The best way to measure whether or not Peyton Manning's comeback with Denver is legit isn't to look for minute differences in the speed of his throws to the sideline.
Instead, clock the pace at which he marches the sideline in between possessions. Watch how fast and deliberately he flips through formation shots on the bench. Or best of all, just watch him before the snap in the no-huddle.
The fractions of a fraction lost in Manning's throws reveal only a universal truth: We're all aging, slowly but surely. Against Pittsburgh, Manning showed that his mind hasn't lost a step, and it's still his best weapon.
Aside from the orange jersey and a horse on the helmet instead of a horseshoe, his Broncos debut following a missed season after neck surgery was indistinguishable from his days with the Indianapolis Colts.
Who else willingly baits Troy Polamalu and exploits him on a recognized blitz for a 71-yard touchdown? Manning is the standard-bearer when it comes to looking across the line of scrimmage, reading his opponent's tell and playing the best card in his hand.
He still stews the same at times, too. Plenty has to do with growing pains that come with receivers still adjusting to his level of preparation and to their corresponding required attention to specific detail.
"If he corrects you on something, which he does a lot, don't say a word," analyst Cris Collinsworth said during NBC's Sunday broadcast. "Because if you talk back to Peyton when he's telling you exactly what to do out there, you are going to have a major issue, and you're not going to get the ball."
Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas each had five receptions against the Steelers, as did tight end Jacob Tamme. They appear to be coming along just fine, but things won't get any easier. Week 2 brings a Monday night road trip to Atlanta, and in Week 3 the Houston Texans come to Denver.
By then, it's not a matter of whether Manning is up to speed, but if the Broncos are keeping pace.
- Craig Stouffer