ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Even after coming in from the cold, Peyton Manning was hot.
Following one of the best cold-weather performances by a quarterback in the past decade, Manning issued an icy retort for all his critics who say he crumbles in the cold.
He had a salty response to his critics during a postgame interview with Broncos' flagship radio station KOA in Denver following the Broncos' 51-28 dismantling of the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
This after lecturing his receivers when they dropped passes and getting into some heated discussions with offensive coordinator Adam Gase on the bench after the Broncos had trouble finishing off drives.
Manning said it was just the fire the burns in both of their bellies and "we were both frustrated when we're down there close and have to settle for a field goal."
They wanted touchdowns to quiet the critics who had been eager to see how Manning would handle temperatures in the teens.
After all, going into Sunday's game he had a 3-7 record in freezing temps, including last year's home loss to Baltimore in the playoffs and last month's loss at New England — defeats that coach John Fox pointed out last week shouldn't be pinned on Manning given the blunders committed by others.
"I think the better he continues to play in the cold, I think the less chatter there will be about that," Fox said Monday. "I was asked about that before and after. I'm just really glad he's on our side. I don't care about the weather."
Asked if he likes it when his quarterback — who's 174-83 in his career regardless of whether the mercury rises or falls — gets fired up, Fox said, "I like him pretty much either way."
Despite what he had to say on the radio, Manning was more diplomatic on the podium in his postgame news conference when asked if he had tried to silence critics of his cold-weather play Sunday when the Broncos became the first team since the 1970 merger to top 50 points three times in a season.
"Yeah, I wasn't trying to answer it, because I didn't give it validation in the first place," Manning said. "We had a good plan and I thought we threw the ball well and guys caught the ball well."
If Manning needs to get his hackles up over something this week, it's that the Broncos have a short turnaround. He wasn't happy three months ago when the Broncos kicked off the season on a Thursday night, then didn't play again for 10 days, followed by a Monday night game before finally getting into a regular routine.
Now, they have to play a division game against San Diego mid-week. When someone asked him how hard it is to condense his preparation into such a short time frame, Manning retorted, "I've done it, I've played enough Thursday night games where I know the habit, if that makes sense."
It's supposed to be a bit warmer Thursday night, at least.
The temperature at kickoff Sunday was 18 degrees, which many Broncos said felt downright balmy after practicing in zero degrees during the week, and Manning certainly wasn't bothered one bit.
On a clear day with hardly any wind, he threw for 397 yards and four TDs in the icy conditions. His 39 completions were the most in franchise history, and just one shy of his career best set at Houston in 2010.
He also became the first player since Kerry Collins in 2004 at Denver to throw at least four TD passes with the temperature below 20 degrees and the first QB since Matt Schaub at Green Bay in 2008 to throw for at least 390 yards in sub-20 degree weather.
Any more questions about the cold?
Well, Manning actually had one for media relations manager Erich Schubert as the still-thawing QB stood in the locker room, a white towel around his waist and shivering teammates tiptoeing past him, dripping wet, teeth chattering.
"Hey, didn't we win the game?" Manning asked. "There's cold water in the shower."
Notes: Fox said DT Derek Wolfe (illness) will begin working his way back this week after missing the past two games. ... S Rahim Moore, who underwent surgery on his lower left leg to fix a blood flow problem last month, will begin lifting weights this week in hopes he can return during the playoffs.
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