For a man who orchestrated seven consecutive seasons of 12 wins or more, a 2-3 start to 2012 may be considered lackluster for Denver Broncos legendary QB Peyton Manning. Don't point the finger of blame at him, though.
Whispers about his passes wobbling more than usual and his arm strength waning haven't mattered. More often than not, Manning has put the ball where it needs to be, like he always has.
Aside from his three first-quarter interceptions against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3, Manning has been smart with the football and produced some of the most efficient quarterback play in the league. In fact, those were his only three picks of the season.
Manning has completed two of every three passes, is fourth in the league in passing yards and is in the top five in passing efficiency. That's not bad.
Running back Willis McGahee has built on his career renaissance in 2011, but he had a costly dropped pass and another fumble that would have likely translated to a massive comeback victory over the New England Patriots last week.
Outside of McGahee, the Broncos don't have a truly viable No. 2 back, especially one who excels at catching the ball out of the backfield.
One crucial category that Denver ranks in the bottom of the league in is turnover ratio: minus-six. That can't be pinned on Manning, who has only turned it over four times total.
The defense has been surprisingly quiet as far as snagging takeaways, with only four total through five games. Only the Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders and Manning's old Indianapolis Colts have one fewer than that.
This lack of turnover generation is in spite of the presence of rookie Derek Wolfe to solidify the defensive line, two elite pass-rushers in Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil and an upgraded secondary featuring cornerback Tracy Porter and versatile safety Mike Adams.
While the unit ranks mostly in the middle of the pack in terms of major statistical categories, they haven't made enough plays to compliment the Broncos' offense.
In his second trip to Monday Night Football, Manning will take on the San Diego Chargers, a team he has historically had trouble with.
It will be a very difficult road test at Qualcomm Stadium, as the Broncos look to pull even in the AFC West in spite of their perceived early-season struggles.
The level of expectations has risen for Manning, but he has quietly lived up to the hype by picking apart the inferior defenses his team has faced. Even when teams have put him in obvious passing situations, he has made the necessary checks to get his team in position to succeed.
Each game the team has lost, Manning has led a furious comeback charge, only to ultimately fall short. He has done his part; his supporting cast hasn't.
Even though this is, supposedly, an upgraded playoff team from last year, the Broncos will go as far as Manning takes them in their current state.
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