And the beautiful thing, it was an entire team working together. We've seen flashes of it, but the 2nd half of Monday's game was all the potential in action. 35-0, that was the score. Offense shredded, Defense shredded, and the San Diego Losin' Chargers were put into their rightful place: mediocrity.
I know that both our teams are 3-3, but if you can't see the difference right now there's no hope for you. The spirit of the Chargers was broken, and I doubt they are "contenders" anymore just because they aren't tough. They are not a team to be feared. We hear about mental toughness all the time, well guess what? They don't have it. Two weeks in a row this team had their opponents on the ropes and two weeks in a row their opponents took the game away, and more troubling for them and awesome for us----it was relatively easy. Good teams don't collapse with a lead, they step on your neck until your eyes pop out of your skull. But enough talk about losers.
I have continually drummed and echoed the sentiments that it takes a TEAM to win. When we won as a team last year, many people gave the lions share of credit to Tebow, because he's the QB. People will give Manning the lions share of credit to Manning, because he's PFM, but let us take a look at what the team and so many individuals did in that 2nd half:
Manning: 13/14, 168 yards (12.0 YPA), 3TD. That throw to Stokley to the side of the endzone was phenomenal! My favorite play of the game though was his side step, "hurdle", and completion when the pocket collapsed. Great to see and funny at the same time!
Decker: Beast mode to the endzone. Is becoming one of Mannings favorite targets. Made a great play to comeback to the ball on a sideline pass that would have been an INT had he waited for the ball to get to him. Subtle but great technique none-the-less.
Stokley: One of the great individual catches of the season, rivaling DT's catch against Atlanta. He's not the biggest or fastest guy, but every week he makes a key catch to put points on the board or move the chains.
The offensive line: Held a good SD front 7 (and Shaun Phillips) without a sack.
McGahee: Got some very tough and key yards late in the game to help milk the clock. Was also a valuable outlet and checkdown for Peyton when SD blitzed. He's not a speedster anymore, but he sure can punish.
Demaryius Thomas: Ran such a fantastic route on his TD reception, really good to see him getting the mechanical side of the game down.
D-Line: Champ gave the credit for all of the turnovers to the pressure that the front 4 got on Rivers. Agreed, all game long Rivers was rushed and hurried. Add to that two forced fumbles, 4 sacks, and a 3.6 average from Ryan Mathews and we see that our guys beat their guys in the trenches. Props to Ayers for batting the fumble away from Chargers linemen, props to Wolfe for bull rushing his way to his third sack on the season, major props to Big Vick for disrupting so many plays in the screen game.
Chris Harris: Did a fantastic job filling in for Porter, in fact I quipped in my head at one point "do we even need Porter?" Kidding aside, I was extremely proud to watch this guy stroll into the endzone to clinch the game after being torched a week ago.
Tony "I thought you wanted to cut me" Carter: What a great time to have the game of his life! Two key turnovers both helped the Broncos put points on the board. Proud of you man!...Anyone else notice that our secondary depth is pretty good?
Elvis Dumervil: Still think he's overpaid? Two sacks, two forced fumbles. Though Doom has had a tough year in the numbers column, his pressure and effort has been consistent thus far. It was only a matter of time until it paid off. Both him and Tony Carter would be my defensive MVP's for the game. Three turnovers between them.
These guys really fought hard all game. The special teams did them no favors by basically spotting the Chargers 10 points. The first three SD drives were all three and outs. In fact, they only allowed one good drive all game and it was in the 2nd quarter. Let me run down the Chargers 2nd half drives for you to show you how dominant and opportunistic our defense was: Fumble (TD), punt, INT, INT, INT (TD), Fumble. Six Charger drives accounted for five turnovers, one punt, and two defensive TD's----Insane!!!
Joe Mays was not missed, and Brooking did an admirable job. I liked to see Von, WW, Irving/Trevathan on the field all at the same time. These guys have fantastic speed, I would tinker around with this rotation and try and develop it throughout the rest of the year.
Eight...as in eight total plays in the 1st quarter due to special teams turnovers. We moved the ball well in the 2nd quarter and had one drive stalled by a false start and holding penalty, and another stalled on a miscommunication between Manning and Matthew Willis. On that play, Manning said after the game that Willis hadn't played that specific position much and was in the game subbing for a gassed Decker. He very calmly and cool-ly explained that it was a miscommunication that could easily be fixed. Gotta love how objective he is and how he never throws anyone under the bus!
The 2nd half was an entirely different story. Manning was lights out as were his receivers and protections. If there's a smarter guy that's ever played football I sure would like to know who. No one, and I mean no one, approaches Manning in his understanding of the game. He is completely sharp and 90% of the time has the right answer for the things he sees presnap. What I appreciate more than anything else is his anticipation and trust in his receivers. The throws to Stokley, Decker (on the b.s. pass interferance call), and Tamme were just putting the ball in a spot where his guy was the only one that had a shot at it. Four offensive drives resulted in three TD's. There is not a secondary in the NFL that can hold our passing game under wraps for the entire game.
Clearing up some knee-jerk
You know the 3rd and 11 at the end of a game when our offense ran the ball? Did you say something along the lines of "I hate McCoy, he should be fired!?!" Do you blame him for every call under the sun? In this case you'd be wrong. Manning audibled into that run play. I have no reason why, perhaps he trusted our defense to seal the game with a 4-point lead and didn't want to chance a TO. Whatever the case, Manning is responsible for some of the weird draw and run calls on 3rd down.
Now, what is McCoy's fault is the string of runs he called on first down from heavy personel. When you run on every first down with 2-3 TE looks, guys are going to stack the box and run blitz the gaps. That's why we were put into less favorable situations on early drives. The key to balance is not merely having as many runs as pass plays on a given down, it is to change things up and alternate in a way that the defense has less of an idea at what you're going to do. This is where McCoy is weak: predictable conservative tendencies. It is like the Josh McDaniels offense all over again. It seems like we're either in shotgun or one back looks in heavy personnel. What needed to be done in this game on that early 3rd and 1 was playaction. It killed the Raiders a few weeks ago and there are some big plays to be had here.
The meaning of this game to our team
There's still some question marks on our side about coaching. We have made too many errors that could be chalked up to lack of preparation which falls squarely on the coaches. We also have misuse of personnel mainly on the defensive side. Fox is a man that the players trust and respect so we're going to have to eat some of his mistakes in order to keep it that way. That aside, Manning isn't the only one adapting to a radically new situation. I think as time goes on coaches will respect Manning's abilities more to let most of the control go. Melding as a team takes time, it is probably best to remain patient while keeping a close eye on trends that signal some things are being approached differently.
Really though, I see two completely different teams. Ours doesn't give up or get down. That goes to our leadership, which we saw last year (and includes the coaches), and our General at QB is prime example of this. Theirs on the other hand, some guys stay and some guys run---the Chargers have and will always run until drastic changes are made by their owner. Adam Schefter sent out a great tweet to encapsulate the impact this game had. It read something to the effect that "tonight will be the night the Broncos look back on as the night they won the West." This season is far from over, but it sure does seem to highlight the trajectory of both franchises. Take pride Broncos Country, we might have been the team to make the Chargers move to LA;)
The meaning of this game to our community
We all witnessed history. It was the largest comeback in Manning's career and the third largest comeback in our history. Games like that don't happen often. I hope that this game helps nudge our fanbase and MHR back together. It has been a tumoltuous handful of years. We've had a lot to dislike and disagree about and somewhere in between it became personal on a lot of levels. Whether it was Cutler for Plummer, Orton for Cutler, Manning for Tebow, Josh McDaniels for Shanahan----we've been polarized to a certain extent. A lot of grief has been given to other Broncos fans based upon their opinions and likes. I've done it, you've done. I'm tired of arguing with my brothers and sisters. Let's allow the awesomeness that was last night to heal old wounds and bring us together as one. Let us just be simply: Broncos fans. I guess I'll go first: I'm sorry if I've angered you with my words, and I forgive you for doing the same to me. It's time to move on from the anger and bitterness.
Also to my brother Joe: Way to predict the comeback at halftime!!! I didn't have it in me and you held the faith;)