Peyton Manning Takes to the Air, and the Broncos Win

Peyton Manning finally completed a pass that traveled more than 20 yards in the air, but even with the 45-yard touchdown to Demaryius Thomas, it felt like an underwhelming performance for the Denver Broncos’ quarterback on Sunday.

Even if Manning was not at his best, his effort, and the effort of his team’s defense, was enough to beat the Detroit Lions, 24-12.

At 39, Manning no longer has the arm strength he once had. Prior to the pass to Thomas, he was 0 for 8 on the season on attempts stretching past 20 yards in the air, and his completion percentage and yards per attempt were both well below his career averages. Despite winning each of his first two games, Manning was dogged with questions about the lack of protection he was receiving, the team’s lack of running game, and whether or not he believes he should have retired rather than come back for another season while learning a new offensive system.

The critics have a point. The Broncos, after setting an N.F.L. record for points in a season just two years ago, entered Sunday night’s game with the league’s lowest ranked offense, and an attempt to focus on the run has failed to yield results.

Now 3-0, Manning’s line for the day was likely not enough to get his critics to back off, but the team did deploy a pistol offense that was fairly productive. He finished the day 31 for 42 for 324 yards and two touchdowns.

The Broncos play the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday.