Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not going to talk about how Peyton Manning can’t win the big one. I will not talk about his playoff record or how he can only win during the regular season.
This isn’t meant to bash Peyton Manning at all.
Manning is quite simply one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game. End of story.
In 2013-2014 he put up video game numbers, throwing for nearly 5,500 yards and an NFL record 55 touchdowns.
The Broncos offense was an absolute juggernaut, shredding defenses and breaking records, as they scored over 600 points in the regular season alone.
But the Broncos needed every one of those points.
Keep in mind that the 13-3 Broncos won three games by 8 points or less. A 10-6 record would have made for a very different season.
Remember an early October victory at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas against the Dallas Cowboys? The Denver defense allowed Tony Romo and company to rack up 522 yards and 48 points.
But it wasn’t enough.
Peyton Manning helped us to overlook the porous defense and the meager 3.3 yards per rushing attempt. He carried the Broncos to a win anyways by putting up 51 points on the road.
That game versus the Cowboys is the perfect example of what I am talking about. Denver can’t count on Peyton Manning throwing for over 400 yards and four touchdowns every week.
I fully expect Manning to play at a very high level this season. His strength isn’t about his athleticism or his rocket arm. The asset of Peyton is his brilliant mind, his ability to exploit a weakness in a defense, and his precision in placing the football exactly where it should be.
So while Manning is 38 years old, and has had multiple neck surgeries, he still has the resources to be one of the top tier quarterbacks again this year.
Yet we saw in the Super Bowl against Seattle that a great quarterback cannot always win those big games without a significant amount of assistance.
The Seattle Seahawks pressured Manning relentlessly. They jammed his receivers, and forced four turnovers. They took away his running game, limiting the Broncos to just 27 yards on the ground.
The Denver defense was beaten repeatedly on third down and the special teams gave up a touchdown that effectively ended the game just seconds into the third quarter.
The 2014 Denver Broncos must change if they are going to reach their ultimate goal.
They must be more balanced on offense. The Denver offense racked up an NFL record 7,317 yards in 2013 but nearly 75 percent of those yards were through the air. This offense must strive for more balance.
The Broncos schedule will make it a challenge to duplicate their success passing the football in 2014. The Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, and San Francisco 49ers all boasted excellent pass defenses last season.
It would also benefit the Bronco defense if the offense ran the ball, and thereby ran some game clock, keeping the defense off the field and a little more rested. Many times it seemed that the Manning led offense scored too quickly last year and forced the defensive unit back onto the field.
The Broncos have made a concerted effort to improve their defense this season with the additions of DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward. Running the football and chewing up some of the game clock could serve to strengthen the defense even more.
The Broncos kickoff coverage must be better in the upcoming season after giving up a league worst 29.3 yards per return last year. And with the departure of returner Trindon Holliday the kick and punt return duties are wide open.
Once again protecting Manning will be of the utmost importance as opposing defenses will be looking to disrupt the rhythm of this offense with a heavy pass rush.
I fully expect Peyton Manning to once again show his greatness in 2014. But if the Broncos are counting on Manning to repeat his performance of 2013, with a different final result, they will be sorely disappointed.
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