The Denver Broncos didn’t need to see any more from Peyton Manning beyond the first quarter in the team’s 29-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Manning looked like he was Sitting on the Dock of the Bay with a fishing line in the water and his legs kicked up. He reeled in 2 touchdowns and an incredible preseason performance along the way. Manning grabbed his visor and was standing on the sidelines before the second quarter for good reason. He went 10-for-12 passing (83%) for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns. That equates to a 148.6 passer rating.
In fact, Manning had a perfect passer rating (158.3) on throws to the right. He went 7-for-7 for 104 yards and 1 touchdown on those. That kind of makes John Clayton’s opinion smell like Fisherman’s Wharf.
“I’ve seen steady improvements as he’s gotten here,” head coach John Fox said following the game. “He’s not a young player by any stretch, but to come in and learn an offense, execute an offense with the precision, he is pretty good.”
Manning’s first drive had the Broncos moving 45 yards so that Matt Prater could kick a 53-yard field goal.
The second offensive series for the Broncos saw Manning throwing to Demaryius Thomas, Brandon Stokley, Lance Ball, and finally Eric Decker for his first touchdown pass in his career in a color other than Colts’ Blue.
The Manning-to-Decker connection wasn’t done for the day, however. After Wesley Woodyard recovered a fumble in 49er’s territory, Manning found Decker in the end zone a second time for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Decker finished the day with 4 receptions for 38 yards and 2 touchdowns.
“All three phases played great,” Decker said of the first quarter which the Broncos won 17-7. “To beat a team like San Francisco who made it to the NFC Championship last year, you have to play that well.”
The Peyton Manning Era is alive and well in Denver. In fact, the regular season doesn’t start for another two weeks, but the quality of play from this offense looks to be in mid-season form.
“I thought we had some rhythm,” Manning said. “We huddled today yet we still played at an up-tempo pace of getting in and out of the huddle and getting the personnel packages.”
In the race for the backup, Caleb Hanie got the call first when Manning went to the sidelines. Hanie went 8-for-12 for 92 yards with 1 touchdown, and 1 interception for an 82.6 quarterback rating in the first half.
To start the second half, Brock Osweiler came in hoping to redeem himself after a 5-for-11, 38 yard performance against the Seattle Seahawks last week. Against the 49ers, he went 4-for-9 for 27 yards. However, his teammates were not really helping his case. The line wasn’t protecting him and receivers were dropping good passes.
Fourth string QB and fan favorite Adam Weber finally got his chance to step on the turf. He finished off the game going 4-for-8 for 38 yards and taking a sack.
The Broncos defense saw some great stops from the No. 1 unit. That group forced the 49ers to go three and out on their first drive and then they forced a fumble to put the offense in great scoring position. The Broncos held the 49ers to just 10 first half points, and 83 yards total in the first half.
In the second half, the second string defense looked like they were lost in a San Francisco fog. They gave up 19 points and 221 yards of offense in the final half of play. To give some credit to the second string defensive unit, the Broncos held the 49ers to a field goal when it was first and goal from the 3-yard line as the third quarter came to a close.
All in all the Broncos look strong at the top of the depth chart. As you dig deeper through the inner-rankings, there are certainly some soft spots.
Even though the Broncos still have one preseason game left, this was the final dress rehearsal for the Broncos’ starters. Most will not play Thursday in Arizona.
The Broncos have meetings on Monday and will take the field again on Tuesday and Wednesday before flying out for their final preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.