Peyton "Not Done Yet" Manning and the Denver Broncos entered Week 8 on a mission - whether it was to silence their doubters, honor their owner, or remember their champions, it worked. The offense was back. The defense was as good as ever. And the Broncos came out on top in the Battle of the Undefeateds against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, winning on Sunday Night Football 29-10.
Peyton Manning had his best game of 2015, that late interception notwithstanding, as he connected with tight ends over the middle and receivers deep in an offense that had shades of 2012-2014. It was no-huddle and no mercy, and matched a defense that had been playing with none all season.
The Broncos defense held Aaron Rodgers to 77 passing yards, the lowest total of his career, to improve to 7-0. No Fly Zone = Orange Crush 2.0 = perfect record.
The Broncos set the tone early, dominating the Packers on both sides of the ball. After their first offensive drive stalled, Denver's defense stepped up, with DeMarcus Ware and Derek Wolfe applying constant pressure on Aaron Rodgers - Rodgers was even seen wincing after that first drive.
Then the Broncos offense did something they hadn't done all season - they scored a first-quarter touchdown. The drive was classic Manning, but with a Gary Kubiak twist - hurry-up, under two minutes, and nine plays. The drive included a 30-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas, but otherwise, it was the running game carrying the offense. Ronnie Hillman finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give the Broncos a 7-0 lead.
Then the defense did its job again.
The Broncos are only the 9th team in NFL history (1st in 14 yrs) to not allow points in the 1st qtr through the 1st 7 games of a season.— Patrick Smyth (@psmyth12) November 2, 2015
Entering the second quarter, the Broncos offense kept rolling, with both Virgil Green and Owen Daniels making plays for first downs. Demaryius Thomas was able to haul in a deep Peyton pass, and Ronnie Hillman again finished the drive to give the Broncos a 14-0 lead. A change of possession later (go Broncos defense!), and it was Brandon McManus' turn to light up the scoreboard. The October Special Teams Player of the Month was solid from 50 yards, and the Broncos were rolling 17-0 with eight minutes to play in the half.
It was safe to say...
Aaron Rodgers wouldn't be denied though - not completely. The Packers benefited from a ticky-tack-but-technically-correct roughing-the-passer penalty, as David Bruton cleanly tackled Rodgers around the shoulders/head to relent 15 yards on 3rd down, keeping Green Bay's drive alive. A few plays later, Eddie Lacy was able to march the football into the end zone to make the game interesting, 17-7 with three minutes in the half.
The Broncos entered the half with a 17-7 lead, but Rodgers was being effectively stifled. 37 yards passing, 0 touchdowns, and a 70.5 rating as Denver's defense made its presence felt on primetime.
PASSING YARDS AT THE HALF: Peyton Manning: 212 Aaron Rodgers: 37 #GBvsDEN— NFL (@NFL) November 2, 2015
Denver's offense kept rolling, with C.J. Anderson breaking a handful of tackles for a 28-yard touchdown and 24-10 lead. Peyton Manning continued to connect with Demaryius Thomas on big throws, while Virgil Green and company converted big chunks of yardage over the middle.
Denver's defense was dominating, the penalties were really continuing to be a problem. Ten penalties, of which at least 11 were on 3rd downs, and the Broncos were letting Green Bay hang around. However, slippery Rodgers was finally taken down in the third quarter.
The Broncos entered the 4th quarter up 24-10. They were outgaining the Pack, 410 yards to 150. And it wasn't long until the Broncos were really putting the Pack away.
With the game pretty much put away, Manning did throw an interception, a blemish on an otherwise wonderful night. C.J. Anderson had the three biggest runs of his year so far, and Demaryius Thomas did NOT drop a football. Amazing what happens to Peyton when he has a running game and receivers that catch the ball, right?
The Broncos improved to 7-0 by doing something no other team in the NFL has done this year - beating a team with six wins. And they did it in dominant fashion.
Thank you Broncos.
Thank you, Mr. Bowlen.