As I write this, I can’t help but wonder if Dallas Cowboys journeyman linebacker Ernie Sims is just tired of hearing about Peyton Manning now or if his condition had deteriorated to cold sweats in the middle of the night. That’s what I thought!
Despite my opening jab at Sims, I am not sitting here performing my Billy “White Shoes” Johnson touchdown dance. In fact, I am still wiping sweat from my brow after watching that wild west-like, 51-48 shootout victory by the Denver Broncos over the Cowboys on Sunday. Now that my heart rate has returned to normal, let’s process what we saw.
I decided to start with Knowshon Moreno instead of the usual, PFM…but we’ll get to him later. Moreno would get my game ball today. He toted the rock 19 times for 93 yards, which works out to 4.9 yards per carry. He also found the endzone once. However for me his value was not in the tangible numbers themselves, rather the ripple effect it had on the rest of the team. Moreno’s efforts kept the Broncos’ offense on the field and kept a Dallas offense, which could not be stopped, off of the field (see “The Bad” below). Since the Cowboys had to be mindful the run, it made play-action more affective. No greater evidence of that than just before halftime. With 52 seconds left, third and goal from the one yard line Manning faked a handoff to Moreno. It appeared that not only all eleven defenders, but Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleaders, and even Tony Romo‘s wife (of whom CBS did not seem to want to take there cameras off) loaded the box and all bit on the play action. Heck, even the cameraman was fooled. To be honest, so was I. While we were all looking to see where Moreno would end up, Denver’s version of Usain Bolt was running a naked boot around the left side and nobody was within twenty yards of him. Coincidentally it was his first rushing TD since 2008. Lastly (and yes, we are still speaking of Knowshon Moreno here) #27 did a great job of picking up the blitz and keeping Manning relatively clean. That won’t show up on the stat sheet but is an invaluable part of the game nonetheless.
Well if I am giving major kudos to Knowshon Moreno, I would be remiss not to mention the guys who opened up the holes which he exploited. The offensive line was very good on Sunday. Although the Broncos only went for 103 net rushing yards, (the -8 that PFM posted was do to taking a knee three times at the end of regulation), do not slight the guys in the trenches. They were consistently good all day. There were not many negative plays and they kept the Dallas defense off of there meal ticket. The one exception was in the first half but it led to a 15 yard face-mask penalty assessed to Dallas left defensive end, George Selvie. Additionally they were only flagged for one false start and one holding penalty all day.
The receiving corps in general was solid as usual, despite the early lost fumble by Eric Decker. He and Wes Welker each caught one TD pass. It is evident that Dallas defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin was heaven-bent on not letting Demaryius Thomas beat them. They neutralized him to the tune of 5 receptions for 57 yards. The one guy for whom Kiffin had no answer was Julius Thomas. “Orange” Julius had 9 receptions for 122 yards and 2 TDs. Thomas has become a weapon in the Broncos’ arsenal who has created the most difficult match-ups. If he and Moreno continue to play at this level, I don’t believe that there is a defense in the league that can keep them under 38 points.
And then, of course there is one Peyton Williams Manning, Esq! OK, I add the Esq but it seems so right. This guys is playing the game at a level barely ever seen before. Today his gaudy stat line was, 33-for-42, 414 yards with 4 TDs and his first INT of the season. ‘Nuff said!
In a word, defense. Maybe I should describe it as a lack of defense. If there is any other team out there that has the kind of weapons that Tony Romo has at his disposal, they have just been shown the blueprint for keeping up with the Mannings. Broncos defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio did not have any answers for what the Cowboys were doing offensively. The disturbing thing is that they showed no ability or inclination to run the football. So it was almost as if Dallas head coach, Jason Garrett said to Del Rio, “here it is, try and stop it!” The problem is, neither he nor his predominantly-orange clad defense could. It would not be fair to single out one particular player since all of them were equally bad. All three units, the defensive line, the linebackers, and the defensive backs were dressing up early for Halloween and their costume was a big block of swiss cheese. For a little perspective, Tony Romo went 25 for 36, 506 yards passing and 5 TDs. That 506 yards was only 48 yards shy of Norm Van Brocklin‘s single game passing mark of 554 yards. That is not something to be proud of from a defensive perspective. I would have liked to have seen this game played after week 6, when Von Miller returns from his suspension. Denver’s inability to get any sustained pressure on Romo shined a big light on the void left by the absence of Miller. I’m also thinkin’ that there was a giant sign just outside the lockers of each team that read, CHECK YOUR DEFENSE AT THE DOOR!
As bad as it was, there were a couple of diamonds in the rough today. The two turnovers the Denver defense got were as a result of really good and heady plays. At the 8:56 mark of the second quarter, rookie Kayvon Webster made another impactful play by stripping Cowboys’ WR Dez Bryant just after he caught a long pass from Romo which was recovered by Duke Ihenacho. It appeared to me that Ihenacho knew the levity of the situation and chose to just fall on the ball, giving it back to the best QB in the game instead of trying to be a highlight on the four-letter network. Kudos, Duke! The second defensive gem was turned in at the most opportune time of the game. With the game at 48-48 and Dallas possessing the ball with a little over two minutes left in regulation and two timeouts left, Danny Trevathan dove in front of Romo’s attempted pass to TE, Gavin Escobar and made a great catch to pick it off. This gave the ball back to Manning and the offense at the Dallas 23 yard line with 1:57 left. Denver drove the ball down to the 1 yard line. in doing so, caused Dallas to use it’s remaining timeouts. With a little more than a minute on the clock and the ball on the 1, Peyton took a knee three times. With two seconds left, they sent kicker Matt Prater onto the field for a 28-yard chip shot to win the game. So as far as I’m concerned, this effort by Trevathan cancels out his knuckle-headed play in week one on a would-be touchdown. We’re all good now 59.
Unbelievably there is only one thing in the “Ugly” category this week. Equally incredulous is that it belongs to everybody’s all-American, Peyton Manning. That would be his first INT thrown this year. It has nothing to do with the fact that he threw an INT, rather how ugly that pass was. For a second I thought that they replaced Peyton Manning with younger brother, Eli (sorry ‘lil Bro, you’re still my boy).
By The Numbers:
If you are keeping track at home, five games into the 2013 season Peyton Manning is now 150 for 198, 1884 yards with 20 TDs and 1 (that’s right, I said 1) INT. Oh and in case you are curious, that 150 for 198 computes to a 75.8 completion percentage. PFM is on a pace for the following season ending statistics: 480 for 634, 6028 yards, 64 TDs, 3 INTs and a completion percentage of 75.7. I know this means nothing, but humor me. If this were to play itself out, these would be single-season numbers that might never be broached.
As a team, the Broncos are 1st in the league in PPG (46), YPG (489.9), and Passing YPG (373.8). Their rushing yards per game rank 16th at 116 YPG. However as we have seen over the past couple of weeks, when they need to run, they can and will run.
“We don’t always run, but when we do, we make it count” They are the most interesting team in the world.
After leaving the Jones-Mahal, it’s time for those kitty’s from the banks of the St. Johns River. OK, can we just spare the Jacksonville Jaguars the embarrassment or do we really need to give them a wedgie, wrench their arms under and behind their backs until they cry, “UNCLE!”? Seriously, I lived there for a year. I liked the people there. They love their Jags. I have a cousin who has Jaguars’ season tickets with her husband. I really don’t want to….oh who am I kidding? I want our Broncos to mow everybody down and take no prisoners. Sorry Jags’ fans, you’re just next.
Kickoff on CBS is scheduled for 4:05 EST, 2:05 Elway standard time. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts will have the call. Now I happen to like this broadcast team, but because the opponent is Jacksonville, this will be one of the few times Jim Nance and Phil Simms won’t call Broncos games.