ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With 37 birthdays, four neck surgeries, one missed season, 7,991 pass attempts and 229 regular-season NFL games in Peyton Manning’s rearview mirror, the question will come up from time to time.
The question of how much is too much? Or, in the case of this year’s Broncos offense, how much is enough?
The Broncos (5-0) will enter Sunday’s matchup against the winless Jaguars as one of the biggest favorites in the league’s history. Jacksonville, with 51 points in five games, is last in the league in scoring, while the Broncos, with 230, have scored more points over a season’s first five games than, yes, any other team in NFL history.
So, when Manning does, or doesn’t, come out of this game is up for discussion. Especially when folks see a play like George Selvie gripping Manning’s face mask and twisting Manning’s head and surgically repaired neck as awkwardly as the Cowboys defensive end did this past Sunday.
Know this, though: Manning doesn’t like to come out of a practice, out of a drill, out of a meeting, out of a single moment of anything football-related he thinks might help him win a game somewhere down the road. Former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Manning has even scouted defensive players’ tendencies at the Pro Bowl.
For his part, Manning has described it as “the more situations you see, the more things you’ve been asked to handle in your career, you would hope you could look back on that and draw on that as you go along. I just believe you should take everybody opportunity to work through something if you have the chance."
Before Sunday’s touchdown festivus in Dallas -- a 51-48 Denver win that came down to the Broncos' final possession -- coach John Fox had been asked after each of the Broncos’ first four games if, and when, he thought about putting backup Brock Osweiler in the lineup. Fox’s stock answer is, “During those situations in games, we talk about everything."
For the record, however, Osweiler has played just 16 snaps, all in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 19 in Denver. After Manning tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Wes Welker to give the Broncos a 42-13 lead with 22 seconds remaining in the third quarter, he didn’t throw another pass against the Eagles.
Broncos linebacker Steven Johnson blocked a punt and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to close out the Eagles’ first possession of the fourth quarter. The Broncos then had a 49-13 lead, and Osweiler played the rest of the way, leading the team on one field goal drive.