Demaryius Thomas quickly making up for slow start

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Demaryius Thomas has shaken his early season slump the way he usually evades tacklers and gathers speed on his way upfield.

Ever since a distressing September slide in which he had just one TD catch to go with four drops, the Denver Broncos star has been an absolute blur.

Over the past six weeks, he's become just the ninth player in NFL history to post six straight 100-yard games.

He's averaged 143.8 yards per game on his way to challenging fellow Georgia Tech alum Calvin ''Megatron'' Johnson as the league's premier supersized receiver.

After catching 250 extra balls upon his return from Denver's bye week, Thomas has held onto the passes that were inexplicably skipping off his hands the first few weeks.

''I just think if I get the ball in my hands, I can do that about every week,'' Thomas said of his new 100-yard habit.

Thomas acknowledged he has his eyes not just on Peyton Manning's throws, but on Johnson's record of eight straight 100-yard games set in 2012.

''Calvin, he's the best receiver in the game,'' Thomas said, ''and if I beat his record, maybe I can get talked about being one of the best.''

Actually, he's already in that category. He trails only Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown in early Pro Bowl voting.

''Demaryius is the best,'' teammate Quinton Carter said. ''With his size and speed and his ability to go get the ball, it's just freakish. Any given day he's going to put up huge numbers on you. He works hard and with his ability, it's a long day for any DB.''

If he can indeed keep up this pace, Thomas, who has 1,002 yards receiving, will threaten another of Megatron's marks - the most yards receiving in a season, 1,964 that Johnson established in 2012.

''If you ask me, I think I am'' in Johnson's stratosphere, Thomas said. ''But today, it's other peoples' opinions. So, I think I'm close. I'm not going to say I'm better than him. I got some things to work on.

''But all that really matters to me is if I can go out and play my best football on Sunday to help my team win.''

Manning spoke during Super Bowl week about how the perfect quarterback would have John Elway's arm, Dan Marino's release, Troy Aikman's drop-back, Brett Favre's scrambling ability, Joe Montana's poise.

What would today's perfect receiver look like? He'd probably have Jerry Rice's hands, Anquan Boldin's physicality, Andre Johnson's size and Emmanuel Sanders' speed.

In short, Demaryius Thomas.

''There are a lot of things I think you like in him: that size, that speed. It's just so rare in a receiver and he uses both of those to his advantage,'' Manning said. ''He plays strong. He's physical. At the same time, you guys have seen it over and over again, he can run by fast corners, 4.3 corners, and then he catches the short pass and he can turn on the jets.''

Since Manning's arrival in 2012, Thomas has been his top target and gained an NFL-best 1,745 yards after the catch - or 44 percent of his 3,934 yards on 251 receptions.

''He's an angry runner,'' Manning said. ''He has that ball in his hands and he's looking to score. He's a stiff-arm guy. He's not a slider.''

Thomas, who packs 230 pounds on his thick 6-foot-3 frame, agreed with Manning's assessment.

''I want to be the best with the ball in my hands as a receiver - or as a player, period,'' Thomas said. ''And I think when I get the ball, my game changes. I don't know what it is, I just shift gears. I feel like I'm faster with the ball in my hands.''

Last week, Thomas got to shake hands with another superstar, LeBron James, at the Cavaliers-Nuggets game.

Asked what that was like, Thomas smiled and said, ''Good. He's the best in the game.''

People are starting to say the same thing about Thomas.

Notes: The Broncos placed linebacker Nate Irving (knee) on season-ending IR to make room for rookie LB Todd Davis. ... Offensive coordinator Adam Gase said he's keeping a close eye on his shuffled O-line: ''I'm trying to figure out who those five guys are that we wanted to finish the year with,'' he said.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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