The Denver Broncos have secured another AFC West title following a 13-3 record during the 2013 season. As we enter 2014, I look back on 2013 and offer thirteen thoughts on Denver's season.
13. Kyle and Ian really liked the Breaking Bad series
Back in April, the MHR Radio Podcast made a triumphant return. Kyle (@MileHighReport) and Ian (@TheOrangePage) did a great job hosting the show with Danh (@AsianOrange) producing. The show ran through training camp and has continued on—20 episodes strong—through the regular season with much football insights and several lovely guests (including Mrs. Decker herself) along the way.
It was through this podcast that I also learned of Kyle and Ian's mutual love of AMC's "Breaking Bad" television show. I don't know why, but that's the biggest takeaway I got from MHR Radio this year.
12. Peyton Manning was the best thing that ever happened to Knowshon Moreno
Knowshon Moreno never really lived up to his expectations since Josh McDaniels drafted him in the first round in 2009, but he has started to turn heads in more recent times. As a rookie, Moreno rushed for 947 yards and seven touchdowns but his numbers had been mediocre at best since then coming into this season (Willis McGahee carried most of the load in 2012).
Moreno Tops 1K
Entering 2013 as the starter, Moreno benefited greatly from defenses having to defend against Denver Broncos All-World quarterback Peyton Manning. Moreno has always been a dangerous receiver out of the backfield and Manning increased Knowshon's productiveness as a receiver tenfold this fall.
Moreno caught a career high 60 passes for 548 yards (9.1 average) and three receiving scores on the year. Moreno also put up career highs on the ground, rushing 241 times for 1,038 yards (4.3 average) and 10 touchdowns. Turning in the healthiest season of his career, Moreno became the first player in franchise history with 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the same year and has been one of the unsung heroes of 2013's squad.
Give credit to Moreno, but make no mistake, the Manning Factor trickles down into every aspect of Denver's offense.
11. PFM is also responsible for the greatness of The Four Horsemen
Denver's record-shattering offense, arguably the greatest offense in NFL history, was the first in NFL history to feature five non-quarterbacks to score ten touchdowns—Moreno (10), receiver Demaryius Thomas (14), receiver Eric Decker (11), receiver Wes Welker (11), and tight end Julius Thomas (12). The latter four players have become known as the "Four Horsemen."
It certainly helps to have such talented weapons at your disposal, but it is clear that Peyton Freakin' Manning has helped to make all four of these players super stars. Before Manning arrived, Thomas' career high was 551 receiving yards; Decker's was 612. Even Welker averaged just six touchdowns per season during his six years with Tom Brady in New England.
Everyone benefits from Peyton Manning's presence.
10. This team has overcome much adversity
Earlier this summer, linebacker Von Miller was suspended for six weeks for violating the league's substance abuse program. Initially viewed as a huge setback for Denver's defense, the Broncos overcame the suspension and went 6-0 without Miller while free agent-signee defensive end Shaun Phillips notched 10 sacks as Denver's fill-in top pass-rusher.
Cornerback Champ Bailey also missed most of the season while battling injuries and another free agent addition, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, locked down offense's top cornerbacks and was named a 2014 Pro Bowl alternate. Left tackle Chris Clark had never started a game entering 2013. After Ryan Clady went down two weeks into the season, Clark stepped in and started the final fourteen games of the year. Clark played well enough to be named a Pro Bowl alternate.
Then there was John Fox's heart procedure.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio stepped up and led the Broncos to a 3-1 record during Fox's absence as interim head coach and is now drawing interest to become a head coach elsewhere in 2014. Needless to say, the Broncos overcome a lot in 2013.
9. Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase will be hot coaching candidates
I started writing this piece before Black Monday and this has become even more clear after the recent head coaching firings: Del Rio and Adam Gase are going to be very hot head coaching candidates across the NFL this offseason. Thankfully, Gase has said he will not interview for head coaching positions until after Denver's playoff run. Hopefully Del Rio does the same.
8. Champ Bailey is not the player he once was
It's hard to watch a player start to lose their greatness. I remember watching it happen to John Lynch and it started happening with Bailey late last season. Bailey is not the same player he once was.
Even if all goes well and Bailey fully recovers from the injuries that have plagued him all year, he'll never be as fast as he once was, and that could prove to make him a liability in pass coverage going forward. The Broncos may want to consider moving him to safety sooner rather than later.
7. John Elway has done seemingly everything right
Since taking over as Denver's executive vice president of football operations, John Elway has led the Broncos to three consecutive AFC West titles. Some of Elway's draft selections need to be given more time before giving them a fair grade, but nearly all of Elway's free agent signings have been spot-on.
From Willis McGahee to Peyton Mannig to Louis Vasquez to DRC to Wes Welker, Elway has hit on countless free agents since arriving in Denver and has turned the Broncos into the AFC's top team in the process. With Elway is leading the charge, the future looks bright in Denver.
6. I love patting myself on the back
I am not one to often toot my own horn, but . . . toot, toot.
Yours truly predicted in the offseason that Denver would have Montee Ball high on their draft board, that Denver would smash Baltimore in the season opener, that Sylvester Williams would be the highest player on Denver's board when they came on the clock, that Moreno would win the starting job when the rest of the media was hyping up Ball and Ronnie Hillman, that the pistol would be used in 2013, that Denver's NIKE collars would be tweaked, and that Julius Thomas would have a huge year.
Maybe all of those predictions seem obvious to fellow die-hard fans, but I like to stroke my ego thinking I was among the few to make those projections last offseason.
5. Free agency is the darndest thing
Among the players that will be free agents following this season are Moreno, Wesley Woodyard, DRC, Robert Ayers, Eric Decker, Shaun Phillips, Zane Beadles, Chris Harris Jr., Duke Ihenacho and Trindon Holliday. The following year, Orlando Franklin, Terrance Knighton, Von Miller, Rahim Moore, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Wes Welker will be among Denver's unrestricted free agents.
All of those players held huge roles in Denver this season. Not all of them will be back in 2014.
With both Decker and Thomas due to seek No. 1 WR contracts and Miller due a monster deal, Denver will have some very tough decisions to make. Free agency truly is the darndest thing.
4. Revenge was sweet, here's hoping for more!
After defeating the Broncos in double overtime in the Divisional Round of the playoffs in January, the Baltimore Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl, a championship the Broncos should have won. Eight months later, the Broncos stomped the Ravens 49-27 in the 2013 season opener on Sunday Night Football.
Revenge was sweet, and the Broncos may get the opportunity for more in the playoffs. Denver will either host the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, or San Diego Chargers on January 12th and lost to all but Kansas City in the regular season. A win over the Colts or Chargers in the postseason would be oh, so sweet for Denver and their fans later this month.
3. It only matters what you do in the postseason
A New Season
A New Season
Denver went 13-3 last regular season and claimed the AFC's top seed (sound familiar?). The Ravens, meanwhile, went just 10-6 but got hot at the right time, going all the way to the Super Bowl. This year, the Green Bay Packers have squeaked into the playoffs at 8-7-1 but have the chance to make a deep run with quarterback Aaron Rodgers now back from injury.
Denver had a truly historic regular season in 2013, but none of that matters now. All that matters is what Denver is able to accomplish this postseason. If they don't make it to the Super Bowl, all of those records will seem shallow.
A new season—the postseason—is starting. Now is the time to go undefeated.
2. Peyton Manning is the greatest quarterback of all time
With just two seasons under his belt, Manning is already statistically the greatest quarterback in Broncos history (he owns seemingly every single season franchise passing record) and many would argue that he is the greatest NFL quarterback to ever play the game. Primed to earn his fifth MVP award later this month, Manning has gone 26-6 in orange and blue. We are witnessing history, and it is so fun to watch.
1. Broncos fans are the best fans in the NFL and MHR is the best place for them to mingle
That header sounds like a cheesy line for an online dating site, but it's true. The Denver Broncos have the greatest fans in the world and Mile High Report is the best Broncos blog on the web—thanks to you, the readers!
I did not officially join MHR's staff until last August, but I have been a member on the site since 2009. I have met some brilliant minds on this site and I have great respect for MHR's current overhead. I have loved writing for this site since Day 1 and I expect the site will only continue to improve going forward.
Here's to you, the readers of MHR, for making this my favorite blog on the web. And here's to the Denver Broncos, the greatest football team in the world, for giving us another memorable season!
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