ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Just two years removed from the neck troubles that weakened his right arm but strengthened his resolve, Peyton Manning is off to the best start by any quarterback in NFL history.
He returns to Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday a much better player than the one who left Indianapolis teary-eyed in 2012 after the Colts let him go in favor of Andrew Luck.
Manning has four terrific targets in Denver to go with the skill, intellect, work ethic and determination he's always had.
With Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas sharing the catches, the unbeaten Broncos are averaging an eye-popping 42 points a game. Manning has thrown for a record 22 TDs in the first six weeks, and Knowshon Moreno is keeping defenses honest with a league-leading seven TD runs.
Manning loves dissecting defenses and poring over game film but hates digging deep into his own psyche to decipher what makes him tick.
Listen closely to some of his words, though:
"I love practicing every day."
"I'm still learning."
"By no means do I have everything figured out."
This from the four-time MVP who narrowly missed out on a fifth last year.
Most quarterbacks blowing out 37 candles on their birthday cake tire of the tedium of meetings, practices and workouts. They start daydreaming about life after football.
"Everybody enjoys playing in an NFL football game, but I still enjoy the preparation, the work ... and being effective," Manning said.
Take him out of his comfort zone, put him in a new city with a new team. It's the perfect challenge.
The beauty of Peyton Manning is his beautiful mind.
NBC football analyst Cris Collinsworth said the line he hears most from opponents is "he's playing chess when most of us are playing checkers."
"I think that's really his No. 1 asset," added Tony Dungy, Collinsworth's colleague and Manning's former coach. "He is so smart, he's got such a great memory, such great recall."
Collinsworth said he studies harder for Manning's games than any other ones "because I don't want to look stupid. Because I know that he's going to do something where I'm going to go, 'Now, what just happened there?'"
When John Fox says No. 18 is a fellow coach on the football field, he's not just rattling off another cliche.
Manning's incessant instruction fills Dove Valley during every practice. During training camp, he gave some 1-on-1 tutoring to Montee Ball.
"One day we were out there just me and him and he's yelling things like it's 11-on-11," Ball recounted. "He's pointing out the middle linebacker and yelling at the tight end, changing the call. I look back like, who's he talking to?"
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