I am exhausted after watching that track meet in KC today. So I will try to keep this short.
The Earth looks as it is back on its axis from what we can see here on Planet Bronconia. After having left the door cracked open for the Kansas City Chiefs in the battle for AFC West supremacy with a demoralizing loss in New England last week, the Denver Broncos went into Arrowhead Stadium and jumped right back into the driver’s seat with a 35-28 victory on Sunday. Here’s a rundown of who got it done and who may not have.
The Good: Eric Decker gets my game ball this week. While the Chiefs were busy keying on Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, Decker made them regret not paying him any mind. Decker had a career day by hauling in 8 passes for 174 yards and a team record 4 touchdowns.
The running game again balanced out the offensive attack, allowing play-action to be a weapon of mass production. Rookie running back, Montee Ball and veteran Knowshon Moreno had a combined 28 carries for 135 yards. Ball had a career high 117 yards. His game-high 45 yard burst with 5:01 left in the third quarter moved the sticks from Denver’s own five yard line out to the 45. It was a run between the tackles whereby the rookie from Wisconsin ran both through and around the Chiefs defense. Most importantly, Ball protected his namesake as if his job depended on it; which it probably did. Moreno was used sparingly in the running game coming off of his 37 carry, 224 yard workload last week. However, he did catch four passes for 72 yards and a touchdown.
The defensive unit deserves big kudos. In allowing Kansas City 28 points, the defense only gave up two sustained drives to the KC offense. Their first of the game that ended in a Wesley Woodyard interception in the end zone. The other was a 17-play, 80 yard touchdown drive that ate up almost half of the fourth quarter. To keep that drive alive they needed two very good catches, one by Dexter McCluster and one by A.J. Jenkins. The Chiefs scored twice off of turnovers deep on the Broncos’ side of the field. The other, a 108 kick off return by Knile Davis. KC was kept in check for the rest of the game. Remember this quality performance was by a defense which was without Kevin Vickerson, Derek Wolfe, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Raheem Moore, and limited play by Champ Bailey. Good job guys!
As a matter of course, quarterback Peyton Manning was typical Peyton Manning. The future Hall-of-Famer was 22-of-35 for 403 yards, 5 TDs and 2 INTs. We can do without the 2 picks, but I think I can speak for all Broncos fans in saying that we’ll take this stat line every game. Peyton also broke his own single season franchise record for touchdowns. With his 5 TDs today, he now has 41 touchdown passes on the season and sits 10 shy of breaking Tom Brady’s record of 50 (2007). By the way, PFM still has 4 games left to get it done.
Despite more pressure on Manning this week than in the first meeting against the Chiefs, he was still kept upright all game. So for that coupled with the 135 yards rushing, I send a shout-out to the O-line.
Last, but certainly not least I would be remiss to not recognize Jack Del Rio for stepping in as interim head coach – in addition to his defensive coordinator duties – for the past 4 games for head coach, John Fox while he recovered from heart surgery. Del Rio led the Broncos to a 3-1 record that could have easily been 3-0-1 or even 4-0 if not for some serious brain flatulence in New England.
The Bad: Quite simply, special teams were anything but. Not only was there the aforementioned 108 yard kick return by Knile Davis, but he also had a 22 yard return and Quinton Demps returned one for 31 yards. In the return game, the Broncos did not provide any counter punch. Despite an injury to Trindon Holliday on his first kick return, it starts with the wedge blocking which seemed asleep at the wheel.
The Season of Giving: We know that Peyton Manning is as good of a guy in the community as he is on the field. However, giving the gift of a short field to Kansas City twice is going a little overboard. By the 10:57 mark of the second quarter, Denver had already gifted two TDs off of two INTs. The good news is that they did not turn the ball over again and they are good enough to overcome a -1 turnover margin. Again, I don’t like it, but it could be worse.
I am also concerned about the M*A*S*H unit Denver has become. It’s not anybody’s fault, but it definitely shines a light on how important it is for the Broncos to get that first round bye when the playoffs roll around. We have several guys who need some time off to heal some wounds.
Up Next: We get to see those beautiful predominantly orange jerseys fly around (Sports Authority Field at) Mile High Stadium as the Broncos take on the 5-7 Tennessee Titans. Kickoff is set for 2:25 Elway Standard Time on CBS. In looking at the schedule, the premier AFC game appears to be Indianapolis at Cincinnati. I have to assume CBS’ A team of Jim Nance and Phil Simms will be there. That should mean that the team I consider to be the A-minus team, Greg Gumble and Dan Deirdorf will probably get the call.
We have weathered the gauntlet part of the schedule, my fellow Bronconians. So breathe deeply and enjoy the final four of the regular season without 911 on speed dial.