How Peyton Manning Has Reclaimed Spot as NFL's Top Quarterback

Jon Heath@ INovember 22, 2012

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 18:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos warms up prior to facing the San Diego Chargers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 18, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

This Thanksgiving season, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has plenty to be thankful for.

"Certainly a lot to be thankful for," Manning said after practice on Wednesday.  "It’s a special day.  I know a lot of players have a lot to be thankful for."

Manning himself can be thankful for targets such as Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, who have helped him return to the top of the NFL.

Combined, Thomas and Decker have caught 107 passes for 1,554 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.  The duo of Thomas and Decker are the main reasons Manning has posted such phenomenal numbers. 

"What Peyton is doing, in my brain, is not just remarkable, it's freaking historical," Broncos Coach John Fox told the Los Angeles Times. "To be where he is, off of what he just went through. Just look at it, his life got turned upside down."

Manning, after missing all of the 2011 season while having multiple neck surgeries, has had a remarkable comeback, leading the Broncos to a 7-3 record while helping the team to score 30-plus points seven times this season.

With 24 touchdown passes through the first 10 games of the season, Manning needs to throw just four more touchdown passes to break a Broncos franchise record held by the legendary John Elway (who owns 27).  The league's second-highest-rated quarterback (106.2), Manning has completed a league-best 68.5 percent of his passes.

Manning has been successful by utilizing his teammates' abilities, getting the ball into their hands quickly and allowing them to make plays.  I took a look at Manning's audibles over on BT a few weeks ago, here's a short excerpt of what I found: 

In the play below, Manning sees that the cornerback is blitzing and makes a hand signal (and perhaps verbal communication) to wide receiver Brandon Stokley, informing him to cut off his route early, knowing that Stokley will be uncovered for a brief moment.


As the play develops, Stokley simply runs a short dig route, opening his chest to Manning just moments after the snap of the ball.  Before the cornerback can even reach Manning, the football is in Stokley’s hands.

Stokley caught the ball in space, made a quick cut inside and ran for a first, moving the chains. 

The play came on a third down and demonstrated just one of many ways Manning has been getting the the same page as his wide receivers, including Stokley, who has caught five touchdowns this season.

As Denver's receivers continue to adjust to Manning's pre-snap adjustments, the Broncos offense will continue to improve.  As the team improves, Manning, who already ranks near the top in nearly every major passing category, will continue to break franchise records.

Primed to win his fifth Most Valuable Player award, Manning has benefited from having talented receivers around him.  Giving his teammates opportunities to make plays, Manning has helped the team help themselves. 

The only question is: How far can Manning lead this team?  Only time will tell.