NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - INSIDE SLANT
Retirement after the 2014 season is something that Peyton Manning admits that he has not considered.
But so hysterical was the reaction of some Broncos fans to the 37-28 loss that more than a handful of followers suggested that the 38-year-old passer was done -- or should even be benched in favor of third-year quarterback Brock Osweiler, a project with no NFL starts and no regular-season experience beyond inconsistent cameos late in blowouts.
The expectations around the Broncos -- "Super Bowl or bust," as defensive tackle Terrance Knighton has said -- have created a joyless atmosphere outside the building. Losses are lamented as though they are the end of the world. Wins are criticized for lacking style points.
And with Manning hitting a speed bump this month -- three touchdown passes against six interceptions as he battles through a thigh injury he suffered against San Diego on Dec. 14 -- the "airing of grievances" of Festivus renown dominated Denver on Tuesday.
"There are, what, five great quarterbacks in the league?" asked running back C.J. Anderson "And he's up there, maybe No. 1, No. 2. There are a lot of people right now who would take a four-pick Peyton Manning on their team."
Manning still leads the league in touchdown passes. He earned his 14th Pro Bowl appearance when the roster of players for the all-star game was announced Tuesday. And even with a recent sub-par run of form, he is still the Broncos' best hope for returning to the Super Bowl and having a chance to succeed where they failed last Feb. 2.
But that doesn't mean he doesn't take his first four-interception game in four years hard.
"I think as soon as you stop taking it hard I'm not sure you ought to be doing it as much,' Manning said. "I think it should mean something to you, it's got to matter to you.
"I'm envious that sometimes there's guys [where you] can't really tell if they've won or lost the day after games. I don't have that in me."
By Wednesday, he was over it. The Broncos had a practice with no helmets and no pads, owing to the short turnaround from Monday Night Football. A win is crucial for a team battered by injuries in recent weeks; the Broncos show the signs of a team buckling under the accumulated strain of 13 consecutive games. They need a break.
But Manning doesn't need the longest break of all -- retirement.
"I have no plans around those lines and I'm enjoying playing and looking forward to Sunday's game and hopefully the game that will follow that," he said.
SERIES HISTORY: 109th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 59-47-2. Denver has won six straight. The most historic meeting between these two teams was on Jan. 1, 1978, when the Broncos defeated Oakland 20-17 to win their first AFC championship.
NFL Team Report - Denver Broncos - NOTES, QUOTES
--PLAYOFF PICTURE FOR BRONCOS: Clinched AFC West, vs. Raiders on Sunday
Clinch first-round bye with 1) win/tie against Raiders; 2) Bengals loss in Week 17; 3) Bengals tie + Colts loss in Week 17