ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – No disrespect to the receivers he had with the Colts, but Peyton Manning never had such a group as he has in Denver.
Even Tony Dungy marvels over this new collection of pass-catchers that Manning brings to Indianapolis for the biggest homecoming since Brett Favre donned purple to so much chagrin at Lambeau Field in 2009.
Andrew Luck doesnt have quite the same cast in Indy that Manning enjoyed there or the one hes doing great things with in Denver, but he does have Reggie Wayne still burnishing his Hall of Fame credentials.
Mannings best year in Indianapolis was 2004, when his three 1,000-yard receivers – Wayne, Marvin Harrison and Brandon Stokley – combined for 231 catches, 3,400 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas are on pace to become the NFLs first foursome of 1,000-yard receivers. This Fantastic Four is on pace for an eye-popping 361 receptions, 4,704 yards and 51 TDs.
Manning is loath to compare teams, offenses, seasons. The only thing hell say is hes still getting used to his new options, not to mention his shuffled offensive line.
He knows this, though: defenses can double-cover three terrific receivers, but not four. And he wont force the issue; he doesnt have to.
I dont think Peyton Manning falls in love with anybody, NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said. I think he falls in love with the single coverage. And when youve got four guys that can win on a consistent basis hes just going to find the single coverage and let them win.
With so many options flooding the field, Manning is getting passes off quickly. He has been sacked only twice since the opener.
Welker is on pace for 21 touchdowns. The most he ever caught from Tom Brady was nine.
Last year I thought the Denver Broncos were kind of Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker or bust, Collinsworth said. So much of their stuff was to the outside guys. And now theyve got the inside threat, Welker. Obviously, hes as good as there is.
Dungy, Mannings former coach, argues the bigger arrival has been that of Julius Thomas, the athletic tight end who spent his first two seasons trying to get healthy and catching just one pass.
I think hes really the difference-maker, Dungy said. And I think this is what made this offense really take a next step to that next level because he is so big and now hes playing with so much confidence.
Julius Thomas seven TD grabs rank second in the NFL behind Welkers eight.
And then you cant forget Knowshon Moreno, Dungy added.
Hes no Edgerrin James, but Moreno does have seven touchdowns, a welcome addition to Mannings sensational start that includes a record 22 touchdown throws.
The Broncos have scored an NFL-record 265 points in six games and are on pace to shatter New Englands single-season record of 589 set in 2007.