It's Peyton Manning time at the $1.2 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys.
The hot-starting Denver quarterback makes his first visit to Jerry Jones' showplace a few months after the Dallas owner dropped Manning's name to try to explain how Tony Romo was going to play a bigger role in the Cowboys' offense.
After Romo signed his $108 million extension in the offseason, Jones said his quarterback would be spending "Peyton Manning-type time" at team headquarters.
Jones' sound bite was a reference to the four-time MVP's penchant for preparation and ended up serving as fuel for critics who took it to mean Romo wasn't doing it already. And now Romo is in charge of a hit-and-miss offense with a 2-2 record going into Sunday's game against the 4-0 Broncos and Manning with his 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.
"What makes a guy rare like Peyton Manning is what's inside of him — what's in his chest, what's between his ears," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "People are saying, 'Boy, Peyton Manning is on a roll.' It started in about 1998."
The Broncos have won 15 straight games by at least seven points, the second-longest streak behind the 1941-42 Chicago Bears. Dallas doesn't have that many in the last four seasons combined and hasn't had a winning streak longer than four games since 2007.
But the Cowboys have a little something going for them. They're 2-0 at home for the first time since leaving Texas Stadium after the 2008 season, and they haven't trailed this year under the retractable roof and huge video board.
Manning likes to temper all the talk about Denver's fast start, so this week he points out that the Broncos have only played one road game.
"So we're facing a different animal this week, going on the road, playing an unfamiliar opponent that's good at home," he said. "It's still a one week at a time type of season, in my opinion."
Romo hasn't exactly been awful. He has eight touchdowns with just one interception and is fourth in quarterback ratings (Manning leads, of course). But his offense had 21 points at halftime against San Diego last week — and finished with 21. The Broncos had 21 at the half last week, too — and finished with 52.
"There's pressure on your whole football team to play a really clean game and not give them any easy opportunities," Garrett said. "You've got to be ready to be effective and efficient when we have the ball on offense and make sure we cash in on our opportunities."
Here are five things to know as Manning tries to win on the Cowboys' home field for the first time (he's 0-1, with a loss at Texas Stadium in 2006):
PICK YOUR POISON: Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Julius Thomas have combined for 1,236 yards receiving and 15 of Manning's 16 touchdowns. Welker leads with six TDs — none longer than 12 yards. "None of those guys are going to miss the bus," said Orlando Scandrick, who has moved ahead of 2012 first-round pick Morris Claiborne as the No. 2 cornerback for Dallas. "... We've got to look forward to stuff like this. I know I do."
DALLAS' D-LINE: The Cowboys had a hard time getting to Philip Rivers in the loss to San Diego, finishing with one sack, a season low. Defensive end George Selvie, one of the replacements with Anthony Spencer sidelined for the year after knee surgery, could be out with a concussion. And that could mean more time for rotation players. Two of those players — Drake Nevis and David Carter — have only been with Dallas a couple of weeks.
BRONCOS' LB SCARE: With Von Miller out two more games on a drug suspension, Denver had a scare when linebacker Danny Trevathan was taken off the field at practice Wednesday with a knee injury. Teammates initially feared a serious injury, but the second-year pro is listed as questionable. He worked his way into the starting lineup during training camp and is second on the team in tackles.
GETTING SETTLED UP FRONT: Barring injury, the Cowboys look to be set on the offensive line with tackles Tyron Smith and Doug Free, guards Ron Leary and Brian Waters and rookie center Travis Frederick. While Romo has been sacked nine times, Garrett has praised the group for pass protection, and the per-carry average is up to 4.6 yards after a slow start in the running game.
CLASS of 2010: The Broncos chose Thomas two picks before Dallas took Dez Bryant late in the first round in 2010, when Bryant dropped because of character questions.. So let the comparisons begin: Thomas has 393 yards and four TDs this season to 282 and four for Bryant; Thomas has 2,661 career yards with 20 scores to 3,153 and 31 for Bryant. "I'd be winging it if I tried to remember that far back," said Denver coach John Fox, who was with Carolina at the time. "I just remember they were both good and went, probably, before we picked."
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