ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Peyton Manning counts himself fortunate. Consider his team furious.
Manning acknowledged he was "probably a little bit lucky" that he banged the right thumbnail and not the knuckle of his throwing hand on New Orleans defensive end Martez Wilson's helmet Sunday night.
It's what happened a split-second later that has the Broncos miffed.
The crown of Wilson's helmet smacked into Manning's chin, a play the Broncos are expected to have the league look at this week.
Although no flag was thrown, it was similar to the illegal hit last month that cost Broncos linebacker Joe Mays a $50,000 fine and a one-game suspension for blasting Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.
"It'll be something we look at and get the TV copy," Broncos coach John Fox said Monday. "We haven't done all that yet. And I'm not really able to comment on what we turn into the league and what we don't, but that's one we'll look at closely."
In all likelihood, so will the NFL and the result could be a hefty fine for Wilson, a backup on a team that's been dogged by turmoil all season after the NFL penalized the franchise for running a money-for-hits bounty pool.
Unlike Schaub, who lost a chunk of his left ear when his helmet went flying after Mays' hit, Manning's helmet stayed on after he was sandwiched by Wilson and strong safety Roman Harper on a blitz just as he released a 23-yard pass that Eric Decker caught along the left sideline in the first half of Denver's 34-14 win.
"I got nervous," said slot receiver Brandon Stokley, Manning's old pal from their days together in Indianapolis.
Manning picked himself up off the grass, shaking his thumb. He handed off on the next four snaps before throwing twice, then giving way to Matt Prater, who kicked a short field goal as the first half expired.
Manning, who had his third sackless outing in his last four games, answered any questions by going 4 for 4 to start the third quarter, moving the Broncos 93 yards and capping it with a 1-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas.
Fox gave this update on Manning's thumb Monday: "Oh, it's fine."
So, too, are the Broncos (4-3), who lead the AFC West as Manning grows more and more comfortable with his new teammates.
Navy and orange just no longer clash with Manning.
Add a defense that doesn't look so lost anymore under new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and the Broncos are on a roll, and against the Saints they finally found that 60-minute game they've been talking about.
The Broncos are serving notice that not only is the four-time MVP back, Peyton Manning Version 2.0 just might be every bit as good as the original.
Despite the throbbing thumb and the scars of four neck operations and a bitter divorce from the Colts serving as testament to all he's gone through to get here, Manning, 36, is in the midst of one of the best stretches any quarterback has ever had.