Was that the Broncos with a run game?
Was that the Broncos who dominated a mobile QB?
You're damn straight it was.
This is so nice to see. So, so nice. No wait - It's freakin' AWESOME! pic.twitter.com/umwG2mm408
— Laurie Volkmann (@docllv) October 20, 2014
It wasn't perfect, of course, with plenty of places to improve - especially given how banged up the 49ers were - but still a solid performance by both offense and defense as a whole.
But if you still don't believe me, ask 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh who had to watch from the sideline as his team unraveled at Mile High.
"Broncos were on their game. Especially Peyton. Congratulations to him for breaking the record," he said. "They were good and better in every phase."
Or ask Colin Kaepernick, his offensive line, the Niners' defense and pretty much every player on the bench - the few who were left, that is.
The 49ers have no more offensive linemen on their bench. Just start taking a knee. I’m not even kidding
— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) October 20, 2014
Antoine Bethea had the understatement of the night.
"We didn't make enough plays," said the safety who had five tackles on the night. "They came out rolling. Peyton had the offense rolling."
For the fans and media, the story of the night was Peyton Manning "rolling" and then breaking Brett Favre's all-time touchdown passing record by adding four TDs.
A truly cool record by a truly cool QB.
But the story for the team - and the one Manning himself would like to focus on - was the fact that this team finally played well on both sides of the ball and did so for the entire game, resulting in a really big win at a crucial point in the season.
"Scoring touchdowns is what you try to do as an offense to help your team win. You're winning 10-7 or 42-10 or whatever, and it's your job to try and score more points," Manning said, adding that protecting the ball and good decision-making are also key - as the Broncos proved last night with zero turnovers and a whole lot more points than the other team. "There's no question it's a team effort and it's a team record because it's helped us win a lot of football games throughout my career."
It was one of the few games in which the Broncos put their opponent away early and often - beating down the Niners' mobile QB again and again and again. Six times officially, but the young gun was running all night - and it wasn't to move the chains down field as feared.
In fact, the defense held him to 18 yards rushing and kept running back Frank Gore to a measly 20 yards the entire game.
"It builds confidence knowing that you're going against a high-powered offense that likes to run the ball and able to sort of slow them down a little bit," said DeMarcus Ware. "We've got to be consistent, let that motivate us. We play against a good team [on Thursday], so we've got to let that keep rolling."
And while the line was stuffing the run, the secondary was just intimidating receivers all over the place.
Chris Harris, Jr. pointed out that this is not a one-game appearance by the "tougher" Broncos.
This is what the team was built to be.
"This is who we are," Harris said. "If we go out there and we bring our ‘A' game, this is what can happen each week. If we keep getting off the field and keep getting the ball back to Peyton [Manning], they're going to put up points."
Pass Interference on Michael Crabtree, tonight is the night that America meets @ChrisHarrisJr.
— The Orange Page (@theorangepage) October 20, 2014
Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware led a pass rushing charge that was so dominant - six sacks for 53 yards, including the tweet-worthy "fake spin" move by Ware - that the Niners pulled their mobile-but-ineffective QB late in the game, likely out of fear he would get mangled.
Take note, NFL quarterbacks - this is the Broncos M.O. from now on.
"I mean that's how we go into every game-we want to go out there and get sacks and tackles for loss. I don't think we ever have a game plan where we don't want to get pressure," Miller said. "We're going in aggressive...we have guys in the middle and guys on the outside that can go do it, and definitely a secondary that can hold those guys up for us. Great defensive win today and I'm proud of my guys."
Regarding Ware's moves to get to the quarterback last night, Miller just reminded everyone "it's just DeMarcus Ware, big-time pass rusher."
"When you're a freak athlete like that, you can do pretty much anything and make it work," Miller added. "I think he was going to come inside, then at the last second he was like, ‘I'm not coming inside, I'm going around' and it just worked. And that's the type of athlete DeMarcus is. When you sit down and you watch it, you watch it in slow motion, it's really incredible. It was a great move."
Not to be left out of the magical night was Emmanuel Sanders finally getting on the touchdown board for the Broncos.
Somewhat ironically, Sanders was probably happier about his first for the Broncos than Manning was for his 111th for the franchise, which happened to be 510 all time. But that's not to take away from either's elation over the night's scoring efforts.
"Yeah it felt good to finally get in the end zone," Sanders said, who finished with one touchdown and three catches for 41 yards. "Today was definitely a special day. Obviously, Peyton broke the record, I ended up catching my first touchdown as a Bronco. So I'm excited. But we've still got a quick turnaround on Thursday."
Ah, yes. Thursday.
Chargers come to town for Thursday Night Football - a game day many players have criticized the league for introducing, but everyone knows it's a game on the schedule, and that means back to practice, back to the film room - asap.
"We have no choice but to get ready for it," Manning said, recalling last season's loss at home to the Chargers. "We have no choice but to get ready to play a really good team."
With the record behind him and two tough opponents just around the corner, Manning and his offense will look to improve on what was a solid performance but still not perfect.
Manning highlighted the good protection by his O-line and even praised Paul Cornick for getting over "his butterflies" in his first NFL start.
"Our offense and execution was really good tonight and like I said, I really appreciate the way the guys played up front and the run block and the pass protection," Manning said. "I thought [Cornick] did a great job. He really settled in and did a good job. I thought the other four guys played tough, and I appreciate the way the backs ran."
There's clearly still some more work to be done in this aspect of the game and in very, very little time, but at least there's something positive to build on.
Having a second game with a successful running attack is a huge plus as the Broncos face one of the tougher Chargers teams in recent years.
"San Diego, we know we're going to get their best shot every time we play them," said Ronnie Hillman, who rushed for 74 yards and had 29 receiving yards plus two touchdowns. "We've just got to prepare for them, man. We've got a short turnaround, but we've got to keep our foot on the pedal, and that's the plan."
That's a good plan.