In what was mostly three hours of frustrating moments for Denver Broncos fans, ended with about three minutes of pure excitement as Peyton Manning and that nasty Broncos defense led a furious comeback against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. As much as fun as that was, it's time to take a step back and examine how this team came back to win and why they ultimately lost.
26-20 doesn't tell the whole story
What a game. Sheesh. While both frustrating and exhilarating - and at times a deja vu to February - this Broncos team didn't let that game get into their heads.
We'll analyze the top performers first, but also dig into where they failed to execute. In this case, the successes were not enough to overcome the failed opportunities to execute. We'll start with the offense and end with the defense. I'll give a little bit away and say that the offensive line had a rough night.
WR Emmanuel Sanders +3.0. Talk about a huge free agent acquisition. Sanders makes the top performers list for the second week in a row with another career-best game. The Seahawks had no way of matching his speed and ability to get open, which led to Manning targeting him as often as he could. Even though Demaryius Thomas made the list last week, he is obviously nursing some sort of lower leg/foot injury. Hopefully he'll be able to rest up on the Bye and rejoin Sanders in Week 5.
QB Peyton Manning +1.6. The old man got the job done when it mattered most. I began to question how much Manning actually had left in his tank several times on Sunday, but given the offensive line play and how he came alive when he smelled a chance of victory after such a hard day at the office - he's got plenty left in the tank. He's also the only other Broncos offensive player to score high enough to be worthy of note in today's post. Yes. It was that bad of a game for the Broncos offense.
Needs Improvement: After putting up an impressive score last week, Louis Vasquez went into the red along with the rest of the offensive line. Vasquez and Orlando Franklin were close to even, with Chris Clark posting another stinker at -1.3. However, the surprising collapse came from Ryan Clady (-2.3) and Manny Ramirez (-3.0). Collectively, they blew it equally as bad in run protection and pass protection. Perhaps it wasn't Peyton Maning out there looking old, but rather Peyton Manning trying to do his job in the face of an amazingly consistent collapse up front.
OLB Von Miller +4.8. Yes, you are reading that correctly. Von Miller went into full beast mode against the defending champs. He got himself a sack and a plethora of pressures, but where he really made his impressive score this week was in run defense. Marshawn Lynch was stymied all game long until overtime and much of those close lanes were due directly to Miller's run defense skills. He's back and as good as ever.
DE Malik Jackson +3.9. After spending a week in the "needs improvement" doghouse, Malik Jackson exploded for a dominant all around game. Posting high marks in both run support and pass rushing. We have seen this from Jackson before and the youngster is only going to get better being around guys like DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Oh and did I mentioned he did all this on just 37 snaps?
MLB Nate Irving +1.4. Irving has a nose for being a thumper in the run support, but he has yet to take significant strides in pass protection. He is a superior enough of a run stopper that it would be very worthwhile to continue to develop his pass protection skills. As it stands, I'll take the occasional beat down the field to hold superstars like Lynch to frustrating one yard gain after frustrating one yard gain. Glad to see him finally living up to the hype we all placed on him coming out of college.
Needs Improvement: Sylvester Williams (-3.2) regressed pretty badly on Sunday. He has now posted his third consecutive negative score in PFF's rankings, but this mark was easily his worst game of the year. I believe this kid will become the starter we all hope he will become, but for now is might make more sense to increase the game reps for Marvin Austin who has been fairly consistent so far in his limited game action.