Someone must have told the Denver Broncos that’s it’s only cold if you stop moving. The team beat up on the visiting Tennessee Titans 51-28, and clinched a playoff berth in the process.
With a temperature of 18 degrees at kickoff, Peyton Manning was the guy under the magnifying glass. It turns out that he can deliver in cold weather, and his 397 yards and four touchdowns proves it. Manning increased his touchdown count to 45 on the year, which ties Aaron Rodgers for the 5th most in a season in league history.
Denver’s defense and special teams were the ones that initially looked like they couldn’t play in the cold. The Titans opened up a 21-10 lead in the second quarter thanks to two Shonn Green touchdown runs and a Chris Johnson punch-in from the 1-yard line after Leon Washington blazed 95 yards on a kick return.
What better way to inject some life into the Broncos during all of this than John Fox giving his team the green light to go for it on 4th-and-1 twice in his first game back? Consider it Fox taking his new heart valve out for a test drive. For all those wondering, Fox’s heart is now running like an engine under the hood of a ferrari.
“As I mentioned to a lot of guys during the week, I actually feel about 130% better than I did a month ago,” Fox said following the game.
As well as Manning played, the Broncos once again were led by some strong running with Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball averaging 5.6 and 5.1 yards, respectively.
Julius Thomas should be receiving a call from Shannon Sharpe this week. With his second quarter 8-yard touchdown, he set a franchise single season record for most receiving touchdowns (11) by a tight end, and he did it with three full games left.
Perhaps the star of the game, however, was kicker Matt Prater, who set an NFL record for the longest field goal. His 64-yard boot right before halftime turned Mile High into a complete party, and it gave the Broncos the injection they needed to put up 31 second half points.
“It felt like even though we were down one, it was tied or almost like we had the lead,” Manning said of the importance of Prater’s kick.
Throughout the season, it seems like when the offense finds its second half groove, the defense does as well.
Von Miller was certainly the catalyst for the Titans’ two turnovers Sunday afternoon. First Miller batted a Ryan Fitzpatrick ball to allow defensive tackle Terrance Knighton an interception. Knighton was in coverage, too! Not bad for a 335-pound guy. Then Miller stripped Chris Johnson, and safety Mike Adams recovered. Two Titans turnovers that led to two Broncos touchdowns was critical and absolutely took the wind out of Tennessee’s sails.
Miller had 3 tackles (one for a loss), a sack, and a quarterback hit in addition to his two turnover causing plays.
In the win, the Broncos rattled off 91 plays and had guys take some big hits including Wes Welker, who left the game with a concussion (his second head injury since the bye). The fact that it was such a high-paced, hard-hitting game isn’t exactly ideal for a quick turn around time. The Broncos face the San Diego Chargers Thursday at Mile High in the team’s last home game of the regular season.
Hopefully, it will be cold.