The Denver Broncos drew their fourth largest home crowd in team history (76,832) when the team hosted the New Orleans Saints on national television.
The recipe was seemingly right for the Saints to upset the Broncos. Interim coach and Sean Payton’s right hand man, Joe Vitt, was back after serving a six-game suspension. The team appeared to be hitting its stride, winning its last two game after losing its first four. Drew Brees has a cannon arm and plenty of targets to throw to. The Saints wanted to “win this one for the Gipper.”
All went completely wrong for the Saints who fell to the Broncos 34-14, however.
“There’s nothing I can do to put pixie dust on this team to make it play better, to make it play more emotional, and there’s probably more hype than substance on my part,” Vitt said.
What the Saints may have inadvertently put on the back burner through all the hype this week was the biggest name on the other side of the ball. Peyton Manning.
Manning torched the Saints for 305 yards on 22-for-30 passing with three touchdowns. Manning out-shined Drew Brees even though he passed for a touchdown for the 50th straight game.
Manning was typical Manning. That’s why when he hurt his thumb right before halftime, hitting it on another player’s helmet, concern around Broncos Country quickly rose.
“Probably the biggest fear is always the thumb on the helmet of the defensive lineman, so that’s what happened,” Manning said of the injury. “Mostly the nail, the fingernail. It’ll be sore tomorrow, but I’m probably a little bit lucky.”
Rest easy, Broncos fans. Manning threw two touchdown passes after that, and worked his way to a 138.9 quarterback rating.
In front of nearly 77,000 fans in the seats, and a much larger contingent at home, Manning put on another show. It was his fifth consecutive game throwing for 300+ yards. He became just the 2nd player in NFL history to throw for 300+ yards and 3 touchdowns in four consecutive games (Steve Young was the other one).
That $96 million investment is providing many, many returns. Namely to the tune of four wins and first place in the AFC West. The Broncos are coming on strong in the AFC with the Bengals (3-4), Panthers (1-6), Chargers (3-4), Chiefs (1-6), Buccaneers (3-4), Raiders (3-4), Ravens (5-2), Browns (2-6), and Chiefs coming up. That’s just one team with a winning record in the next nine games.
You can’t tell me Manning isn’t drooling over this scenario. This is the Broncos race for the taking.