CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Peyton Manning may be everywhere but he is never alone.
Manning is a cross-over star who shares. He shares product and humor in his numerous commercials. He shares pizza through his 21 Colorado franchises.
He shares victory with the likes of Von Miller, Tony Carter and the Broncos' suffocating defense. He shares a day of individual accomplishment with his good friend Brandon Stokley. He shared in a job well done with waterbug Trindon Holliday and the Broncos' special teams.
Manning even shares a couple of lofty slots with Dan Marino on some significant all-time lists. The Broncos' dominant 36-14 win here Sunday against Carolina will be marked as the 147th regular-season victory in
Photos: Broncos vs. Panthers
That ties him with Marino, the former Miami Dolphin great, for third most all time. Heads up, John Elway. You're next. One more Manning-led Broncos win will tie him with the Broncos' former quarterback-turned-front-office boss for second all-time.
Wait. There's more. Manning is reaching that rarefied space where there is achievement within an achievement. During the Broncos' victory Manning threw his 420th career touchdown pass. Again he is tied with Marino, this time for second place.
Very soon, Manning can direct his individual sights on Brett Favre, who refused to retire until he seemingly held every quarterback record.
Until then, Manning can continue his quest at an accomplishment Favre never got — a second Super Bowl title. While such talk as a practical matter is premature, there is also evidence that Manning's current team may have the goods to pull it off.
The Broncos have put the special in special teams thanks to the electric Holliday, who got his second touchdown return in two weeks.
They have a defense that got seven points from an interception return by Carter, a safety from strong safety Mike Adams on a sack of Panthers' prized quarterback Cam Newton, and a career-most seven sacks against Newton.
In fact, Broncos special teams and their defense outscored Manning's offense, 19-17. That's giving the offense Manning's touchdown pass, a short touchdown run by rookie Ronnie Hillman and a short Matt Prater field goal. And it gives the other two units two return touchdowns (14 points), the safety (2 points) and a 53-yard Prater field goal (3 points).
About all that went wrong for the Broncos on Sunday was a poor early start and worrisome trend of Willis McGahee fumbles. For one drive, the Broncos' defense forgot that the tight end is an eligible receiver. Greg Olsen was not open once from here to Greensboro, not a second time from here to South Carolina, but a third time from here to Denver.
He had catches of 26 yards, 16 yards and 4 yards for a touchdown during one, first-quarter possession that gave the Panthers an early 7-0. Given the ease in which Carolina moved the ball — there was also a simple screen pass to Mike Tolbert the Broncos didn't cover until he had a 26-yard gain — it was easily one of the worst Denver D series of the season.
It didn't take Jack Del Rio long to figure out what went wrong. The Broncos' defensive coordinator adjusted by having rookie linebacker Danny Trevathan cover Olsen and that was pretty much that for the Panthers' offense. Newton had veteran receiver Steve Smith open a time or two, but the second-year quarterback with the enormously strong arm was often slow to read coverage or had a woefully poor touch.
Manning showed the more physically gifted Newton how playing quarterback is done. While the Panthers' passing game is full of intermediate routes, Manning isn't so prideful that he passes up the 5-yard routes to a receiver in stride. On the drive in which he tied Marino with his 420th touchdown pass, Manning used two misdirections to set up two big plays. A play action fake helped free receiver Demaryius Thomas on a post pattern for a 32-yard gain. Even though Thomas gets free on a deep ball in nearly every game, there is enough deception to keep the defense off-balance.
Manning finished off the drive with a flood pattern right, rollout right. On first-and-goal from the 10, the Broncos lined up three receivers to the right, who all ran patterns to the right side as Manning sprinted out right. From the slot, Stokley delayed and dragged to the middle where he was wide open. Manning threw across his body and right on target.
Touchdown pass No. 420 was from one 36-year-old to another. Manning and the offense might as well have taken the rest of the day off for the rest of the Broncos' team turned into their version of Devin Hester and the Chicago Bears.
In recent years, the Bears have succeeded thanks to the dynamic return skills of Hester and a defense that is not only tough but opportunistic.
The Broncos have their own home run return threat in Holliday and a defense that scored its fourth touchdown in four games. Holliday returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown that gave the Broncos a go-ahead, 14-7 lead in the second quarter. And cornerback Carter came up with his second touchdown return when he stepped in front of a harried Newton pass to the sideline in the third quarter and sprinted 40 yards for a score.
Between Holliday and the defense, the Broncos have six scored non-offensive touchdowns this season.
They also have a chance to all but clinch the AFC West Division title next week at Sports Authority Field at Mile High when they host the San Diego, who lost Sunday at Tampa Bay. The Broncos (6-3) have a two-game lead against the second-place Chargers. A win next Sunday would give the Broncos a three-game lead, plus the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Chargers which is like having a four-game lead with only six to play.
This comfortable status was not built by Manning alone.