There was an eery feeling I had as I watched the Monday night primetime game as the Broncos played the Falcons. I dont know if it was the fact that I was watching it in enemy territory as I vacation in Cape Cod, Massechussets. The fact that Peyton looked uncomfortable and unsettled in his new uniform may have played a role. Perhaps it was the lack of flow in the game, or the long drawn out 1st three quarters in which the replacement refs had lost all control. This was clearly like no other game I had watched before. And quite honestly, by the end of it, I was happy it was over and nobody was seriously injured. I was obviously disappointed in the loss, especially since the Broncos as a team had played well enough for the majority of the game to win. But I had a bad feeling about that game from the opening kickoff. Im just glad they finished the game playing well, and they can move on to the Texans on Sunday at home.
Yet there was a sense of familiarity as I watched the awful 1st quarter. Its not necessarily a good sense of familiarity, but it does provide some reassurance. As people dissect every throw that Peyton makes, they look at some of his wobbly passes and underthrown balls as a result of recovering from 4 neck surgeries. And while there may be some correlation there, I remember a time not too long ago when Peyton struggled worse than this, for 3 straight games. This was before his neck surgeries and before he missed an entire season of football for the first time in a couple of decades.
In 2010, one year after his best year as a pro, he had perhaps the worst stretch of games as a pro. It started in New England where he started the game throwing two picks. They were dug in a hole but came back and had a chance to score late in the game to win. They drove down to mid field and were looking good. But Peyton got hit as he threw a ball into coverage and the ball got intercepted to seal the loss. A three interception game was hard to swallow, especially against a rival team that you want to beat more than others. But you figured he would shake it off and do better than next game.. Yet the next game against the Chargers was even worse. He threw four picks in that game and they werent even in the game late. The next game was a home game against Dallas.. four more picks and another bad loss. The Colts were now 6-6 and something almost unheard of was the case.. Their playoff hopes were in doubt.. Well Peyton tightened it up after that game. He played solid and lead the team to four wins to close out the year and win the division. He also played very well against a very good defensive team in the Jets. He lead them to what could have been the game winning drive late in the fourth. But the Jets drove down quickly and got a chip shot field goal for the win, and that Peytons last active game as a Colt.
So how is this reassuring? Well I hate to see Peyton struggle, which seems to happen when he is uncomfortable and presses a little bit. And I hope he can settle down and not force the issue when he doesnt have to. But I see a parallel between this game and that stretch of games. The Colts were riddled with injuries that year. They were without his long time tight end Dallas Clark, and slot WR Austin Collie for the year. Those were guys he was very comfortable with, and they were always on the same page. He was also without Joseph Addai for much of that year as well. There was also some new guys on the line, and the line was not near as good as it had been years ago. The result was an uncomfortable Peyton Manning. He forced throws that he shouldnt have and made bad decisions.. Well now he is on a team with a roster full of players he has never played with before. He looked comfortable against the Steelers in the Mile High Stadium. But with a loud crowd on the road against the Falcons, with a defense disguising coverages and blitzes very well, he forced some throws early.. So while his throws may not have quite the zip on them as before, his firts quarter struggles seem to be more of a result of not quite being comfortable with his new teammates just yet. That will come with time tho as we all know.
And the thing that I learned on Monday night that I find reassuring..Peyton does not need to force things. This team is solid on the defensive side of the ball. Of course they need to improve on third down, and a few more takeaways sure would not hurt the cause. But there run defense has been excellent, and they have some guys that can get to the ball quick. The running game has looked real solid against two defenses that are pretty solid against the run. The WRs have great potential. Peyton threw a pass I thought was going to sail over Demarius Thomas. D.T. grabbed it with his arms stretched out and his fingertips pulling it in. Never has Manning had a WR that he could do that with. He does not need to stress. He doesn t need to force the issue. For many years in Indy, especially in the early part of his career, he had to put up a lot of points on the board. But now he can manange the game a little more.......... So we see that Peyton is human and he does struggle. I think we all expected issues early on, and we can chalk that up to rust and a completely new environment, not necessarily arm strength. And we know that he will work relentlessly to build chemistry with his teammates, and correct any mistakes that he makes. This is a solid all around team, and the potential for them is there to be better than any team Peyton has played with. Lets hope they can keep their head above water for the first half of the division. Then build chemistry and flow as the season goes on.. Other thoughts.. There is a lot of parity across the league this year. Only six teams after two weeks of football are 2-0. That might be a good thing for a team that has a tough schedule and a lot to work out in the first half of the season.... I love Von Miller and I think the sky is the limit for him.. Im a little disappointed early on in Dumervil. He has not seemed to get to the qb very quickly yet. Im sure he will create some havoc as the year goes on tho .. I think Brooking has been a solid addition to the LB core as he has been solid against the run in the early part of both games.. Joe Mays is tough and plays hard, but so far has lived up to some of the criticism I heard about him before the season, even though he may be overly criticized... Del Rio has these guys flying to the football, and the run defense has been very reassuring. This week against Houston will be a big test...Im not so sure if the secondary is being used as effectively as it could be. I look forward to some insight on that from TopherDoll!.. I think the best teams in the league are all in the NFC. If the Broncos can put things together, I think they could be the best team in the AFC by years end... Im glad Peyton went to a team in the AFC... Im scared that Donta Hightower is a better pick than Derek Wolfe... I like Wolfe, but i think they could have used a first round linebacker... Speaking of LB's, I think Woodyard has been very solid. He is quick to the football and plays with a lot of intensity, as do pretty much all of the guys on defense.. The loss of Warren wasnt a good thing, but i really like Big Vick, he has a beastly body, and seems to be pretty solid inside... I like the matchup this week against the Texans. They love to run and the D has been really solid against the run so far. On offense, Peyton is pretty familiar with many of the guys on the Texans, as they were his former division foe. Although they play a different scheme and are much improved, I think Peyton has a solid game against them at the Mile High Stadium. Thanks for letting me ramble on!