Eagles-Broncos Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 25, 2013
The best start of Peyton Manning's career has the Denver Broncos on the verge of team history. The Broncos will be trying for a franchise-record 15th consecutive regular-season win Sunday when the Philadelphia Eagles come to town. It would tie them for the ninth-longest streak all-time, still a ways back from the league-record of 23 that Manning helped Indianapolis set from 2008-09. Denver's run of 14 in a row, dating to a loss at New England on Oct. 7, ties the franchise record set from 1997-98 during the team's two Super Bowl-winning seasons. Manning, a Colts rookie in 1998, didn't figure one way or the other into that streak, but his start this year has everything to do with potentially topping it. "We get to play with one of the greatest quarterbacks and football players to ever play the game," tight end Julius Thomas said. "He's great. There's no other way to cut it up or slice it." The future Hall of Famer has never opened a season with a three-game quarterback rating higher than his current one of 134.7, which leads the NFL. His previous best was 119.9 in 2004. "It's a huge challenge," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "He's one of the all-time great quarterbacks in the history of the league, not just this season, he's done it for such a long time. He prides himself on his preparation. I think if you're a competitor, you're looking forward to it." Kelly's club must face the league's best offense through three weeks. The Broncos (3-0) are putting up averages of 486.7 yards and 42.3 points, 10.3 better than second-best Green Bay. Manning has a record 12 passing touchdowns through three games. He's gotten there without throwing an interception, which ties the record number of TD passes Eagles quarterback Michael Vick had in 2010 before his first pick. It took Vick eight games to get there. Demaryius Thomas has a team-high 20 catches and 307 yards, while Julius Thomas and Wes Welker are one off the league lead with four touchdown catches apiece. Eric Decker has 17 receptions in his last two games, including eight for 133 yards and a score in a 37-21 win over Oakland on Monday night. "I don't have a great comparison to other years, but guys are making good plays in the passing game," Manning said. "We're doing a good job getting yards after the catch. That makes a big difference. ... Those are the kind of plays that really help get the drives going." The Eagles (26.3) might not be scoring as much as the Broncos, but they're certainly moving the ball and are second in the league with an average of 461.7 yards. They have the league's top rushing offense with 627 yards. They're the only team this year to crack 500, and their 6.6 yards-per-carry average is 1.3 higher than any other team. LeSean McCoy leads the league with 395 yards rushing while Vick is tied for 14th with 187 while averaging 10.4 per carry. Those numbers might not matter if the Eagles (1-2) can't find a way to defend the pass against Manning. They're allowing an average of 323.0 yards through the air, worse than every team other than the Broncos (327.0), Washington and San Diego. "Pass defense is everybody," Kelly said. "It's generating the pass rush, not letting the quarterback feel comfortable, being close in coverage. It's a combination of all those things." Vick's first two games this year were promising, helping Kelly to his first NFL win in Week 1 against Washington before losing a shootout with Philip Rivers in Week 2 at home against San Diego. He hit a snag in last Thursday's 30-13 home loss to Kansas City, completing 13 of 30 attempts for 201 yards and a touchdown with his first two interceptions of the year. But the Broncos' defense showed some holes against a far less proven quarterback in Week 3. They yielded 281 yards and a touchdown on 28 passing attempts by Oakland's Terrelle Pryor. "We probably played a little bit loose," cornerback Chris Harris said. "I'm not giving excuses. They made plays. A lot of things happened when he scrambled. We have another scrambling quarterback this week. That's something we need to improve on." It's been good enough for the Broncos to record their best start since 2009.
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