I want to start this week’s recap by congratulating Denver Broncos’ vice president of corporate communications, Jim Saccomano for the dedication of the press box at (Sports Authority Field at) Mile High Stadium in his honor. Its new official name is the Jim Saccomano Press Box. Mr. Saccomano will be retiring from this current position but staying on in a consulting capacity. Sunday’s 51-28 win against the Tennessee Titans was the 870th he has witnessed live and in person (OK, I’m a little jealous). Congratulations, Mr. Saccomano!
So it was about 18 degrees in the Mile High City at game time. So that can only mean one thing…there is no way that quarterback, Peyton Manning can possibly lead Denver to a win. Oh, and tectonic plates shifted, the seas rose to dangerous levels, droughts ravaged the earth, and Carrie Underwood is set to do a live broadcast of Gone With the Wind. Shudder to think…
The Good: I will get to PFM’s record-breaking performance in a bit. However first kudos goes to kicker, Matt Prater. Prater, or as I refer to him as, “Super Toe” , took down a 43 year record as he blasted a 64 yard field goal as time expired in the first half. And to those disillusioned “analysts” who may want to disparage this effort because of the altitude, put an extra warm, woolen sock in it! Prater kicked what was the equivalent of a cinder block 64 yards…and as any golfer would admire, straight as an arrow. The previous record was shared by Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints in 1970, our own, Jason Elam in 1998, Sebastian Janikowski of the Oakland Raiders in 2011, and most recently, by David Akers of the San Francisco 49ers in 2012. Now, Super Toe stands atop Mount Place-kicker. Congratulations Matt!
Three words, Peyton “Freakin” Manning! Any talking head with a microphone in his face was basically saying, “If you can’t take the cold, get out of the freezer!” (OK, that was kind of a reach for a clever line). At the very least, Manning’s ability to play outdoors in temperatures less than 40 degrees has not only been questioned, but full-on doubted. If there is anything we have all learned about Peyton after 16 years is that if you challenge him, he will respond…and did he! Not only did the Broncos blow out the Titans and Manning throw 4 TDs, but get this…didn’t he even throw an interception. Here are some sub-20 degree stats from Sunday that will hopefully put this cold weather argument to rest:
- 397 passing yards are the most in the NFL in 5 years
- He’s the first player in 9 years to throw 4 TD passes
- His 38 completions in a game are a franchise record
- Per the Elias Sports Bureau, PFM is the only quarterback in at least 15 years with 4 TDs and no INTs.
There are so many statistics related to how prolific the 2013 Broncos offense has been, unrelated to the weather, that I can do a whole article just on those. Since the record books still have three weeks’ worth of addendums left, I will save it for after the regular season. So after all of this, can we put to rest the notion that Manning is no good in the cold weather and maybe recognize the efforts of the competition his teams faced in those games? Or can we identify that those old Colts teams, from which the bulk of this bogus reputation has been garnered, just were not as stacked as the Broncos are this year?
The running back tandem of Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball has become quite the handful with which opposing defenses must deal; especially in addition to the arsenal of receivers at Peyton’s disposal. The two-headed rushing beast ran the ball 29 times for 155 yards and 2 TDs against a pretty stout Titans’ defense. The beauty of this running back platoon is that neither guy gets overused and both are equally effective.
Of course, if Peyton Manning had such a monstrous day, there had to be some beneficiaries on the receiving end. Demaryius Thomas with 88 yards, Julius Thomas with 35 yards, and Wes Welker with 61 yards all caught TD passes. However for the second straight week, the receiving star was Eric Decker. Decker hauled in 8 passes for 117 yards and a TD. Honestly, the Broncos front office has its work cut out for it in trying to get Decker re-signed since his stock has risen exponentially this year, and more specifically the past two weeks.
The defense was pretty good against Tennessee. They got off to a shaky start but settled in at the start of the second half as the offense put pressure on the Titans offense to try and keep up. Von Miller posted a sack and forced fumble. Danny Trevathan had 4 solo tackles and 2 assists. Big man, Terrance Knighton intercepted a tipped Mark Fitzpatrick pass about 5 minutes into the 3rd quarter as he was dropping back into underneath coverage. My defensive game ball, though, goes to Malik Jackson. Jackson clogged up the middle all day, made 4 unassisted tackles and sacked Fitzpatrick once. The defensive tackles seem to be gelling and putting their stamp on this defense in the wake of the week 7, season ending injury to Kevin Vickerson.
The Bad: It is really hard to come up with a lot of bad things to write about when your team posts a 51-28 thrashing of its opponent. However as we all know, there is always room for improvement. In light of Prater’s record-breaking field goal, I cannot paint the special teams with a broad brush. So I will pick on the the kick coverage. That unit has been a source of a great deal of agita for me this year (for you non east coast Italians, that’s indigestion). The substandard play reared its ugly head again as Leon Washington took Prater’s kick, following the tying, first Broncos’ TD of the game 95 yards to the Denver 3. The Titans scored the very next play on a Chris Johnson 3 yard scamper. I would have to go back to check every game to be sure, but it does appear that the Broncos’ kick coverage unit gives up at least one really big return every week.
The other bad aspect of this past Sunday was a second concussion suffered by Wes Welker in the past three weeks. Suffice it to say, this is a serious situation with which the Broncos medical staff is taking a great deal of precaution. I am not a doctor, but I will play one in this article. I believe that Welker should be held out for the remainder of the regular season, even if he is medically cleared to resume football activities. We do recognize that his health is the most important consideration here. From a football perspective, the final three games, against San Diego, Houston, and Oakland should just be walk-throughs en route to the post season. So that would give Wes a month to clear his head…pardon the pun…and get healthy.
The Records: See “The Good”…’nuff said.
Up Next: The Broncos stare a short week in the eyes as division rivals, the San Diego Chargers (OK, sing it with me…”San Diegoo Suuper Chargers, San Diegoo CHARGERS!!!”)…sorry, I couldn’t help the involuntary reaction to sing their old, cheesy fight song. The quick turn-around sees our old friend, Mike McCoy brings in his Chargers and our old nemesis, Phillip Rivers. The Lightning Bolt’s head man has become a bit of a lightning rod. McCoy was quoted in Monday’s The Gazette as stating:
“we’re going to beat Denver on Thursday night, not just play close.”
Mike, Mike, Mike…you’re so cute when you try to go all Namath on us. I know you feel emboldened after squashing one Manning last week. However that was ‘lil Bro, Eli; you know, he of the 20 INTs this year. Now you really didn’t mean to ruffle the feathers of big Bro, Peyton like that, did you? Well we’ll just have to pat you on the head after Thursday’s Broncos victory and send you on your way…like we did with ‘Lil Eli…so cute, the two of ya.
The game will be shown by the NFL Network. Kickoff is set for 8:25 PM, Elway Standard Time. Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock will have the call.