- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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Wobbly history: Quarterback Peyton Manning's passes seem to receive critical review every time he lets go of the ball. The Internet is alive with the word “wobbly’’ or “duck’’ through most of the Broncos' games. Is the 37-year-old's arm what it was before four neck surgeries and a year on the sideline? No, but he’s adjusted in his comeback. His lower-body movements are a far more important part of his delivery now and he needs slightly more room in the pocket to stride into the throws because of it, which is why pressure up the middle affects him. But after eight games the guy leads the NFL in passer rating (119.4), yards passing (2,919), completions (237) and touchdowns (29). The touchdown total is already more than he had in six of his previous seasons as a starter and 10 more than any other quarterback at the moment. Perhaps folks should just take a breath and see how it turns out since there are plenty of guys with rocket-powered arms sitting at home watching every Sunday.
Kick start: The Broncos sit at 7-1 heading into their bye week on a historical scoring pace, but they still haven’t always come out of the gate very well. They have led four games after the first quarter and trailed in four games, including 14-7 to the Cowboys and 10-7 in their loss to the Colts. For the season, the Broncos have scored at least 76 points in every quarter except the first. They have scored 59 first-quarter points, while scoring 115 fourth-quarter points.
Need more specialness: Injuries have pushed players up the depth chart and forced the Broncos to make adjustments on special teams. A unit that has consistently been a strength of the Broncos for much of the season had an uncharacteristically choppy outing against the Redskins. A too-many-men penalty on the field goal block unit kept a Redskins' drive going, and Washington scored a touchdown on the next play. The Broncos also surrendered their longest punt return of the season -- a 34-yarder by Josh Morgan -- that featured a missed tackle or two.
Flag days: The Broncos, with six more penalties tacked on to their total Sunday, are among the league’s penalty leaders. Only five teams have had more -- through Sunday's games -- than the Broncos' 55 accepted penalties, and only four teams have more penalty yards than the Broncos’ 505. Most troubling, however, is on defense, where the Broncos have allowed more first downs by penalty this season (21) than any other team in the league. Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, with another ill-advised hit on a quarterback Sunday, leads all Broncos players with nine penalties this season, including two for unsportsmanlike conduct and two for unnecessary roughness.
5dEric D. Williams