The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

January 15, 2014

Peyton Manning very good at second chances

(Continued)

"It was deja vu," Elway, now the Broncos' executive vice president, said on his weekly podcast on the team's website Tuesday.

As Manning took the snap and stepped up, the pocket began to collapse around him, but he spotted tight end Julius Thomas open along the Broncos sideline. The pass was perfect, as was Thomas' tap dance until his momentum took him out of bounds at the 41.

Then, on third-and-6 from his 45, Manning hit Thomas for a 9-yard gain over the middle with 2:12 left.

A year ago, then-offensive coordinator Mike McCoy called for a run by undersized Ronnie Hillman on third-and-7 at about the same point in the game, which in turn led to Joe Flacco's 70-yard touchdown heave to Jacoby Jones over Rahim Moore with 31 seconds left.

This was the ultimate second chance, and Manning made good on it.

"Julius and I have spent a lot of time working on those particular routes, after practice, in practice," Manning said. "And that's one of the most rewarding parts of football, when you put that work in, off to the side and after practice, and it pays off for you in a game ... those two plays were certainly worth the hard work."

Thomas had just one career catch coming into this season, his third in the NFL, and he had gotten hurt on that one reception, no less. He even briefly considered giving up his dream of playing football.

But this season, he broke Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe's team record for tight ends by catching 13 TD passes and it was his emergence that freed up Manning's other targets — Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, along with running back Knowshon Moreno — who all joined him with 10 or more touchdowns.

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