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Broncos 'kicking and screaming' their way to a miraculous win

You wanted to believe it last week yet there were still too many "ifs." But our Denver Broncos sent a message last night - "Don't count us out."

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

When the Broncos drove down the field with 2:27 to go on the clock and one timeout (that went unused), down a touchdown to a revitalized Chiefs team, and scored with a 19-yard strike to Emmanuel Sanders to tie the game, Peyton Manning and the offense sent a message.

But that message wasn't to the Chiefs.

It was to the nation - to sports media pundits, to Vegas, to fantasy football owners, to fans of rival teams...and to rival teams.

But it could have also been to Broncos Country - Do.Not.Doubt.Your.Team.

Say what you will about all the things that are still wrong with this Broncos team, and I will present you with the stat that matters (and it's not the "W" one).

It's the "we will fight until this is over" one.

Not really a stat but a statement, exemplified by a first-half comeback after being down 14-0 and a second-half miracle when faced with no timeouts, 80 yards and just two-and-a-half minutes. A tie game for overtime would have been considered a best-case scenario.

A tie-game via the offense and a win thanks to the defense didn't really seem like something fans should  wish for. We were just praying to get a touchdown.

How could we have doubted Manning?

"We kept playing hard, we just kept battling and we made some plays," head coach Gary Kubiak said after the game. "18 takes us down and makes some great plays in that drive and then obviously the big play that flipped the game at the end. I'm just proud of how hard we played."

That "big play that flipped the game" was by Bradley Roby, who had a relatively quiet game until he made a huge heads-up play to scoop up a ball knocked loose by the beast, Brandon Marshall, and run it in for an absolutely insane go-ahead touchdown with less than 30 seconds to go in the game.

Though Roby became just the latest hero among many on a stacked Broncos defense, it was Manning's improved performance (even with the ugly plays) that sent the message to doubters.

Peyton F-ing Manning has just become Peyton "Not Yet Done" Manning.

He's been telling us that. Kubiak has been telling us that. Sanders has been telling us that. Now Roby is reminding us of that.

But we weren't quite ready to listen last week because we were too busy looking at stats and numbers and other things that can turn our attention away from the fact that the Broncos are 2-0 in spite of issues.

"I'll tell you what,"Kubiak said about the NFL, "you expect to be in a dogfight every week. It looked like we were going into overtime and Brandon makes a huge play. It's just a huge credit to the guys battling through adversity on the road in a tough environment and finding a way to get it done."

For the stats mongers, here are a few from last night to consider:

  • Peyton Manning: 26 of 45 for 256 yards, 1 pick six but also three touchdowns. Oh, and he hit the 70,000 career yards passing mark.
  • Thomas and Sanders each caught eight passes on 14 targets; Thomas finishing with 116 yards and Sanders ending with 87 yards and two touchdowns.

It wasn't amazing perhaps, but it was pretty darn good - and that's a big improvement from last week's "just good enough."

Even with problems in the running game, a forced hybrid offensive scheme at first, an O-line unable to keep the quarterback clean and a lot of inconsistent drives, Manning showed us he could still be Manning. He can still put important plays together when most needed.

With just a 38 percent third-down conversion rate on the game, Manning and the offense made four first downs, including two from third downs, to keep their 11-play drive moving to the red zone when the game was on the line.

A lot of that had to do with some clutch catches by Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

"One word - resilience," was Sanders answer to how the Broncos were able to score two times in nine seconds to steal that win from the Chiefs in their house. "Last week we had a battle and this week definitely had a battle. It's the National Football League, everyone is good. ...We just have to keep winning."

Manning - who doesn't listen to the noise in the mainstream media or blogosphere - continues to emphasize the "work-in-progress" element of this offense.

Finding some rhythm behind the shotgun, the Sheriff showed us it is progressing.

"DT made awesome plays and good call by Coach to put Emmanuel out on that route ... it was a great way to end it," Manning said of the final drive. "And to get the turnover there at the end, it's pretty unique."

Giving Manning the freedom to do hurry-up offense from the shotgun helped the quarterback, who is clearly more comfortable when not under center, but Kubiak and Manning insist the overall game plan is to make plays and score - however that may work out each game.

We're trying to help [Peyton] by running the football better...but we also know what he's very comfortable doing , so we're trying to somehow find a medium between the two. We struggled to run the ball, but he kept making plays.  -Gary Kubiak, head coach

"We're trying to help him by running the football better and do some things," Kubiak noted. "But we also know what he's very comfortable doing, so we're trying to somehow find a medium between the two and we think that will be good for our team."

But if that's not working, it's time to adjust.


"[Manning] took control and we got him in that environment. We struggled to run the ball, but he continued to make plays," said Kubiak, adding he wasn't surprised at all that Manning could help dig the Broncos out of a 14-0 deficit.

"If we will continue to get better around him, he's going to be just fine. We have to get better around him, up front running the ball," the coach said. "We know he can still go do that, but we're trying to help him. It's about us getting better around him, and I promise that he will do his job."

And when it comes to getting the job done, Manning and the offense - plus the rest of the football world - are realizing just how supportive their defense is going to be.

"As a defense, that is what we plan to do," said Marshall about the five turnovers the defense created. "We want to lead the league in turnovers. We want to help the offense as much as possible. The fact that we got five was great."

Von Miller - who was a beast last night with one sack, four tackles, and a NSFW sack dance - believes this defense is definitely something special.

"I love it!" Miller said of "sharing the sacks count" with his teammates. "Of course I want to get them. I want to get all the sacks but there's no feeling like it. It's like a touchdown for the defense, especially for the defensive line. I feel great. I'm proud of my guys. That's all I've got to say about that."

He has been doing this for a long time. He made a bunch of plays for us tonight. He went out and proved tonight that he is still Peyton Manning.  -Von Miller

Count Miller and "his guys" among the ones not worried at all about their QB too. They'll keep doing their thing on defense, and they have full confidence Manning will do his thing on offense.

"He has been doing this for a long time," Miller said of all the media criticism the past few weeks. "I feel comfortable with him back there. He made a bunch of plays for us tonight. He went out and proved tonight that he is still Peyton Manning."

Owen Daniels, who is very familiar with Kubiak's style of offense and made a few plays in the Manning-style offense last night, is highly impressed with what Manning has done to lead this team.

"Peyton started to do his thing and that last drive was really special," said Daniels. "People are used to seeing that out of him. I can't imagine how hard it is for him to learn a new offense after he's done his thing for so long. He's so unselfish about it, a great team player. We're going to get better with this offense."

Kubiak knows there are many things to clean up, particularly on offense. But he likes the direction this is headed.

"They showed a lot of guts. You don't walk into this place, in this environment, and get in a position we were in and find a way to get back out of it and win," he said. "The only way you do that is if you're made of the right stuff and you have everybody heading in the right direction."

Yep, kicking and screaming.