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Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was clearly off Sunday night, unable to drive through his passes and pushing the ball in the second half of a loss at the Colts. He has absorbed ample punishment since early on in a win over Jacksonville in Week 7.
Teammates noticed the effect of the cumulative blows, particularly in the loss at Indianapolis, and it is not unexpected with Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady out for the year and right tackle Orlando Franklin also missing the past few weeks. Alarms went off when Manning missed practice time this week with an ankle injury, but, according to teammates, when Manning returned on Thursday and Friday, he was in top form.
“He was throwing absolute darts on Thursday and Friday,” one teammate said. “In the Jacksonville game he got hit a lot early and he's been knocked around a lot the past couple of weeks, but anytime you ask him how he's doing you know what he's going to say -- ‘Fine.' That's how he is. He's so tough. But for as much as he's been knocked around, he looked great once he got back to practice this week.”
The Broncos host the Redskins Sunday, before enjoying the bye week in Week 9, which is clearly coming at a great time for their Hall of fame quarterback. “I know Peyton could use the break right now,” one teammate said. “We all could.”
The Broncos come out of the bye playing two of their next three games against AFC West leading Kansas City -- a team with one of the most dominant pass rushes in the NFL and no shortage of players skilled in the art of harassing the opposing quarterback. If Denver can't fix its tackle issues by then -- and the team has also been forced to its third option at center -- then those games could be particularly taxing on Manning.