35 unanswered second-half points on Monday Night Football proves that Peyton Manning is still as good as he's ever been. Questions were raised about the wisdom and success of Manning's comeback from neck surgery, after he had stumbled out of the blocks with new team the Denver Broncos.
Yet slowly but surely, the old master has rediscovered the old magic. That magic was evident as soon as the second half began on Monday night. Manning was overwhelmed in the first half against a San Diego Chargers team that has frequently baffled him in the past.
However, it took just one drive for Manning to prove this would be different than many of his previous encounters with the Chargers. The opening drive of the third quarter was classic Manning.
Trailing by 24 points, he coolly directed the Broncos down the field with quick-strike precision, before firing the first seven points of Denver's comeback to Demaryius Thomas. This was Manning turning the clock back to his prime years with the Indianapolis Colts.
He had accelerated the tempo of his offense and rendered the blitz packages San Diego used so effectively in the first half, useless. That one drive gave Manning back the aura he had before his year out with injury.
That aura inspired the Broncos and put the whole Chargers team on edge. Manning kept the pace high and never let up, eventually throwing two more touchdowns, one to Eric Decker and the other to his old Colts running mate, Brandon Stokley.
This is what the Broncos offense was supposed to look like when they won the intense race to acquire Manning. It has naturally taken time for the exiting personnel to adjust, after spending last season operating the run-heavy scheme that helped Manning's polar opposite, Tim Tebow, take the Broncos to the playoffs.
Now this offense is a different animal altogether. Manning is quickly establishing a deadly rapport with Decker and Stokley and key newcomers like Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme.
Manning shedding the inevitable rust that comes from an entire season spent on the sidelines, makes the Broncos legitimate contenders in the AFC.