The Denver Broncos’ greatest home field advantage is the fact that they play in the oxygen-deprived sky. When visiting teams come to play at 5,280 feet above sea level, particularly at the beginning of the season, it’s difficult for them to perform at a high level for all four quarters of play.
Look no further than the oxygen mask on Troy Polamalu’s face in the first half, or the Broncos’ 17 fourth quarter points against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers, meanwhile, put up just six points in the fourth quarter and converted on just one third down.
That’s where the no-huddle offense comes into play. The Broncos moved the ball in the first quarter, but the rushing game struggled. The team had 8 carries for 16 yards rushing in the first quarter, which also included a Willis McGahee fumble.
Once the Broncos went to the no-huddle in the second quarter, that’s when the offense started clicking. Manning led the Broncos on an 80-yard drive which was capped off by a Knowshon Moreno touchdown in the Broncos’ first no-huddle series.
“It’s something that we pull out every once in a while,” John Fox said about the no-huddle. “He’s (Peyton Manning) definitely smart enough and mature as a quarterback enough to do it. He probably does it as well as anybody and it’s a huge weapon.”
The no-huddle means that Manning is fully in charge of the offense. Bring the NFL to London? The audio of Manning’s play calling at the line of scrimmage should be an exhibit in the Tate Modern.
The second no-huddle series occurred on the Broncos first possession of the second half. Manning needed just two plays to work his own Mile High Magic. He passed to Eric Decker to pick up 9 yards and then tossed the ball over to Demaryius Thomas to let him run it 71 yards for the score.
“I think it made a difference,” Peyton Manning said of the no-huddle. “I think it did sorta give our offense a little boost. I can’t speak to them, to how they felt about it, whether it fatigued them or not. I don’t know that. It did give our offense a little boost where we got into a little rhythm…I think it still comes down to the execution whether you huddle or no huddle, it’s still kind of basic fundamental football.”
The no-huddle was undoubtedly great for the Broncos offense, but what about the defense? It didn’t give them much time to rest. That’s where all those Steelers’ third down conversions come into play, right?
“Some of those wounds were inflicted by ourselves as far as defensively,” Fox said. “That’s a good offensive football team in a lot of ways.”
The Steelers’ offense was good, but on opening night in Denver, the Broncos’ offense was better.