Week 3 of the NFL season concluded with the league's most impressive player, Peyton Manning, continuing his torrid early-season pace. The Broncos were heavy favorites and expected to roll up AFC West rival Oakland on Monday Night Football, but that didn't make Manning's final line any less impressive.
Manning started with an incompletion on the first official offensive play for the Broncos, but that would be his last missed mark on their opening drive. The future Hall-of-Famer hit his next five targets, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker, and the Broncos were off and running against their longtime rival. The Raiders were not necessarily a disaster -- Terrelle Pryor looked impressive for stretches, and they even pulled off a late backdoor cover of the double-digit point spread. But Manning's accuracy and efficiency -- the story of the first month of the season -- ensured that cushion stayed at double digits and that the Broncos were never threatened with their first loss of the season.
The Broncos offense put points on the board in six of their first seven possessions, building a 27-7 lead at the half. In addition to Decker, Manning also hit Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, two of his new favorites toys this year, for first half touchdowns.
With a big second-half lead, there was the inclination that Manning would sit in the fourth quarter and backup Brock Osweiler would get some reps. But the first teamer took all the snaps, even as the Broncos wound down the clock on the ground. He finished an astonishing 32 of 37 for 374 yards and those three first-half touchdowns. The third touchdown established yet another NFL record for the most TDs through the opening three weeks of a season.
After Week 3, Manning now leads the league (by a lot, in some cases) in all the major QB statistical categories:
- touchdowns (12)
- passing yards (1143) / yards per game (381)
- completions (89)
- complete percentage (73%)
- passer rating (134.7)
At the beginning of the season, most media previews centered on the ascendant new crop of quarterbacks: Russell Wilson, RG3, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck. But we still started with the old standbys of Manning, Brady, Brees and Rodgers as the first tier, statistically speaking. We're just three weeks into the season, but Manning has put significant distance between himself and all others, both old and new.