Jekyll and Hyde
Glass half empty or glass half full? If you're referencing the fact that the Broncos can finish -2 in the turnover differential yet beat an undefeated team by 21 points, your glass is half full. If you're looking at the game saying "41 points and we made all those mistakes???" your glass is half empty. Whatever your perspective, it is correct. The Broncos dominated a supposedly tough up-and-coming NFC West team who came into today undefeated. They also kept things way too close at certain points in the game with some terrible plays.
I don't think this game qualifies as a 60-minute effort, not after the defense let the 3rd string led Cardinals back into the game via a huge play that was sloppily defensed. Nor can you say the same about the Broncos offense who left points on the field despite putting up a season high 41. It does seem though like the Broncos may have turned the corner. While the action was stop and go and sloppy at certain junctures, you never quite had the feeling that the Cardinals were ever threatening the outcome. They were simply outmatched and injuries didn't help.
Record Setting Day
Peyton Manning became the 2nd quarterback in NFL history to throw for 500 touchdown passes in his career. Manning got the ball rolling with his 500th to Julius Thomas on an out route in the 1st quarter. From there, he found Demaryius Thomas on a tornado screen for an easy touchdown and again on a go route down the sideline against Antonio Cromartie. From there Julius Thomas sealed the game on a corner route to the endzone and at the end of it Peyton Manning tied Dan Marino for most 4 TD passing games, and set a personal record for passing yardage in a game with 479 yards.
The records didn't stop there though. Wes Welker broke Rod Smith's record for most catches by an UDFA WR in the 2nd quarter when he hauled in a short comeback route. Wes finished the game seven grabs for 58 yards.
The player of the game though has to be Demaryius Thomas. Thomas has gotten off to a slow start but this game was evidence that you can never get down on or sleep on talent like this. Demaryius caught 8 balls for 226 yards (setting a franchise record held previously by Shannon Sharpe) and shook off the early season rust that had been plaguing his game. DT is back and with one performance reminded everyone why is one of the best in the game.
Defense sparkles yet again
Outside of one bad play in the 3rd quarter, the Broncos really dominated and shut down the impressive Cardinal receiving corps. Chris Harris Jr. continues to be one of the best cover corners out there forcing several incompletions with great coverage and scrappy play. In fact other than the 86-yard gift to running back Andre Ellington, The Broncos secondary allowed just one big passing play from Larry Fitzgerald. They held the Cardinals to 199 yards through the air.
The ground game was just as good if not better. Pot Roast and company held the Cardinals to just 37 yards on the ground. Third down defense (aided by a couple of drops) held the Cardinals to just 3/16 on the day.
Von Miller or Patrick Peterson?
Von Miller please. Patrick Peterson looked just like another dude out there against our passing offense while Von Miller registered two huge sacks including one on a clean hit that put Drew Stanton out of the game. Von Miller ate greedy while Patrick Peterson observed the Broncos receivers make catch after catch.
What about the blitz?
The Cardinals got to Peyton Manning once, other than that, Manning had plenty of time to find open receivers. The protection was fantastic and the the backs did a great job on blitz pickups.
Running game on the mend?
Too early to tell. The 2nd half Cardinals were hurt a bit by injury, but Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson provided a spark that had been missing in the running game. Both players combined for 79 yards and a 4.4 yards per carry average.
I'm not sure what to make of Montee Ball, but I think the other backs deserve starting time ahead of him going forward. And no, I'm not blaming Montee Ball for the running game failures. If something isn't working you have to move onto something that is and for a brief period in the game, Ronnie Hillman, Juwan Thompson, and Adam Gase with the use of extra linemen and 2-3 TE sets had the Broncos running game respectable again.
McManus not a factor, thank goodness
The first long FG of Brandon McManus kicking career here in Denver couldn't have gone any better. Straight down the pipes from 40 and beyond. Then.....he hooked one from 54 and banked another one in off the upright. It looked to me like the mistakes bothered the young kicker which is something he is going to have to get over soon. The great ones move on from mistakes and succeed. The sooner he gets this game out of his head the better. Other than that, it's too early to pass judgement on a player's 1st game as the unquestioned starter.
Old school is Foxball...which is bullshit
When your 37-year old future HOF QB, who has been 5x league MVP and also owns a Super Bowl ring wants to go for it on 4th down, you pull the effing kicker off the field and you let him convert. I used to value things that were old school. John Fox has me wondering if Old School really means "Half Assed" or "Ill Informed."
This was a good win for the Broncos. They are very close to putting that complete game together. The main questions going forward are the running game, Brandon McManus, and as always John Fox's conservatism. I think our defense has made enough plays to be considered at least stout if not clutch, and our offense has shown enough light to be dangerous at any point in a game. Time to put it all together next week in New York. Pray for the Jets, it's gonna be a tough one.