- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly examination of the Denver Broncos' quarterback play.
Rewind: With 354 yards passing and four more touchdowns in the Broncos' 45-21 victory over the Washington Redskins, Manning had his seventh 300-yard passing game of the season and his sixth game with at least three touchdown passes. He also threw a season-high three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by DeAngelo Hall. It was the second interception opponents have returned for a touchdown in the past three games.
Fast-forward: Manning heads into the Broncos' bye week fairly battered physically. He’s taken several heavy shots over the last three games, including big hits to the ribs and ankles against the Jaguars. Manning then took another selection of hits in the loss to the Colts -- he missed one practice in the days following that game because of two sprained ankles after another low tackle -- and will take the opportunity to heal this week. "The bye comes at a good time for a lot of guys, including me," he said. Manning will face the Chiefs’ league-leading defense twice in the first four games following this weekend’s bye.
Injury to watch: Tight end Julius Thomas, who is second on the team with eight touchdowns and fourth with 39 catches, has been a player Manning looks to when things get tight in the scoring zone. Thomas has four touchdown catches on third down already this season, most in the league. But he suffered a left ankle injury in the win over the Redskins that the Broncos will monitor and treat through the bye week. They hope Thomas will be back for the Nov. 10 game at San Diego and he has said he’ll be back “soon.’’ It would take a significant adjustment if he isn’t in the pass pattern.
Prediction: Manning has always been one of the best in the league at assessing his own play; sometimes, coaches say, he may even be a little too harsh on himself. But he knows the protection issues the Broncos have had and that he has forced a pass or two of late because of them. The Broncos will try to protect him more with a better running game in the season’s second half and get some more play-action back into the mix.