ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For the first time this season, quarterback Peyton Manning was listed on the injury report.
But Manning downplayed any fears right away, saying his right thumb is just fine after he hit it on the helmet of a Saints defender last Sunday.
“It’s OK,” he said. “It’s sore, but just more of an irritant than anything.”
After hurting his thumb in Week 8, Manning led two more touchdown drives in the second half en route to his fifth consecutive 300-yard game.
Through eight weeks of the season, Manning leads the NFL with a passer rating of 109.0, part of a resurgence in Denver after spending the 2011 season out of football with a neck injury.
For that reason, Manning was asked on Wednesday about talk surrounding a potential NFL-record fifth MVP trophy. But the 15th-year quarterback deflected the conversation to the team’s growth.
“Certainly, there was a lot of unknown before this season — I think there still is,” he said. “Any time you can make some strides, some progress, some wins while you’re figuring out who you are, that’s a good thing.”
The Broncos have a chance to win their third consecutive game this Sunday when they head back on the road to take on the 3-4 Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals, coming off a bye week, have lost three straight games, but Manning said that doesn’t take away from the caliber of challenge they present.
“They play in a physical division,” Manning said. “The teams that they play are good running teams, physical defense and Cincinnati matches that mold. I think their record is misleading. … It’s a playoff team. Whatever their record is, all we see is what we see on film, and in my opinion, their defense is good.”
That defense, Manning said, is led by a talented defensive line, which has helped rack up 23 sacks on the year — tied for third-best in the league — often using just four-man rushes.
With a potent offense featuring the likes of wide receiver A.J. Green, Denver knows it will have to work hard in every phase of the game to keep its win streak alive.
“It’s been two good wins in a row,” Manning said. “We’re looking for consistency. We’re not looking for two good games and then a lull. This is a really good test, going on the road.”
“(Coach) Fox breaks the season into quarters, and it would be nice to finish this quarter 3-1.”