Posted December 07, 2012

Manning keeps Denver rolling

Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders
peyton-manning-376

Peyton Manning threw for 310 yards, including his 30th scoring pass of the season. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)

The Denver Broncos’ season turned, suddenly and definitively toward the AFC West title, when they rallied from a 24-point halftime deficit to stun the Chargers on Oct. 15. For Peyton Manning, though, the transformation began in earnest two Sundays earlier against the Oakland Raiders.

Manning threw interceptions on the Broncos’ first three possessions in a Week 2 loss to Atlanta, then struggled again the next week as Houston won in Denver.

But Manning flipped the switch in Week 4 against Oakland — he completed nearly 80 percent of his passes (30-for-38) and fired three touchdowns in a 37-6 win. Thursday night, he haunted the reeling Raiders again, throwing for 310 yards and a TD as Denver cruised to a 26-13 win.

“We can build off of each win, and I feel like we have made some improvements each week,” Manning told the NFL Network. “We’re still looking for that perfect four-quarter, 60-minute game.”

The Broncos might not be playing flawless ball — and, as Manning pointed out, that’s probably for the best since their playoff opener is a month away. They have won eight straight anyway, to run away with the AFC West, and are in the mix for a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Football experts and Broncos fans spent the early weeks of the 2012 season wondering if Manning would be able to rediscover his old form, after sitting out all of 2011 with a neck injury.

How silly does that seem now?

Manning, at 36 and playing for a new team, is on pace to finish a mere nine yards shy of his career-best passing yardage total (4,700, set in 2010). Weeks 2 and 3 were a little shaky, but this could go down as the best regular season of his career, a potential fifth MVP win well within reach.

And in case you’ve forgotten what an incredible career it has been, Manning completed his 5,000th pass Thursday night.

“It’s certainly great having a guy like Peyton Manning, probably one of the best to play his position,” Von Miller said on the NFL Network’s postgame show. “Having him on your team really takes a lot of stress off of everybody.”

The Denver team that Manning inherited was not exactly the ’76 Buccaneers or ’08 Lions, mind you — they won the AFC West and a playoff game last season, during the height of Tebowmania. Even if Manning is the catalyst that turns a solid team into an elite one, it’s far from a one-man show.

Miller, perhaps the leader in the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year race, deserves to share some of the billing.

He was his usual, unblockable self against Oakland Thursday, consistently making his way into Carson Palmer’s hip pocket. The Broncos’ second-year star also delivered the dagger to the Raiders’ chances with 5:45 left in the third quarter. Carson Palmer dropped back to throw on 3rd-and-6 from his own 12 and Miller whipped past Khalif Barnes for a sack (his 16th of the season) and forced fumble (his sixth). Mitch Unrein recovered on the Oakland 2, setting up a Knowshon Moreno touchdown that upped Denver’s lead to 23-7.

“It was the same thing we’ve been thinking all game, we’ve got to get after the quarterback,” Miller said, “and that play was no different.”

Oh, let’s not forget about Moreno either. After the Broncos benched him for eight consecutive games in the middle of the season, he stepped into the starting lineup in Week 12 to replace an injured Willis McGahee and revitalized his career.

He had 167 total yards Thursday, including 119 on the ground — his first 100-yard rushing performance since Dec. 5, 2010, and his only time crossing into triple digits on the ground against a team other than the Chiefs.

“I gotta give him a lot of credit,” said Manning of Moreno. “He’s been riding the scout team for the majority of the season … he steps right in. Our offense is always evolving, we’re changing things each week, so he’s had to learn on the run.

“He’s done a heck of a job in pass protection, receiving out of the backfield and he ran really well tonight.”

The Broncos sit at 10-3 and, at least for the moment, hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC West (9-3 Baltimore and New England play Sunday and Monday, respectively). They’ve lapped Oakland, too — the host Raiders fell to 3-10 with a seventh loss in a row, as a national-TV audience witnessed how far their rebuilding project is from completion.

Denver can relate. The Broncos finished just 4-12 in 2010, before bouncing back in 2011. That success convinced them that they were close, that rolling the dice on Manning was worth the risk.

A sluggish start led to some second guessing. Turns out, though, that Manning only needed a little extra time to find his groove.

Now that he has, there may be no stopping the Broncos.

41 comments
marino.eccher
marino.eccher

With apologies to Houston fans, how great would it be to get a Pats-Broncos AFC title game and bring back the best quarterbacking rivalry of our generation?

davetharave
davetharave

Uhhh, excuse me . . . who has 2 Super Bowl rings AND 2 Super Bowl MVPs ? Is your opinion based on FACT or EMOTION ? There is no way he can be placed on a pedestal above Eli when facts are the yardstick.

aufklarung52
aufklarung52

He has one SB ring - the same number as Trent Dilfer. He has one of the best regular season records and the absolute worst post season records. Peyton is the king of the one-and-none stat, which is a kind way of saying he is the worst post season qb in history.

 

He does excel at accumulating rather meaningless personal stats just like his new mentor John Elway. The AFC west is like an all girls league. Wait for the post season and see how he performs against some teams with a real D. I'm betting that at the end of this season Tebow will still have more post season victories at Denver.

m.guszak
m.guszak

I think some of this Bronco revival hysteria has to be tempered a little by the fact that they play in the worst conference in NFL history. Oakland and KC are the two worst teams ever... and SD ain't far behind. That is six wins. This team will get plowed by Houston, New England or Baltimore.

ArtO'Neill
ArtO'Neill

I just hope the other Manning starts playing better.

 

57chamorro
57chamorro

I wonder if Manning's decision to sign up with the Broncos had anything to do with their schedule.  They've only played two teams with a winning record.  They'll get clobbered in the play-offs when the face teams with just a hair bit more competitiveness.  What a joke of a record.

mc501
mc501

Denver did win handily.

 

I thought in the first have the Broncos defense was doing its best Swiss Cheese imitation.  It got better in the second half.  But the Broncos secondary was more exploitable that I would've predicted.  Face it, if you're letting Carson Palmer pick you apart, it's time to take stock and figure out what you're doing wrong.

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

I bag on Knowshon more than anyone except Florida Gator fans, but he's proving me wrong. 2 decent games and tonight was incredible. He looked like the consistent SEC slasher we drafted. Not a gaudy YPC but just good grind out football that opened up in the 4th quarter + receiving yards and gave Manning room to operate. We might have something here...

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

 @davetharave

 

I used to think that wins are solely on a QB's shoulder and that QBs play defense and kick the ball. But I looked on something called the internet which told me NFL teams have 53 players during the season who play many different positions and a bunch of coaches. Did you know there's something called a defensive end who knocks down the other team's QB and makes it hard to score points? I didn't either.

 

Eli's TEAMS > other people's TEAMS. You know, team game and all...

pcseller001
pcseller001

 @davetharave No question...right no Eli is the more successful QB. Also no question Payton is the better QB.

peyeli
peyeli

 @davetharave

 Comparing apple and orange cannot get you any where even though, they both are qbs with same last names. I watched Eli since college and if you are any kind of football fan you will know that they are two different qbs. Peyton was never a mobile qb but Eli was. Peyton can shoot cannons out of pocket but Eli had difficult time with that. Peyton is pocket qb and Eli is scrambler who mirrored as option qb.

Oshis
Oshis

 @davetharave laughable. Do you think Eli is better than Marino was? Do you think Trent Dilfer was better than Dan Marino? Dilfer 1 ring Marino 0 rings. Eli has 2 rings because of the Giants defense, bottom line

peyeli
peyeli

 @aufklarung52

 Tebow have perfect off field issues but he is a average qb. I have not understand the hype about Tebow connecting to the world of football. Elway is one of Peyton's mentor from a long time ago. I don't know what you meant by "new mentor." Tebow always been one man show and never the team. He is flamboyant and better at cheering for the team than playing the game. I guess, you probably figured out that I am not a fan of Tebow, you are correct, I am not but I do give everyone a chance, once. Denver is not my team but they got my qb so I will cheer for them as long as he is wearing their uniform.

peyeli
peyeli

 @m.guszak

 Peyton had beated Texans, Pats, and Rays before. He can beat them and believe it or not he got the team for it.Your theory onlly work on college football not in NFL. Broncos will be fine because Peyton is a chess player who happened to be using the football field as his chess board while players replaced the Kings and Queens.

MikeZentner
MikeZentner

 @m.guszak I disagree.  In the early season losses to the Pats and Texans we were in each of those games and the offense just wasn't clicking and the defense was just ok.  Add in the replacement refs that didn't know what they were doing - didn't help.  I am not taking anything away from the opponents, they played well and won and that is the only stat that matters.  Regardless of the outcome those games will be very entertaining.

pcseller001
pcseller001

 @ArtO'Neill Eli has needed to deal with alot of poor O line play. Games that the line has bone good the Giants look like superstars, when the line struggles they lose.  Same as last year if you want to be honest. How far the Giants go this year will again depend on O line play in the late season/playoffs more than anything else.

peyeli
peyeli

 @57chamorro

 Here are some of the reasons why Peyton signed up with Broncos. Maybe only one may fit your arguments.

 

1) Brandon Strokely

2) John Elway

3) Wanting to stay in same conference

4) A team that he have say so

5) A team that hungry enough to battle for the SB ring

6) Another SB ring to rubbed off on the face of Colt's owner

 

The Manning family will only do business with people who they believed to have good characters. We found that out when he was a free agent. We also found that out when Eli got drafted. Peyton will take Broncos farther than Tebow will take them considering Tebow cannot play in the first play, in my opinion, anyway! Good Luck with your assumption and facts checker!

mluce
mluce

 @57chamorro They've only played two teams with a winning record?!??

 

Last time I checked, Atlanta, New England, Houston, and Cincinnati ALL have winning records. And Tampa Bay is even at 6-6. Try some facts next time.

mluce
mluce

 @57chamorro They've only played two teams with a winning record?!?!?

 

Last time I checked, New England, Atlanta, Houston, and Cincinnati all have winning records, and Tampa Bay is even at 6-6. As someone else noted, the Broncos actually have had the toughest schedule in the entire league, at least if you use records from last year. Try some facts next time.

mailmd
mailmd

 @57chamorro BTW, pre-season strength of schedule according to ESPN back in August had the Broncos with the 2nd toughest schedule after the Giants, and New England with the easiest schedule, to wit:

Giants

Broncos

Rams

Ravens

Bolts

Eagles

Vikings

Panthers

Seahawks

The Boys

Saints

Jags

Bengals

Steelers

Colts

Raiders

The Fins

Jets

Chiefs

'da Bears

Lions

Redskins

Falcons

Niners

Bucs

Titans

Texans

Bills

The Pack

Pats

Booba
Booba

@57chamorro are u stupid or what. Broncos had the toughtest schedule based on opponents last year record. So u can't use that as an excuse. And FYI they have played against the steelers,buccaneers,patriots, texans,falcons,bengals and all have winning records so check ur fact

peyeli
peyeli

 @mc501

 Peyton like to play games sparely! They are just showing up very minimum to win the games just to have less injuries. Broncos maybe looking at post season and the team will need all the healthy defenders.

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

 @mc501

 Amen, the Denver D is frustrating. At one point late in the 2nd quarter Palmer had almost a 10 yards/attempt avg and Streater had almost 100 yds. Our D is FAR too reliant on getting a lead and using a pass rush. If the pass rush doesn't get there, it's easy yardage. Run D is also shaky. Ask them to stop a strong running team (NE, HOU) and we're SOL

 

Our stats for Defense are skewed by fatteing up on dumpster fire teams. Seeing how easily good teams moved the ball worries me. But I do like the offensive balance we're building,

peyeli
peyeli

 @Oshis  @davetharave

 Teamwork is why the Giants got two rings! Dan Marino is not the same type of QB as Eli and neither the Trent Dilfer even though he is a better talking head than others on ESPN! Eli is part of the team just like the D-line is, too! You are a football fan and you know that both of these goes hand in hand.

57chamorro
57chamorro

 @mailmd Well you did get one thing right this time, "..back in August."  Remember it was you who said that.  You must quit living in the past.  

Scott33
Scott33

 @Booba  @57chamorro  chamorro needs to check out stats before responding broncos (manning always starts out slow) they have 8 str8 wins the team is clicking come playoff time records start out 0-0 new season ask any of the #6 seeded wild card never play at home teams who have hoisted the lombardi trophy when super bowl was over ask giants broncos and any other wild card team who were world champions

BryantCrawford
BryantCrawford

 @Booba  @57chamorro  What's with the names? Don't believe everything you read or hear on talk radio. Variables make a team, not paper they're written on. Paper doesn't play a game. Weather, suicides, momentum, injuries during a season factor into strengths including adjustments. The team that adjusts the best like war the commander that can adjust his troops and plans wins.

 

That also explains why we are losing the war on terror.

 

Hows that two for one.

peyeli
peyeli

 @M as in Mancy  @mc501

 Stats do not win games but non-injure players do! Less injuries before going into post season game which about another four weeks will be better off then no one to defend in post season game.

peyeli
peyeli

 @57chamorro  @mailmd

 The schedule did not change through out the season! Honestly, where are you getting your facts from?

peyeli
peyeli

 @WilliamHom  @57chamorro  @mailmd

 You are correct considering Giants were 0-2  for the years of the their SB wins. Stats, why do people live by them is beyond me!

WillWillis1
WillWillis1

 @57chamorro  @mailmd Yet *you* are the one that posed the cynical question of whether or not Manning signed with Denver because of the "easy" schedule. The point is that at the time of signing, Denver's schedule was viewed as one of the toughest, not easiest.

keithb
keithb

 @57chamorro  Your whole theory of "I wonder if Manning's decision to sign up with the Broncos had anything to do with their schedule" is rooted in the past. It's not like he signed with the Broncos this week.

WilliamHom
WilliamHom

 @57chamorro  @mailmd no one can look into the future and decide which bottom dwelling teams are gonna make the leap to a winning team, though. so it's valid. it just so happens some teams are doing better than others.

peyeli
peyeli

 @BryantCrawford  @Booba  @57chamorro

 War got nothing to do with football. That's one for me. Two football is a chess game. Why would you want to risk injuries so the team does not have defenders when they actually get to play post season?  As long as they are winning, who cares about the stat! Only thing I read from the print is which team got the "W.".

M as in Mancy
M as in Mancy

 @peyeli   @mc501

Very often stats can be misleading when used in the wrong context, but they are usually an indication of good/bad play. And good play wins games. Cutting back personnel, effort, or aggression just to prevent injuries has mixed results. Injuries just happen.

 

Besides, we all know based on recent history that it's the team that plays best and gets hot the last 4 weeks of the season which ends up doing damage in the playoffs. We gotta put our foot on the throats on bad teams and get ready for playoff intensity.