From The Armchair: Denver Broncos: Week 1
Broncos fans have been lamenting the loss to the Ravens that ended their magical run in last year’s playoffs. After 7 and a half months, what better way to get back into it again than by squaring off with the Ravens again. After a slow start in the 1st quarter, with the offense not being able to click and lacking any real flow, Peyton Manning got his team going and scoring early in the second and beyond. Trailing at halftime 17-14, the Broncos rattled off 28 straight points in the second half on their way to a 49-27 victory and a record night for Peyton Manning. We’ve all seen the highlights and game recaps, so how about a little more in depth look at this one from each side of the ball?
What more can anybody really say about the performance of Manning in this one? 462 yards, an NFL record-tying 7 touchdown passes and zero interceptions pretty much sums it up. While he may not have a cannon (a point the NFL network talking heads were eager to bring up on their postgame show), he has full command of this offense and puts the ball where it needs to be for his guys to make plays.
People around the country may have been surprised, but it wasn’t a surprise for a lot of people in and around Denver that Knowshon Moreno got the start at RB. Ronnie Hillman battled fumble issues in the preseason and Montee Ball provides blocking that could get Manning killed. Moreno had a solid finish to the season last year, is good coming out of the backfield and most importantly provides the best protection among the backs for Manning. Expect all three to get their looks every week, but look for more Montee Ball as he gets a better handle of the protection schemes.
Outside, this may be the best group of receivers/tight ends that the Broncos have ever had. Wes Welker made an impact in his first game (9 catches, 67yds, 2 TD) and will continue to play a huge part in this offense, especially on 3rd down. Demaryius Thomas (5 catches, 161yds, 2 TD) is well on his way to being an elite receiver. His 4th quarter 78 yard touchdown that sealed the game showed what this up-tempo offense will do to teams late in games. The Ravens group was cashed at that point. Eric Decker had a n awful game, but that is definitely an anomaly. The best story of this game was the coming out party of tight end Julius Thomas (5 catches, 110yds, 2 TD). While he won’t do this every week, this guy has been teasing us the last 3 preseasons with his raw ability and athleticism. It’s good to see him finally healthy and contributing on the field. He just needs to keep working on his blocking.
While coach Fox would probably like to see a little more rush/pass balance, you have to play to your strengths. Based on one game, that has to be OC Adam Gase and Payton Manning working at a fast pace and throwing the ball. A lot of their short passing attack works just as well as a run. If the Broncos keep the pedal to the metal and push the pace on offense, especially at home with the altitude, opposing teams are going to have their hands full all year.
With Von Miller suspended for the first six games, Champ Bailey currently sidelined with a foot injury, and Elvis Dumervil now in Baltimore, there were a lot of question marks surrounding this group coming into the game. The main concern will remain that way heading into week two, and that is getting pressure on the QB. While the Broncos did sack Joe Flacco 4 times, 2.5 by newcomer Shaun Phillips, Flacco had way too much time in the pocket for most of the game. Other than that, there were a lot of good things that came out of this game. Dominique Rogers-Cromartie playing mostly against Torrey Smith had a great game. It’s intriguing to see what will happen with a healthy Champ Bailey on the other side. Throw in Chris Harris and Tony Carter and the Broncos have 4 solid cover corners.
Other guys that stood out are led by second year safety Duke Ihenacho. Dude was all over the place Thursday night leading the team with 12 tackles, has great ball hawking instincts and is a playmaker. Wesley Woodyard was solid in the middle and hopefully doesn’t have any lingering effects from his ankle injury late in the game. Thanks in part to Danny Trevathan whose ridiculously stupid fumble on his “should have been” pick 6 overshadowed what was otherwise a strong game. Lastly would be the run defense as a whole. They held the Ravens to 58 yards rushing, mainly due to the fact Flacco had to throw 62 times, but they looked pretty stout when they needed to be.
Oh, Wes Welker. How many times do you see it? You bring in your sure handed guy to eliminate mistakes on a punt and not only does he decide to field the punt inside the 10, he muffs it and hands the Ravens a touchdown on a platter on the ensuing possession. But not all was bad. Special teamer extraordinaire David Bruton came up with a huge punt block that lead to an eventual Broncos touchdown. It was good to see him get some primetime love.
Next up comes the battle of the Mannings in New York Sunday afternoon