played three times last year. We have to go to their place in a division game and it'll be a big game."