ORLANDO, Fla. -- Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has a tough act to follow this season.
Manning came up short in the Super Bowl, but finished with big regular season numbers. He set the NFL’s single-season passing-yard record with 5,477 yards, surpassing Drew Brees’ mark of 5,476 yards in 2011. Manning finished the regular season with 55 touchdown passes, also the most in a season in NFL history.
In addition, Denver’s scored 606 points, which bested the 2007 New England Patriots (589) for most in NFL history. Denver (37.9 points per game) also had the second-highest scoring average of any NFL team, trailing only the 1950 Los Angeles Rams (38.8). Denver became the first team in NFL history to have five players score at least 10 touchdowns in the same season.
Broncos coach John Fox declined to say if he thought Manning could repeat or exceed his 2013 performance, but expects his quarterback to play on a very high level this season.
"If I could do that (predict Manning's performance), I would be at some race track right now," Fox said. "Seriously, I can’t predict that. I know he had a great year. People questioned … whenever a player gets further along in his career, we talked about DeMarcus Ware and now it’s Peyton Manning, I think their past shows what they are capable of. They get to create what they will be this year themselves.
"Nobody works any harder at it than he does. I anticipate he’ll have a great season."
Of course, there is one offensive category Denver was not known for last season – rushing.
Denver’s rushing offense was ranked 15th last season, averaging 117.1 yards per game (Philadelphia led the league with 160.4). Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball were expected to carry the workload, but Knowshon Moreno led the Broncos with 1,038 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Moreno is currently a free agent.
Fox said he would like to have a balanced offensive attack this season, but believes it takes more than a commitment to the running game to achieve success.
"It’s a lot of stuff," Fox said. "If it was that easy, anybody could do it. Bottom line is the bottom line. How successful it is. Sometimes it’s people, sometimes it could be commitment. It could be a lot of things, but we’re in a result-orientated business. If you’re averaging two-yards a carry, it’s not really high on your play call list. We just got to get better at it."
Having Manning as a fallback option if the running game fails is not a bad alternative.
Manning is currently 38 and will enter his 17th NFL season. Even though Fox does not want to make a prediction, he admits Manning might be getting better as he ages. Manning has thrown for at least 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns during his past four seasons as a starter.
"He’s improved each season,” Fox said. “I anticipate that will happen again."
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