Ravens fly to Peyton's place
Updated: 2013-01-12 11:18
By Reuters in Denver, Colorado (China Daily)
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning reacts after the Broncos scored their fifth touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during their game in Denver, Colorado, on Dec 30. [Mark Leffingwell / Agencies]
Manning keen to continue remakable return with playoff win on Saturday
Peyton Manning, who has mounted a remarkable comeback with the Broncos, will be aiming to extend two big winning streaks when Denver hosts the Baltimore Ravens in the National Football League playoffs on Saturday.
Manning and the Broncos are gunning for their 12th win in a row this season in the divisional round against the Ravens, a team he has beaten nine consecutive times, with eight of those coming with the Indianapolis Colts dating back to 2002.
The 36-year-old quarterback added to his winning streak against the Ravens with a 34-17 victory last month with a Denver team he joined after missing the entire 2011 season with the Colts after a series of neck surgeries.
Manning picked up where he left off as one of the NFL's preeminent quarterbacks after joining the Broncos, producing a vintage season with his second most touchdown passes (37), second most yards (4,659), second best completion percentage (68.6) and just 11 interceptions.
"Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history," Baltimore defensive lineman Haloti Ngata said.
"He has bounced back from injury. He has done a lot of great things for Denver. Hopefully, we can have a good week of practice and stop him."
Denver (13-3), as the top-seeded team in the AFC, is coming off a bye, while the Ravens (11-6) defeated the Colts 24-9 last week in their wild-card playoff game.
Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts and is the only quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in his first five seasons but he is still striving to get all the way to the Super Bowl.
Flacco made many of his biggest throws to veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who had 145 receiving yards in the second half against Indianapolis.
"We're looking forward to this," said Boldin. "I was hoping we'd get Denver again. This time we'll make it different."
The Broncos have speedy pass rushers on one of the fastest defenses in the league, featuring linebacker Von Miller (18.5 sacks) and Elvis Dumervil (11 sacks), on a team that tied for the NFL lead in sacks.
Baltimore has developed a strong one-two punch of runners in all-round back Ray Rice and rookie Bernard Pierce, who emerged late in the season and powered his way to 103 yards last week against the Colts, though in its last game against Denver, it combined for less than 60 yards.
While the Ravens are rallying around soon-to-be retiring linebacker Ray Lewis, Denver can see Manning, who does not take his comeback for granted, hit new heights.
"I remember opening day against Pittsburgh - I remember one year ago I was in a hospital bed watching opening day so ... there's a little reminder of how far I've come," Manning said.
"And then certainly in the month of December, that's when I first got cleared to start throwing. So certainly I have had those checkpoints along the way and ... reminders of where I was a year ago."
A bold mid-season quarterback change will get a high-profile test when Colin Kaepernick leads the San Francisco 49ers against Aaron Rodgers and the visiting Green Bay Packers in the playoffs on Saturday.
Kaepernick replaced signal caller Alex Smith, after the former top draft pick came out with a concussion in Week 10 and San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh decided to make the switch permanent, putting his faith in the second-year player.
A playoff baptism under fire awaits 25-year-old Kaepernick, who makes his postseason debut against reigning NFL Most Valuable Player Rodgers, who two years ago led the Packers to the Super Bowl title.
Kaepernick, like some of the other new breed of quarterbacks that have hit the NFL, features running skills that have made him the 49ers' second-leading rusher with 415 yards and a 6.6 yards-per-carry average that includes five rushing touchdowns. He has also thrown for 10 scores.
"He's improved in all phases. Not dramatically because I think he was good to start with," Harbaugh said of Kaepernick.
Smith, who helped take the Niners into overtime of the NFC title game last season, was playing at a high level when he was sidelined but the 28-year-old top pick of the 2005 Draft does not have the arm strength or running speed of Kaepernick.
The teams met in their season opener with San Francisco (11-4-1) prevailing 30-22 over the Packers (12-5) in Green Bay, but that was with Smith calling the plays.