Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos began the season on fire. They started 6-0 with Manning throwing 22 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. Naturally, we all started talking about the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins, the 2007 Patriots’ 589 points and Tom Brady‘s 50 touchdowns. And of course, the Super Bowl.
But the Broncos look like humans now. They’ve lost 3 of their last 8 games. Potential playoff opponents have hope that they can exploit Denver’s weaknesses.
So how do you beat the Denver Broncos?
Their first loss of the year was Manning’s vastly-hyped return to Indianapolis in Week 7. Denver beat themselves with 12 penalties and 3 turnovers. Peyton’s passes were not as crisp as usual, sometimes fluttering or sailing.
The week before the game was filled with controversy over Jim Irsay comments. He expressed disappointment over winning only one Super Bowl title with Manning under center. This required reporters to ask Manning about it and for him to supply professional responses all week.
The game began with a video montage of the Manning glory days, punctuated with a fan holding a sign reading: “Thanks, Peyton, But Tonight I’m a Colts Fan.”
Manning is laser-focussed and ultra-prepared always, but ignoring the press takes energy and time. Playing against him, you need every edge. Using media distraction gives you an edge. Did Irsay stir the pot to disturb his opponent? He should have. It helped.
Don’t forget about all of Manning’s team-mates who listen to all the same stuff. It affects their mentality also.
The Patriots fell behind 24-0 in the first half of their Week 12 meeting with the Broncos. The steady leadership of Tom Brady lead them back. Too often teams fall behind Denver and think losing is inevitable. A Belichick/Brady team doesn’t believe in the impossible.
Perhaps Denver thought they had it in the bag, too, because they started screwing up. Turnovers and mistakes left the door open. The Patriots shrugged off early fumbles to play a solid second half and reach overtime. The last mistake belonged to Denver. A punt bounced off cornerback Tony Carter, which New England recovered in field-goal range.
Now that Denver has lost 3 games, they know it can happen again. If you can keep pressure on them and make them believe they can lose again, they may mess up and make it come true. Don’t let the fear of losing get into you.
In Week 15, San Diego supplied the blueprint that is statistically easiest to prove. They dominated time of possession 38:49 to 21:11. They out-rushed Denver 177-18 and allowed Manning only 9 possessions. The left side of the Chargers line devastated the Broncos all night. Ryan Matthews had a masterful night with 127 yards and a score.
San Diego played without fear against a division rival with whom they’re familiar. Entering the game 6-7, they needed to win out to have any chance at the playoffs, so they left it all on the field.
Denver lost for the first time at home, removing any perceived home-field advantage. If winter conditions restrict passing and promote running, Denver weather may hinder this Bronco team.
So who can beat them in the playoffs?
Let’s compile what we’ve learned into a simple blanket statement: Denver can be beaten by a team with a confident quarterback and a strong run game.
Their potential opponents are Baltimore, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Indianapolis, San Diego, Miami and even the New York Jets. Tennessee needs a miracle struck by a lightning bolt, but they could make it too. Of course, Denver could meet New England in the final playoff round if the Patriots lock up the AFC East.
New England can certainly game-plan their way into another victory, but it will be even tougher without Gronkowski again.
Indianapolis has somehow spiraled downhill since beating Denver.
I don’t think Kansas City has the offense to do it. Yes, they just hung 45 on Washington, but two of those touchdowns were kick returns. Alex Smith threw for 137 yards.
Miami, NYJ and Tennessee are not in the same class.
Cincinnati will not be bothered by the weather. If they can get a huge game from Giovani Bernard alongside Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis, Andy Dalton and AJ Green could win a shoot-out with Manning. Does Dalton have the playoff confidence?
Baltimore has a realistic chance of doing it if, and only if, they finally re-find their big-boy pants and start walking with champion swagger. Joe Flacco has done it. Ray Rice has done it. The coaching staff has done it. If the rebuilt team can play together as a unit and reset to 0-0 at the start of the post-season, they could score a playoff win for the ages.
And of course, San Diego. The taste of this victory should be as sweet on their tongues as the loss is bitter on the tongues of the Broncos. If they come from below .500 to skid into the playoffs, then win a game to get to Denver, what have they got to lose? And the Broncos should be very afraid to win zero playoff games.
So stay confident, run the ball, control the clock and use all the media blah-blah you can. You, too, could beat the Denver Broncos.
David Klenda, also known as Eighty Six, is Division Leader for the NFC West and AFC West. Find him at Eighty Six the Poet or on Twitter as 86ThePoet . He also writes for Bright Hub . Find his ebooks at Smashwords .
Want to write for us? http://thepenaltyflagblog.com/write-tpf/