Let’s heap some praise, shall we?
Start with Peyton Manning, who has been every bit of the future Hall-of-Famer that flipped the script on the Denver Broncos‘ 2012 season back in March.
Move to the other side of the ball and give some to the defense. For having its seventh coordinator in as many years, this Broncos’ defense is leading the NFL with 31 sacks and tied for second in the league with 4 turnovers returned for touchdowns. Contrast that to 2010 when the Broncos had 1 fumble return for a score and 23 sacks the entire season.
Certainly give credit as well to rejuvenated special teams play. With the addition of the slippery Trindon Holliday, the Broncos have as many returns in two weeks as they did all of last year.
But please do not neglect to honor the fantastic play of the offensive line this year. Manning’s success has hinged on this group’s stonewall performance.
It’s sort of a tired argument to question the health of Manning’s neck. I’ll admit though, every time he is under pressure I find myself silently pleading with opposing defenses, “DON’T HURT PEYTON MANNING!!!” He’s fine and Broncos fans are delightfully tantalized each time he shuffles out of the pocket. Still, he’s a far cry from a running quarterback and because of that the Broncos’ offensive line was and is going to be the quiet key to Manning’s success.
Oh, do the numbers ever bear that out…and in order to give them proper credit, I’ll name each one of them so they aren’t caught in some generic amalgamation. Ryan Clady, Zane Beadles, Dan Koppen, Manny Ramirez/Chris Kuper, and Orlando Franklin have been playing fantastic football
First of all, Manning has been hit a league-low 24 times through 9 games. That’s right, opposing defenses are laying a hand on Manning less than three times per game. To put that in perspective, there are nine o-lines that have allowed 24 or more sacks. Speaking of sacks, Manning has been sacked all of 11 times in 9 games. That is tied with the Houston Texans for the fewest in the league. Sure, much of that has to do with the fact that Manning knows where his receivers will be and when they will be there, but it all starts with the offensive line. When you give Manning time he is able to have the highest quarterback rating (108.0) among all quarterbacks.
There are multiple factors that are contributing to Manning remaining upright, so to go deeper into the success of this group of linemen, simply look to their discipline. In nine games, the offensive line has been penalized for false starts just 6 times, making them the second best in the league in that category. What about offensive holding, the other common misdemeanor for a lineman? Clady has been dinged three times, but otherwise only Ramirez and Koppen have been called for the foul just one time each.
For a position that is so traditionally unheralded, it’s time to start singing the praises of the Denver Broncos’ offensive line.