DENVER (AP) — Peyton Manning has played the classic pick-your-poison trap all season, spreading the ball out evenly to his wide receivers while lighting up the scoreboard like no NFL quarterback ever has.
Somebody's always singled up, and chances are that's where the ball's going, although Manning won't shy away from double coverage, either, if his man gets open.
Unlike many teams in today's air-it-out NFL, the Broncos don't have any prima donnas demanding passes and attention, preening for crowds and cameras. These Broncos are the antithesis of those high-maintenance superstars huffing back to the huddle to let the quarterback know just how open they were.
Manning has targeted Demaryius Thomas 117 times, Wes Welker 111 times and Eric Decker 109 times.
Tight end Julius Thomas has been Manning's bull's-eye 69 times and running back Knowshon Moreno 58.
Those five players have caught 42 of Manning's 45 touchdown throws.
"The plays we call, there is a progression to each play, but the credit goes to the receivers for running full-speed routes," Manning said. "When you run full-speed routes you're going to have a chance to get open. I think because they know we spread the ball around, guys are expecting the ball."
San Diego coach Mike McCoy, whose Chargers visit Denver on Thursday night, was on the other side of the equation a year ago as Denver's offensive coordinator and now he's the one trying to figure out ways to slow down Manning.
"With his football intelligence and the way he plays the game, he's going to take what the defense gives him," McCoy said. "Whether it was in his early years in Indy, his late years in Indy, his time in Denver the last two years, he's going to more often than not find the open guy. It's not shocking at all the way he's spread the ball around and the success the entire offense has had because of the number of touches that each guy is getting."
Five things to keep an eye on when the Broncos (11-2) try to improve to 11-0 against the AFC West under Manning when they host the Chargers (6-7):
BREAKING RECORDS: Manning is on pace to break several NFL records, including Tom Brady's mark of 50 TD passes and Drew Brees' record of 5,476 yards passing. And the Broncos are on pace to score a record 634 points.