ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Even the long-awaited emergence of Peyton Manning and an annihilation of Aaron Rodgers might not be enough to keep the haters from continuing to doubt the Denver Broncos.
They’re fine with that.
“We’re just trying to go out there and be a championship team, that’s it,” said Derek Wolfe, who earned Denver’s defensive player of the game honors for his role in the Broncos’ 29-10 shellacking of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night.
“Anyone that gets in our way, we’re going to run through them.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy can attest to that, noting after the game that he hadn’t been on the wrong end of such a butt-whooping in a very long time.
Neither had Rodgers, who was held to a career-low 77 yards passing.
The Broncos (7-0) entered the game as a field goal underdog, derided as an imperfect lucky-charm, the “worst” of the league’s remaining unbeaten teams.
“Being the underdog at home made us mad. Thank you, Vegas,” declared cornerback Chris Harris Jr., whose coverage skills helped turn the prime-time matchup into a mismatch.
Von Miller said he liked coming in as an undefeated underdog at Sports Authority Field, where Manning is now 25-2 in the regular season in orange and navy.
“I like the monkey on the back,” Miller said. “It put us in this kind of mode that we’re in now. So, the monkey is good.”
In improving to 7-0 for the first time since their 1998 championship season, the Broncos outgained the Packers 500 yards to 140.
“Oh definitely, definitely a statement game,” linebacker Brandon Marshall said. “We just wanted to come out and show the whole world that we’re not a team that just gets by every week.”
Until Sunday night, that’s exactly what they were, winning their first six games by a total of just 37 points, the lowest point differential for a 6-0 team in more than 80 years.
Harris wonders what more Denver’s destructive defense has to do to win over the critics, but said, “We just thank them for the motivation. Everybody that’s saying we’re not the real ‘no fly zone’ or anything like that, that motivates us. Ray Lewis saying we’re not great, that motivated us.”
On Monday, Denver’s 68-year-old defensive coordinator Wade Phillips had a little fun with the blowout when he tweeted, “Chicken Parm tastes so good — I like it especially with Cheese,” in a nod to his team’s quarterback and a jab at Green Bay’s.
The Broncos’ offense finally joined in all the fun, capitalizing on health along an O-line line after veteran guards Evan Mathis and Louis Vasquez practiced all week for the first time in a month.
The result was a ground game that produced a season-high 160 yards and three touchdowns and a tight end corps that racked up 105 yards to go with Demaryius Thomas’ season-best 168 yards.
“I love that,” Harris said. “To be able to get us some rest, we got great rest. The offense moved the ball great. Peyton looked like Peyton Manning. Even the receivers, they did great. As long as they can continue to play like that, it’s going to be tough to beat us.”
After struggling to find a rhythm for six weeks, Denver’s offense became the first in the NFL since 2012 to have 16 plays of 15 or more yards.
Manning has been picked off in his first seven games for the first time ever but he’s 7-0 for the fifth time in his career. He said the rough transition isn’t a surprise to him and there’s still a long way to go. But this was a good sign of what it can look like, and combined with Denver’s dominant defense it provided a peek into what the Broncos can become.
And now Manning has two-time Pro Bowler Vernon Davis after GM John Elway acquired the tight end Monday in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers. The Broncos have been searching for a top tight end since losing rookie Jeff Heuerman to a torn ACL shortly after he was selected in the third round of the draft out of Ohio State.
“When we lost him, I think there was a bit of a void there that we were trying to fill,” Elway said. “I think we have that filled now.”
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton