Christmas could’ve come early for Broncos’ fans yesterday. It could’ve been one of those gift wrapped presents with a giant red bow sitting underneath the tree. Instead, the Colts delivered coal and bad eggnog to the Broncos during their record setting 22nd consecutive regular season win. The Colts don’t just smell the playoffs. They’ve secured their place in them and are looking like the hands down favorite to win the whole thing.
By the time I had finished my first beer, the Colts had a 21-0 lead over Denver. At that point it started to look like a decisive blowout that would require turning the T.V. off and watching paint dry for better entertainment. Credit has to be given the Broncos defense, however, for figuring out how to stop the Colts on offense. After the initial offensive burst, the Broncos held Peyton Manning to 3-18 passing and forced him into 3 INTs until the final drive of the game. Brain Dawkins had 2 of those picks while Darcel McBath got the other one.
On offense, the Broncos managed to score 16 consecutive points, getting to within 5 points with 10 minutes left in the game. It was the Baby T.O. show that kept the Broncos in the game. Brandon Marshall broke the real T.O.’s record for most catches in a game with 21 receptions for 200 yards and 2 TDs. Every ball that left Kyle Orton’s hands went directly to Marshall. It almost looked like a game of catch in the backyard. Who’s asking for Jay Cutler now? Credit Marshall for working for those yards after the catch. He’s definitely proving that “The Beast” is an appropriate nickname for his 6’4”, 230 lb. frame. Even the best tacklers in the league have trouble bringing him down on the first try.
It was after Marshall’s 2nd TD catch that the Broncos looked like they had a shot. Unfortunately, Manning and the Colts moved the ball downfield with ease to hit none other than Dallas Clark for his 3rd TD reception. That was the drive that ate 7 minutes off the clock and pretty much inserted the pin into the Broncos’ already deflating balloon.
It appeared that Josh McDaniels was thinking along the same lines as the Texans when he spread the defensive coverage to the sides of the field to leaving Clark open in the middle. It was Clark who picked up a lot of those big third down conversions and then had a halo over his head in the endzone where Manning could easily find him. It will be interesting to see if anyone can find anything to stop this offense.
A lot of people have criticized McD for his decision to defer taking the ball first when the Broncos won the coin toss at the beginning of the game. Personally, I agree with his decision only because they were playing in Indy. Had they been at Invesco, I suspect he would’ve taken the ball first to get the crowd and offensive momentum on the Broncos side. Manning isn’t one of those players who shuts down after a score by the other team to start the game. If anything it puts fire in his belly. McD did his research and found that the team who kicks off in the first half typically has the final possession in that half. Think about it - with a score to end the half, carrying that momentum into halftime along with the guarantee that you’re getting the ball back to start the 2nd half is huge. Momentum shifts usually happen at that stage of the game anyway, and it would’ve been perfect with Manning on the bench.
There’s no doubt that the Broncos could’ve played better on both sides of the ball. They were going up against a great team, however. No one expected them to win that game, yet they were within striking distance at the end of the game. Adjustments will be made by the coaching staff and you can guarantee a fired up crew next week against Oakland. This is the final push – the time when minds and bodies are tested, when the post season can become reality, and a playing far into January becomes the goal. These next 3 games are must wins. Games that can extend the season, games that you work for year round. Now is the time to really go to work!