After playing sparingly in Week 1, Peyton Manning received his first extended time in a Denver Broncos uniform against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2. Although he looked rusty at times, the former Colts quarterback looks ready for a return to NFL prominence.
Manning led two scoring drives on Saturday night. The first—ending with a Willis McGahee touchdown—was a thing of beauty. Sitting back in the shotgun, Manning picked apart a Seattle secondary that features some of the best young talent in the NFL.
The second scoring drive ended the first half with the Broncos on top 10-9. It was the ideal two-minute drill as Manning (again, primarily from the shotgun) made short pass after short pass. It was low-risk/high-reward as Manning consistently moved the chains and hit multiple receivers. The otherwise-perfect drive was punctuated with a dropped touchdown by Jacob Tamme.
While the final result, Seattle beating Denver 30-10, won't matter much to the Broncos' coaching staff, they have to be happy with their first team besting an impressive Seattle defense, especially in light of a few Manning miscues.
Manning threw two interceptions on the night, finishing with a paltry 55.9 passer rating. While neither interception was inexcusable, both looked out of character for one of the NFL's most efficient passers.
The first interception, on a pass batted at the line of scrimmage, was pulled down by K.J. Wright. Both Wright's effort and that of Red Bryant who batted the pass was tremendous. In his prime, Manning may have avoided the play, but it's hardly something that could be expected even out of elite quarterbacks.
The second interception was an overthrow to Joel Dreessen that landed right in Jaron Johnson's hands. If Manning throws that same ball to the same spot 10 times, it would likely land in his receiver's hands eight or nine of those attempts. Had he been throwing that pass to Dallas Clark in his prime, it probably would have been a reception as well.
It wasn't a matter of timing or a matter of Manning making a mistake. Instead, Manning was attempting a pass with as much degree of difficulty as any throw in the NFL. He had to be perfect to complete that throw—perfection that he is used to. He wasn't at that moment, but he looks comfortably on the way.
The rest of the Denver offense looked solid, if unimpressive, against the Seahawks. Brandon Stokley and Tamme clearly have soft spots in Manning's heart as he targeted two of his former targets seven times on the night—as often as Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.
While there was miscommunication across the board, this is clearly an offense that is progressing toward bigger and better things.
The real question mark for the Broncos is along the offensive line where injuries and utter lack of talent could put Manning in harm's way often this season. Tim Tebow's option attack and mobility helped the line overachieve last season, and they will need to re-adjust to a pass-heavy attack.
While Denver fans would love to see Manning at his best sooner rather than later, it's evident that he's healthy and that this offense is heading in the right direction. With a healthy Peyton Manning, the Broncos have to feel like playoff contenders in 2012.
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."
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