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Broncos catch some Luck in 31-24 victory

The Broncos didn't finish, this score was way closer than it needed to be.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

When the Broncos passed the ball

- Heavy 12 personnel to begin the game.  Your TE's were Virgil Green and Julius Thomas to go along with a WR tandem of Demaryius Thomas and Emmauel Sanders.

- When the Broncos ran 11 personnel, their WR trio was Demaryius Thomas and Andre Caldwell outside with Emmanuel Sanders in the slot.

- Sanders was an early favorite target of Manning catching the first three balls of the night for 20 yards.

- Demaryius Thomas had a sluggish game starting off with 5 targets for no catches and one drop.

- Sanders showed off his speed early with a deep post off playaction (12 personnel).  Manning put a little too much air on it and Sanders had to leave his feet other wise the 40 yard gain would have been a TD.

- Other than short throws, the Broncos receivers struggled quite a bit on the outside.  Demaryius Thomas was targeted about 11 times and only brought down 4 balls for 48 yards, his longest gain came on a screen.

- So much for Jacob Tamme in the slot, the Broncos used their corps of wide receivers, and for all intents and purposes, Emmanuel Sanders was Wes Welker's replacement.  

- Manning wasn't pressured much on the night, but the blitz through the A-gap got to him a couple of times.

- Nobody throws that sideline fade better than Peyton Manning.  The throw of the night came on a beautifully placed ball after Julius Thomas beat D'Qwell Jackson one on one.

- Manning was a bit off with some of his throws, perhaps the most glaring was missing a wide open Caldwell on a crucial 3rd and 10 late in the game.

When the Broncos ran the ball

- Three yards and a cloud of dust.  That's all that can be said about the running game.  Montee Ball does not look like he's running full steam ahead yet.  CJ Anderson in limited action (and yes he faced lighter box counts) looked a little bit more decisive hitting the running lanes.  The line still needs some work as there were a lot of plays where Ball was met behind the LOS.

- It was nice to see the Broncos take a play out of the Seattle playbook with a jet sweep to Emmanuel Sanders.

- Up 31-24 with a chance to milk the clock, the Colts blew past Orlando Franklin to stuff Montee Ball for no game.

When the Colts passed the ball

- It really seemed to me like Del Rio chose to play a lot of zone all game.  And Luck absolutely tore it apart.  I understand that Luck is a dangerous scrambler and by playing press man all game you leave a lot of field open to scramble, so guess what? Put a spy on him.

- Aqib Talib made several nice plays throughout the game including one on the goalline where he knocked down a slant in the endzone.  To begin the game, Talib had fantastic coverage on TE Dwayne Allen and deflected a ball into the waiting arms of Rahim Moore.

- Bradley Roby had an up and down game but he made several nice plays including the game-winner when he deflected a 4th down pass from Andrew Luck to Reggie Wayne.  Roby has great instincts and looked to play better man to man.

- Chris Harris made a nice deflection on 3rd down on the 2nd series against Reggie Wayne, later on in the game he was wrongly flagged for pass interference on an uncatchable ball.

- Quinton Carter made what should have been the play of the game early one when he drove back Hakeem Nicks on the goalline after Bradley Roby made initial contact.  This play forced a 4th down and a failed QB sneak by Andrew Luck.

- Rahim Moore was in the right place at the right time intercepting two passes on the night, that's a good season debut for a player who nearly lost his leg last season.

- The pass rush was off and on.  Von Miller had virtually no impact on the game and was handled quite readily by RT Gosder Cherilus.  DeMarcus Ware was the beneficiary of some inside pressure that syphoned Andrew Luck his way, but he made some nice pressures throughout the game and finished with 1.5 sacks.

- Malik Jackson playing with a heavy heart just days after the death of his father.  He registered a sack and created consistent pressure.

When the Colts ran the ball

With the big lead, there wasn't a huge empahsis on the running game, but I was surprised that the Colts were able to get push up front and Trent Richardson 3.0 ran for 3.3 yards per carry.

Numbers Game

- Peyton Manning has now defeated every team in the NFL becoming only the 2nd QB in history to accomplish that feat (Favre).  He also eclipsed the 65,000 yard mark on his career.

- Julius Thomas was the Broncos leading receiver with 7 catches for 104 yards and 3 touchdowns.

- Broncos offense converted 7/14 3rd down opportunities (50%)

- Kicker Brandon McManus was 1/1 on FG's and 4/4 on extra point attempts.  He also boomed every kickoff out of the endzone.

- The Colts offense was only 4/13 on 3rd downs.

- (+2) That is the turnover differential the Broncos will take into Week 2 against the Chiefs.  Last season they finished the regular season even and struggled to force turnovers.

- The Broncos offense suffered only 3 three and outs, won the TOP battle 32-28, and ran 69 plays.

- This victory marks three straight prime-time home opening wins for the Broncos under Peyton Manning.  Last season they beat Baltimore, and the season before, they beat Pittsburgh.

Boooo that man!

- John Fox failed to challenge a bad spot on a converted 3rd down.  Replays showed the runner was about a yard and a half short.

- Jack Del Rio continues to play Madden when it comes to his coverage schemes.  He didn't want to give up the big play, and was resigned to play bend but don't break.  This approach almost cost the Broncos the lead.  No more grab ass Jack, man up and let the defense eat.

Broncos catch some lucky bounces

Both the muff by Isaiah Burse and the fumble by Julius Thomas could have been recovered by the Colts.  Both fell back harmlessly into the hands of orange jerseys.

Defense flashes dominance, still not there

You have two goal-line stops, both on 4th down in a game and you have the makings of a dominant unit.  The problem was this game should have been put on shutdown at halftime.

Offense flashes efficiency, still needs work

On four straight drives to begin the game, the Broncos offense put up 24 points.  On 6 subsequent drives in the 2nd half, they scored 7 and punted 6 times.

Final Thoughts

This should have been a satisfying season opening beat down of a team that is not as talented as us.  Instead, we saw a unit that flashed brilliance but still has some work to do.  Looking at things through the "future is more important" lens, I think it was better for the Broncos to struggle to put away this game because it shows them they still have a lot of work to go to be the team they have the potential to be.

Everyone has work to do, but until they find their killer instinct, the 2014-15 Denver Broncos should be a fun team to watch.

Next up?

Bye Week.....I mean Kansas City