(Reuters) - Peyton Manning, who has mounted a remarkable comeback with the Broncos, will be aiming to extend two big winning streaks when Denver hosts the Baltimore Ravens in the National Football League playoffs on Saturday.
Manning and the Broncos are gunning for their 12th win in a row this season in the divisional round against the Ravens, a team he has beaten nine consecutive times, with eight of those coming with the Indianapolis Colts dating back to 2002.
The 36-year-old quarterback added to his winning streak against the Ravens with a 34-17 victory last month with a Denver team he joined after missing the entire 2011 season with the Colts after a series of neck surgeries.
Manning picked up where he left off as one of the NFL’s preeminent quarterbacks after joining the Broncos, producing a vintage season with his second most touchdown passes (37), second most yards (4,659), second best completion percentage (68.6) and just 11 interceptions.
“Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history,” Baltimore defensive lineman Haloti Ngata told reporters.
“He has bounced back from injury. He has done a lot of great things for Denver. Hopefully, we can have a good week of practice and stop him.”
Denver (13-3), as the top-seeded team in the AFC, is coming off a bye, while the Ravens (11-6) defeated the Colts 24-9 last week in their wild-card playoff game.
Quarterback Joe Flacco threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts and is the only quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in his first five seasons but he is still striving to get all the way to the Super Bowl.
Flacco made many of his biggest throws to veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who had 145 receiving yards in the second half against Indianapolis.
“We’re looking forward to this,” said Boldin. “I was hoping we’d get Denver again. This time we’ll make it different.”
The Broncos have speedy pass rushers on one of the fastest defenses in the league, featuring linebacker Von Miller (18.5 sacks) and Elvis Dumervil (11 sacks), on a team that tied for the NFL lead in sacks.
Baltimore has developed a strong one-two punch of runners in all-round back Ray Rice and rookie Bernard Pierce, who emerged late in the season and powered his way to 103 yards last week against the Colts, though in their last game against Denver, they combined for less than 60 yards.
While the Ravens are rallying around soon-to-be retiring linebacker Ray Lewis, Denver can see Manning, who does not take his comeback for granted, hit new heights.
“I remember opening day against Pittsburgh — I remember one year ago I was in a hospital bed watching opening day so ... there’s a little reminder of how far I’ve come,” Manning told reporters.
“And then certainly in the month of December, that’s when I first got cleared to start throwing. So certainly I have had those checkpoints along the way and...reminders of where I was a year ago.”
Editing by Gene Cherry