Peyton Manning didn’t rack up the stats he’s accustomed to on Sunday, thanks in small part to two ex-Nevada linebackers.
Fallon grad Josh Mauga and James-Michael Johnson each started for Kansas City, filling the void by two star linebackers plagued by injuries. Manning and the Broncos, though, held on for a 24-17 win in Denver. Denver improved to 2-0 while Kansas City is 0-2.
Despite the loss, Kansas City’s defense held Denver below its scoring average since Manning came to Denver two years ago. The Broncos amassed 325 total yards — 237 passing and 88 rushing — making it their lowest output since last December’s loss to San Diego.
On the other side of the field, another pair of ex-Nevada teammates played for the Broncos — tight end Virgil Green and linebacker Brandon Marshall. Green didn’t have a catch but played as a blocking tight end, while Marshall registered six tackles (two assisted).
Eager to be on the same field as Manning after playing on just special teams in the only other meeting, Mauga was second on the team with five tackles (one assisted) and Johnson had four. Mauga played with the Jets when they upset Manning and the Colts in the AFC playoffs before losing to the Steelers in 2011.
“I feel great. This is actually the best I’ve ever felt in terms of comfort,” Mauga said about his new role. “Becoming a starter has helped in that area because with the increase of playing time and responsibilities, it has allowed me to dust off that rust in a hurry and get back to playing football the way I know how to play.”
With Derrick Johnson out for the season due to a torn Achilles tendon, it allowed James-Michael Johnson to fill in after Mauga replaced Joe Mays, who’s out until next month with a thumb injury.
“The good thing about our team is that we have plenty of leaders so I won’t have to worry about becoming one any time soon,” Mauga said. “I am, however, focused on making a difference on this defense. It’s tough to replace a guy like DJ, but I’m going to do everything in my power to play at that same level he did and fly around and make plays.”
After an adjustment early in the game, Chiefs coach Andy Reid was pleased with Mauga and Johnson.
“I thought for the most part they did a good job,” Reid said. “Early, there might have been a couple things in there. I thought they had good communication and set the front well. I thought they played physical football, they tackled well. I think early they settled themselves in and played pretty good.”
The Chiefs visit Miami on Sunday, still searching for their first win of the season.