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Broncos-Eagles: What we learned

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- Once he got going, Peyton Manning revved up the Denver Broncos' quick-strike offense to a fever pitch.

Manning threw three of his four touchdown passes in the third quarter to break open a close game, and the Broncos went on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 52-20 Sunday for their club-record 15th consecutive regular-season win dating to last year.

"We were motivated to be on top of our game offensively, to score points, touchdowns, not field goals, and I thought we did that today," Manning said after the runaway victory over first-year coach Chip Kelly's Eagles, who came in with the league's second-ranked offense behind Denver.

"Their offense was capable of scoring points. Our defense just did a heck of a job answering their challenge."

Denver's Trindon Holliday returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown, and linebacker Steven Johnson blocked a punt and returned it 17 yards for another score as the Broncos (4-0) broke a 50-year-old team record for points in a game. Their previous high was 50 against the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 6, 1963.

"Might have to give old Thunder an IV after this one," Manning said with a smile, referring to the team's mascot, a white horse that rides from one end of the field to the other after each Denver score.

Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker each caught two touchdown passes from Manning, who threw four touchdown passes in a game for the 24th time in his career, an NFL record. He has 16 touchdown passes through four games without throwing an interception, matching the NFL mark for the most scoring tosses without a pick from the beginning of a season. The Cleveland Browns' Milt Plum established the record in 1960, though his string stretch 10 games.

"Peyton was just being Peyton," Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox said.

What the Eagles said

"We've got to go back and keep fighting. We have to go back to the drawing board. We have to look at things we aren't doing well and get them corrected. We need to find a way to get momentum going and get it back. Everything can be corrected. We just need to find ways to get them corrected." -- quarterback Michael Vick

What the Broncos said

"We're not anywhere near done with our body of work. We're a quarter into it (the season). We're pleased with where we are. Truth be told, you can't be better than 4-0 after four games. We're going to continue to prepare to do the necessary things to get ready for each week, including Dallas next week." -- coach John Fox

What we learned about the Eagles

1. Like the Broncos, much has been made about the Eagles' fast-paced offense installed by first-year coach Chip Kelly. It came in as the league's second-ranked offense, behind Denver, but was left in the dust by the Broncos attack in the second half. And as the Eagles fell behind, the Broncos' defense applied more pressure, perhaps not knocking Michael Vick down but nevertheless being disruptive by getting in his face. Kelly praised Vick's overall play and quickly ruled out any notion of a change at quarterback, saying instead that improved protection of Vick was the key to boosting offensive productivity.

2, The Eagles' special teams breakdowns have to be a cause for concern. A kickoff return for a touchdown and a blocked punt that was returned for another score produced a 14-point swing in favor of the Broncos and made it even harder to trade blows with a Denver offense that was rolling. Coach Chip Kelly said he'll make sure the Eagles make the adjustments necessary to tighten up special teams play in the future.

What we learned about the Broncos

1. Lost in the glitz of the Broncos' high-powered passing attack is an emerging, effective running game. Knowshon Moreno had 78 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries for an average gain of 6.5 yards. In all, four ballcarriers ran 33 times for 141 yards. Manning says the offense will continue to strive for balance and the passing game figures to find even more openings if the running game can maintain even a semblance of effectiveness. "Running the football does open up some things in the passing game. We want to be balanced," Manning said. "I thought our run game was solid. We were going downhill and that can make a defense play certain coverages to stop the run. That opens up some one-on-one passing. I thought we had pretty good balance."

2. The Broncos' defense continues to hold up better than expected, despite missing two of its top players, but the group is nowhere near satisfied. Cornerback Champ Bailey missed his fourth game because of a foot injury and pass rushing linebacker Von Miller has two games left to serve on his six-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Yet, the Broncos stalled an Eagles offense that came in ranked second only to Denver's soaring attack.

"In order to be a great defense you have to shut the door all the time," said defensive end Shaun Phillips. "Are we playing good? Yes. But can we play better? Yes. We have so much room for improvement."
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