Broncos survive scare with Peyton Manning's thumb


Broncos survive scare with Peyton Manning's thumb

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Peyton Manning counts himself fortunate. Consider his team furious.

Manning acknowledged he was ``probably a little bit lucky'' that he banged the right thumbnail and not the knuckle of his throwing hand on New Orleans defensive end Martez Wilson's helmet Sunday night.

It's what happened a split-second later that has the Broncos miffed.

The crown of Wilson's helmet smacked into Manning's chin, a play the Broncos are expected to have the league look at this week.

Although no flag was thrown, it was similar to the illegal hit last month that cost Broncos linebacker Joe Mays a $50,000 fine and a one-game suspension for blasting Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub.

``It'll be something we look at and get the TV copy,'' Broncos coach John Fox said Monday. ``We haven't done all that yet. And I'm not really able to comment on what we turn into the league and what we don't, but that's one we'll look at closely.''

In all likelihood, so will the NFL and the result could be a hefty fine for Wilson, a backup on a team that's been dogged by turmoil all season after the NFL penalized the franchise for running a money-for-hits bounty pool.

Unlike Schaub, who lost a chunk of his left ear when his helmet went flying after Mays' hit, Manning's helmet stayed on after he was sandwiched by Wilson and strong safety Roman Harper on a blitz just as he released a 23-yard pass that Eric Decker caught along the left sideline in the first half of Denver's 34-14 win.

``I got nervous,'' said slot receiver Brandon Stokley, Manning's old pal from their days together in Indianapolis.

Manning picked himself up off the grass, shaking his thumb. He handed off on the next four snaps before throwing twice, then giving way to Matt Prater, who kicked a short field goal as the first half expired.

Manning, who had his third sackless outing in his last four games, answered any questions by going 4 for 4 to start the third quarter, moving the Broncos 93 yards and capping it with a 1-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas.

Fox gave this update on Manning's thumb Monday: ``Oh, it's fine.''

So, too, are the Broncos (4-3), who lead the AFC West as Manning grows more and more comfortable with his new teammates.

Navy and orange just no longer clash with Manning.

Add a defense that doesn't look so lost anymore under new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and the Broncos are on a roll, and against the Saints they finally found that 60-minute game they've been talking about.

The Broncos are serving notice that not only is the four-time MVP back, Peyton Manning Version 2.0 just might be every bit as good as the original.

Despite the throbbing thumb and the scars of four neck operations and a bitter divorce from the Colts serving as testament to all he's gone through to get here, Manning, 36, is in the midst of one of the best stretches any quarterback has ever had.

Manning leads the NFL with a 109.0 passer rating. He's surpassed the 300-yard mark five straight times to match his personal best and set a franchise record. Ever since throwing a trio of interceptions at Atlanta in Week 2, Manning has been nothing less than sensational even though he dismisses the notion that he's as good right now as he ever was in Indy.

There's just no comparison to some of his best days with the Colts, he insists. But consider this: since matching the worst quarter of his career - interception-wise - Manning has thrown for 1,827 yards with 15 touchdowns and just one interception in 225 throws, and that one pickoff was his receiver's fault for not adjusting his route.

``I think it's a reflection of our whole offense starting to jell,'' tight end Jacob Tamme said. ``And this is a good time. The last few weeks have been an improvement and if we can keep that improvement going, we'll be pretty tough to reckon with.''

Decker, who caught two TD passes Sunday night, said, ``We've shown flashes, we've had some bumps along the way but we're starting to be more consistent. It's good when you got the right guys in the right places.''

While Manning was picking apart the Saints secondary, Willis McGahee and rookie Ronnie Hillman were piling up 208 yards on the ground and tight end Virgil Green was showing some speed and promise with three catches for 44 yards.

Wesley Woodyard led a swarming defense that held Drew Brees in check and limited the Saints to a single third-down conversion.

``We'll never use excuses, but it's a new scheme what Jack Del Rio brought in here,'' linebacker Keith Brooking said. ``So, it's guys just becoming more familiar with the scheme and their responsibilities and playing fast. ... We're getting better every week.''

Special teams are, too. Trindon Holliday hit his stride with 43 yards on four punt returns against New Orleans.

``I'm sure the coaches will find some mistakes on the film,'' Manning said, ``but it's what we're looking for offensively, defensively, and special teams: kind of feeding off one another.''

Notes: Fox said he wasn't sure if CB Tracy Porter has been medically cleared to return to practice. Porter has missed the last two games after experiencing symptoms similar to what he had before suffering a seizure in August.


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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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