DENVER — When Peyton Manning throws a wrinkle into his orderly routine, it is news.
So get this: In practice after scoring a touchdown on a QB sneak — he called an audible to take it in himself — Manning busted into a TD celebration that would make Rob Gronkowski blush.
"He smashed the ball, spiked the ball a little bit, talked a little trash,” linebacker Von Miller said at Dove Valley.
Oh, that Peyton. What a trash talker.
If we thought Manning’s definition of trash talk was needling Papa John over 2 million pizzas, we were sorely wrong.
But more than anything in Manning’s robust first season with the Broncos, we’ve learned this: Everything he does has a purpose. Even his trash talk.
As the rest of the AFC qualifiers opened the playoffs this weekend — sans the real competition, those looming Patriots — the Broncos had to maintain their edge.
So Manning did his best Gronk and riled up his defense. His touchdown party — and the D’s salty reaction to it — struck a nerve in an otherwise normal midweek practice.
Think there would be a letdown during a bye week? Not in Manning’s house.
“It was a bummer that we let them score,” Miller said.
As if to remind us which unit is the strongest link of these Broncos, Miller added, “Especially (after) going on a long streak that we’ve been on, not giving up anything to those guys.”
The balanced Broncos are the NFL’s only team with an offense and a defense ranked in the top five. Ever wonder if Manning’s offense or Miller’s defense has the edge in closed-door Broncos practices? That was Miller letting us in on a secret.
“I think now that we’re kind of going against each other this week (with the luxury of a bye), there’s a lot more trash talk about what we can do,” Champ Bailey said. “I don’t know how close you guys are to the building when we’re out here, but it’s pretty loud.”
Who needs Ray Lewis to pump your competitive juices when your QB is doing the ribbing?
“He got the best of us and spiked the football on us,” Wesley Woodyard said.
The proud linebacker added, “If we come out here and we finally face him in practice, he’ll embarrass us. That’s something that we don’t want to do.”
Simply by Manning's spike of a football, we are allowed keen insight into what makes the NFL's best team tick. What makes the Broncos the favorite to reach the Super Bowl isn’t what happens on Sundays. It’s how they maintain their edge between Sundays.
"The offense feeds off the defense," Manning said.
Let the rest of the AFC beat each other up this weekend. Don’t expect a letdown in Denver.
Monday marks three months since another team beat the Broncos. Over 11 games only the Broncos could beat the Broncos. Their locker room developed a classic game of one-upmanship: Whatever he can do, I can do better.
In the regular-season finale, Eric Decker’s one-handed touchdown catch soon was one-upped by Demaryius Thomas’ soaring touchdown catch. Von Miller’s 18.5 sacks one-upped Elvis Dumervil in the team’s record book.
John Elway signed Peyton Manning. Ol' No. 7 said he wanted new No. 18 to become “the greatest quarterback of all time,” one-upping all others.
Manning scored on the Broncos defense and spiked the ball.
"I don't think it was as great as my sack dances or my touchdown dances," Miller said.
Even so, it had a purpose.
Denver sports columnist Paul Klee can be reached via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter (@Klee_Gazette).
Entering the NFL playoffs, the Broncos are the only team with a top-five offense — and a top-five defense. A closer look at the rankings:
1. New England — 427.9 ypg
2. New Orleans — 410.9
3. Detroit — 408.8
4. Denver — 397.9
5. Washington — 383.2
1. Pittsburgh — 275.8 ypg
2. Denver — 290.8
3. San Francisco — 294.4
4. Seattle — 306.2
5. Chicago — 315.6