In an era when it’s never been easier to score points, the Denver Broncos have scored more than 30 in just seven games since Super Bowl 50. Case Keenum is the only quarterback since Peyton Manning retired to lead a Broncos offense that was not among the least efficient in the NFL.
It hasn’t always been this way. Over the last 30 years, two of the best quarterbacks to ever lace them up wore a horse helmet. Across multiple seasons, Peyton Manning and John Elway led prolific attacks that put points up in bunches. Which got me wondering: What is the best Broncos offense of all time?
Let’s look at the contenders:
- Averaged 31.3 points per game
- Averaged 5.9 yards per play
- By DVOA: best rushing offense, best passing offense, best total offense
- 347 first downs
- 7 Pro Bowlers
- 2 All Pros
- 1 League MVP
- 1 Super Bowl MVP
Strictly based on the individual numbers, 1998 was not John Elway’s best year in the NFL. The 38-year-old only played in 13 games. He threw for more touchdowns the previous year and more yards in 1993. It’s actually fair to say that by doing less, he accomplished so much more over his last year.
The 1998 offense hitched its wagon to the back of NFL MVP Terrell Davis, who devastated opponents behind the best zone blocking line in football. Even without Gary Zimmerman, the offensive line featured three Pro Bowlers in Tony Jones, Mark Schlereth, and Tom Nalen. Counting playoffs, Davis accounted for 2,476 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.
What really stands out about the ‘98 offense is how Bubby Brister played a key role in five different games and they still averaged 34 points a game. It helped that Davis and the running game provided a clear foundation to build off of even when old No. 7 couldn’t suit up. It also didn’t hurt that the ‘98 Broncos had three premier receivers in Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, and Shannon Sharpe. Defenses couldn’t keep up.
- Averaged 37.9 points per game
- Averaged 6.3 yards per play
- By DVOA: best passing offense, fifth ranked rushing offense, best total offense
- 435 first downs
- 5 Pro Bowlers
- 2 All Pros
- 1 League MVP
Strictly based on individual numbers, 2013 was Peyton Manning’s best season and arguably the best year any quarterback has ever had. Manning’s 55 passing touchdowns in the regular season broke the single-season passing mark set by Tom Brady. Counting playoffs, Manning threw for 6,387 yards, 60 touchdowns, and just 13 interceptions.
The 2013 offense isn’t remembered for its rushing attack, but Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball, and Ronnie Hillman combined for 1,815 yards and 15 touchdowns in the regular season. They ran out of three-receiver sets behind a line that mixed gap and zone blocking concepts. The passing attack was so prolific they routinely faced lighter boxes as a result.
What stands out most about this Broncos offense is how Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas became the first set of four receivers to all score 10+ touchdowns in a single season. They all but had to with an injury-plagued defense that forced the offense to win shootouts.
When Manning took over from start to finish, the Broncos had wins like the 51-48 explosion against the Dallas Cowboys where the 37-year-old’s bootleg touchdown played a key role. When he didn’t, the Broncos lost to the Patriots in overtime 31-34. The issue ultimately doomed this unit in Super Bowl 48 when the Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom shut them down.
What is the best offense in the Broncos’ history?
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