It wasn't all that long ago that there was a divide within the Broncos community regarding the pursuit of Manning when he was made available on the open market. Following one of the magical seasons in Broncos history, lead by young Tebow. There was a valid argument to not sign the aging, injured Manning. It was a big risk. There was no telling if Manning would get the arm strength back to even play football at the highest level. It was viewed by some as giving up on the future for a short term risk. I was a Tebow fan and very optimistic of the young QB's potential in a Bronco jersey. I also understood that this was Manning we were talking about. Of every QB we faced through the past decade, it was always Manning I hated to see. Too often he would just pick apart our defense. Even when we took a lead with less than 2 minutes left in the game, I knew we had lost. We gave him too much time, and the inevitable loss confirmed it. 2 years later, Manning has just broken the top passing records and leads the number 1 seed of the AFC 2 years in a row.
Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post
It's simply amazing what Peyton Manning has accomplished to this point in just 2 years. He is having his best season ever. 16 years and he hasn't plateaued yet! He still has another game to add onto his records. We are so fortunate to be the fans of the greatest QB season in history. He's doing things no one has seen done before. We're on the inside looking in. We used to have to observe from outside as the Colts reveled in their fortunate position to have him leading their franchise for 13 years. Now we get that chance and it's AWESOME. Enjoy every part of this experience because no one may ever reach these heights again.(unless the extend the regular season to 18 games) After facing the 1st and 2nd ranked defenses in the NFL, Peyton put up 797 yards passing with 8 TDs to 0 INTs. This is a big thank you to Peyton Manning.
Seeing Von get hurt without a direct blow to the knee was very concerning. Then thoughts of the worst came to mind when Von never even returned to the sideline. That terrible gut feeling was confirmed with the news that we just lost Von for the season. The defense responded with their best performance of the season. Giving up a pedestrian 240 total yards. Yea, it was the lowly Texans, but the defense responded like they were playing a lowly team. There was no stooping down to the level of competition. Several players flashed on the day.
Champ Bailey said he was ready to go and he played like it. The announcers obviously weren't paying attention when they said Champ wasn't even playing. They didn't realize Champ was in for half of the plays on defense. He played well and looked comfortable. He even looked like he was having fun back there. We lost our best pass rusher but Champ coming back helps ease the pain. Many championed the belief that Champ was washed up. A bit premature but I'll let it play out. Looks to me that Champ is on track back to form. It was a quiet day for the DB, which usually means a great day.
Sly Williams has been thrust into the starting lineup and has responded well. The big guy was basically a wash for the 2013 season as he developed behind solid veteran starters. Since the injury to Vickerson, Sly has gotten the call. And he's responded with 2 sacks in as many games. He's now showing his first round ability with a beautiful spin move to crash the pocket and record his second career sack. He even flashed several times just destroying the running game. In total he had 5 tackles, a sack and 3 tackles for a loss. He was constantly putting pressure on the QB. He's picking up momentum and it's the perfect timing for this Dline.
I was bummed when it was Robert Ayers that got less reps after Von's return. He did record 4.5 sacks the first 6 games Von was suspended. I thought he was playing his best ball and was still a beast in the running game. He's shown a little more burst this year and he's developed some pass rush moves. He helped ease the loss of Von by picking up a strip sack on Schaub. Ayers will be a big part of the stretch run.
Should But Probably Won't
What a feel good story Knowshon Moreno is. From the heights of being a first round pick to the doldrums of the inactive list. The bust has been through it all. He's persevered and earned his way back to the top of the stable. Rightfully so as he's having a Pro-Bowl caliber season. Elapsing 1000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving with 12 TDs. Since the beginning, I've always said Knowshon was the perfect fit for a Peyton Manning offense.
There is valid argument that Terrance Knighton get a pro-bowl bid. He has been a consistent presence in the trenches. Game after game he's either flashing in the backfield getting sacks and pressures or he's beating his man and stuffing the run game. I never imagined a free agent pick up of Knighton would lead to so much production. He is a very underrated acquisition.
Another player that should but probably won't is Danny Trevathan. He has become the leader of this defense even getting the responsibility of calling the plays. In less than 2 years, he has earned the trust of his coaches and teammates to be the QB of the defense. He's a smart kid with a lot of athletic ability. He even brings a load to every hit. He lead the team with a productive 9 total tackles two of which were behind the line of scrimmage, a sack, pass defensed and several pressures on the QB.
Matt Prater is quietly having an awesome season. He's only missed 1 field goal attempt all year and that was from 50+. He even kicked a field goal father than anyone ever in the history of the sport, in 8 degree weather! He started the game with a kick off that hit the wall! He almost kicked it into the fans from 85 yards away. If it wasn't for Tucker's game last week against Detroit, I don't know anyone having a better season. He's the only kicker in the league with just 1 miss.
The Bruise Brothers
Boy them backers were hitting. Our linebacker crew showed up to play physical football. Woodyard, Lennon, Trevathan and Irving all had shoulder pad popping hits on the day, especially Irving's hit in the flat. We need more play like this to set the tone in the post season. Send a message to the offense that this defense has shown up and they're not playing around. Be the physical presence to gain a mental advantage. After several hits like our backers dished out, it will start to get noticed as skill players cross the middle. We haven't exactly been considered a physical defense. Would be the perfect time to change some minds.
We've gotten by this far but penalties could play a major role in our post season run. It's concerning how many flags we are assessed each game. You don't want penalties to have any part of a playoff outcome. This has been a trend all year so I don't hold out much hope that it will get fixed at this point. Just hoping our offense doesn't snooze at any point going forward because we'll need to overcome about 8 penalties a game, which we've averaged the last 9 games. Compounded by the fact some were terrible calls. For example, that holding penalty on Tony Carter negating Trindon's 54 yard punt return was utter BS. It was a clean block all around yet the ref threw a flag. Several questionable calls this game. Which has apparently become a trend.
Little Quick Notes:
- Jeremy Mincey signed just days ago and saw plenty of time on the field. And with those opportunities he was productive. Several times getting good pressure on the QB.
- Doesn't make sense to me that a Peyton Manning lead offense is going 3-and-out 3 consecutive drives in consecutive games.
- Where's David Bruton been? Early in the year, I was considering him a ST Pro-Bowler. No chance now. He's been a non factor for quite a while.
- Thought we would attack Joe Mays more often. We knew his weaknesses like pass coverage. We didn't force him into those situations as often as I figured we would. We watched first hand how teams attacked us last year. It was Joe Mays in space.
- Finally got to see Oz in a game again. Wish we would have let him try to make some plays. Get some live bullets.
Losing Von for the rest of the season is the last thing you want to hear this late in the season. On the cusp of being the first seed and the road to the Super Bowl comes through Denver. Losing Von is obviously a big blow, but we have a lot of capable players next in line. Shaun Phillips is no Von, but neither was Von this year. We got consistent pressure throughout the game, though we were sending more blitzes after his departure. Don't think that's going to work as well on a Tom Brady, but we'll need coaches and players to step up. Now we close out the season against the reeling Raiders. I give them zero chance in winning this game. We're still playing to keep the home field advantage throughout the win-or-go-home rounds. The Von news is terrible, but we are getting some players back for the stretch run. Go Broncos!