Peyton Manning has been proving his doubters wrong on a routine basis and he did it again on Sunday night. Manning got the best of Saints quarterback Drew Brees behind 3 touchdowns, 305-yards passing and a QB rating of 138.9. In the process he became the first player in league history to throw for at least 3 touchdowns, 300 yards, and a completion percentage of 70% in 4 straight games. Manning not only has the Denver Broncos in the driver’s seat of the AFC West with a 4-3 record, he is a frontrunner for the league MVP and Comeback Player of The Year awards.
Here are some thoughts on the Denver Broncos 34-14 dismantling of the New Orleans Saints:
- How long has it been since you’ve come away from a Broncos game feeling like they can legitimately contend for a Super Bowl? The answer should be a very long time. The Broncos proved against New Orleans that they are a team to be reckoned with the rest of the year. Nearly everything the Denver offense did worked yesterday. Granted, they were playing the worst defense in the league, but good football teams dominate an opponent’s weakness, and the Broncos did just that.
- The offensive statistics are mind boggling. Manning went over 300 yards, Willis McGahee finished with 122-yards rushing and a score, Ronnie Hillman pitched in with 86 yards including an electrifying 31-yard scamper in the third quarter, and Demaryius Thomas racked up 137 yards and a touchdown. The Denver stars shined on the biggest stage yesterday and decorated the stat sheet. Denver is not going to lose many games where they have production like that at all levels of the offense. In total the Broncos finished with 530 yards and put on a clinic against the beleaguered Saints defense.
- It simply isn’t possible to praise the defense too much for their effort against Drew Brees. They gave up only 252 total yards and held the Saints to a 1 for 12 conversion rate on third downs. And they accomplished that while only registering a single quarterback sack! Typically a team would have to hammer Brees in the pocket to hold him down, but the Broncos played sound defense all the way around and did a great job in the secondary to slow the prolific New Orleans passing attack. Clearly the defense is starting to come together, and if they can keep this edge going the Broncos are going to be very tough to beat.
- Wesley Woodyard was the brightest spot on the defensive side of the ball by a large margin. He had the only Denver sack, the only Denver interception, and he also chipped in 13 tackles, 2 deflected passes and a tackle for loss. Linebacker was a position of concern for this team coming into the year, especially with the D.J. Williams suspension, but Woodyard is doing his best to alleviate those concerns.
- Trindon Holliday started to make up for his fumble issues two weeks ago in San Diego. He returned 4 punts for 43 yards and showed some of the flashes that Denver needs to see in their return game. Keep an eye on him; there are some big plays in his future.
- For everything that this team has going for them right now, their Achilles heel showed itself again yesterday. This team MUST get their fumble problem figured out. A McGahee fumble early in the game led directly to a Saints touchdown, and Hillman fumbled after a big play in the second half that luckily bounced out of bounds. In total Denver has lost 10 fumbles this season and it’s easily the biggest concern going forward. Most Denver fans find themselves holding their breath every time a Bronco gets the ball in the open field. Hopefully John Fox makes solving this problem a priority at practice.
- The most telling moment last night was when the cameras caught Peyton Manning coaching up the offense on the sideline after they scored to go up 24-7. He was animated and worked up. The strength of his leadership seeped through the television screen. Everything was going Denver’s way at that point and Manning had every reason to take a breather. But that’s just not who he is. Manning is never satisfied and is always striving for bigger and better. He is seeking perfection in everything the offense does and won’t rest until they reach it. If that didn’t give you goose bumps as a Broncos fan you weren’t paying attention. Peyton Manning is taking this team to high places, and we are truly lucky to be able to see it.
- The Broncos looks like they are finding their groove. They had the hardest schedule in the league over the first 6 games and they have the weakest schedule over their final 10. If Denver keeps playing like they did last night the wins are going to start piling up. In recent years past, it was a concern when the Broncos hit a soft part of their schedule because they had a knack for playing down to the level of their competition. With Manning behind center, that is no longer a concern. He is a killer and will take care of business against teams they should beat. One of Manning’s best attributes is he dominates divisional competition. He did it for years and years in Indianapolis, and he’s already 2-0 in the AFC West. Look for that record to improve in 2012.
- Sunday was a dream day for Denver fans. Not only did the Broncos destroy the Saints in a nationally televised primetime game, but the San Diego Chargers fell in embarrassing fashion to the lowly Cleveland Browns. Denver sits alone in first place in the AFC West and is above .500 for the first time since the season opening victory against Pittsburgh. Next up they hit the road for a matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon. Go Broncos!