I couldn't be happier, right now.
This Broncos team that has tested our patience. This Broncos team has been a revolving door at quarterback since 2008. This Broncos team went through the painful process that was called the "Josh McDaniels Era". We've had Tebow and Tebowmania come and go through the fine town of Denver.
What has remained true? The fans.
Finally, we are getting a payoff. The playoff win last season against the Steelers was fun, but this season holds much more promise.
Peyton Manning is what we hoped and prayed that he would be. The guy sleeps, eats, and breathes football. Heck, I bet his red blood cells have mutated into football shapes, by now. This guy may be long in the tooth, but he's sharp in the mind. It's beautiful to watch his football mind work, too. Last night, the Broncos were in the redzone with Peyton Manning under center. As the play clock ticked down, Manning gave a hard count to see what the defense was going to do. Troy Polamalu came sprinting toward the line of scrimmage and Manning backed away from center. The play was audibled (or not) and Manning went back under center. Troy Polamalu came up to the line, again, presumably to jump the line in typical Polamalu fashion.
Manning backed away again and decided to call a timeout.
Although a play never happened during this exchange, a game of cat and mouse certainly did. I was laughing out loud and not in the text message capacity where you just say "LOL"... I was actually laughing.
I thought back on what we have experienced as Broncos fans. Under Jay Cutler, we probably go ahead with that play and throw a redzone interception. Under Kyle Orton, we march to the red zone and kick a field goal. Under Tim Tebow, who knows? Maybe we run around the left side for a touchdown or run around for 20 seconds before taking a sack.
Peyton Manning, however, is a master manipulator. He is a master at the chess game that we call pro football.
As you can see, he'd rather take a timeout than be in an unfavorable play. That happens rarely, though, given his ability to audible to better plays.
Take the Demaryius Thomas touchdown pass, for instance. Earlier in the game, Manning was hit with a blitz from the left side that nobody picked up. He noted it. He stored it in the memory log known as his brain. Then, in the third quarter, he noticed that the Steelers were about to blitz from the left side. He adjusted the protection and let the blitzer come, unblocked, throwing hot to the left side. A few seconds later, Peyton was running down the field, pumping his fists, elated at the touchdown pass he had just thrown.
That's what we invested in, Broncos fans. John Elway brought Peyton Manning into Denver to do exactly that.
It's worth every penny.
For once, the mile high air seemed to wear down the wrong team. The Steelers played it perfectly. They kept Manning off the field and chipped away at a tiring Denver defense for, essentially, the entire third quarter. It didn't end up the way they wanted it because of Denver's patience on defense.
For the fans, it was frustrating. Certainly, Jack Del Rio could have dialed up a few more blitzes to try and disrupt Ben Roethlisberger on 3rd and long, but the Broncos played a bit conservative, dropping 8 defenders into coverage, at times.
In retrospect, that's exactly how they needed to play it. Ben Roethlisberger was eating our blitz for dinner. We'd blitz and he'd throw into the vacated area. He's a good quarterback. That's what happens. It's no surprise they've won 2 Super Bowls with Big Ben.
This strategy paid off near the end of the game, however. Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass to the left that was intercepted and taken to the house by Tracy Porter. The next possession, the Broncos sacked Big Ben 3 times (Von Miller twice and Wesley Woodyard once) in 4 downs.
Last year, we saw the defense could hang tough when needed. I don't think we'll see anything different this season.
This is an exciting time to be a Broncos fan. I just feel something special is happening. There will be bumps in the road. No doubt about that. However, I think that the majority of this season will be positive. If this team stays healthy, look out, NFL. The Broncos can play some ball.