The Broncos Played Like Orange Jell-O
No, not the wiggly-jiggly, fruit-flavored gelatin desert.
I'm talking about "jell" as Meriam-Webster defines it: to take shape and achieve distinctness : become cohesive. And I'm talking "O" as in offense, as in football, as in what Peyton Manning and crew displayed at Sports Authority Field at Mile High this afternoon.
Today, against a defenseless Oakland Raiders football team, fans of the Denver Broncos got a taste of what a Manning-led offense looks like when it gells. Every element of the offense came together today and displayed a level of cohesiveness not witnessed so far this season.
The offensive line allowed ZERO sacks. Manning had time in the pocket and felt very little pressure from Oakland's defensive line. When Oakland blitzed, blocking assignments by tight-ends and running backs took up the slack and kept Manning on his feet. Heck, Manning even had room to roll out on a few plays to make it happen. Without a doubt, the best protection the Broncos have given Manning so far this season. He completed 30 of 38 passes for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Speaking of the tight-ends and running backs, they also delivered when they were given the ball. From the first TD of the game on a Manning pass to Joel Dreessen - the first TD scored in the 1st quarter this season, by the way - to the 14 yard TD pass from Manning to Lance Ball that capped off a third quarter where the Broncos scored 21 points, they produced in ways fans haven't witnessed in the first three games. They caught 16 passes for 124 yards and 2 touchdowns. This group rushed for 167 yards on 36 carries and a touchdown.
Wide receivers did their part in today's "Jell-o" performance. After being accused - rightfully so in most cases - of dropping way too many passes this season, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Brandon Stokely combined for 14 receptions, 214 yards, and a touchdown. It would have been two touchdowns if not for an unfortunate fumble by Thomas - probably the only negative offensive play in the game - when switching the football from his right hand to his left on would have been a 71 yard TD pass.
When Manning was brought to Denver, it was believed that the defense and special teams would see their performances improve as a result of the improved scoring from a Manning-led offense. Today's "jell-O" performance gave us a glimpse of what could look like.
The defense was in the Oakland backfield almost as much as Carson Palmer. While only managing a total of 3 sacks, Palmer was running for his life the whole game. When the Raiders tried to run the ball, the Broncos held the Darren McFadden-led ground game to 56 yards on 16 carries, and no scores. Matt Prater was 3/3 on field goal attempts with a long of 53 yards. David Bruton blocked a punt deep in Oakland territory and the Broncos gave Britton Colquitt the day off. Defense would only surrender 6 points on two Sebastian Janikowski field goals, both of them in the Red Zone.
Heck, even the coaches did their part. They finally figured out that a no-huddle offense can be used the whole game. It was used on every touchdown drive and it's most responsible for the 21 unanswered points being scored in the third quarter.
Bronco fans knew that there would be a learning curve to working with Peyton Manning, particularly after playing the college option most of last season. Today, I think Broncos fans got a glimpse of what's possible with this team.
Today, the Broncos played like Orange Jell-O.
The good stuff:
1 Peyton Manning - 30/38 - 338 yards - 3 TDs - ZERO INTs - 130.04 passer rating. The no-huddle is his baby and with the rest of the team beginning to understand it, Manning will deliver this type of performance more times than not. His arm strength looks to be back and his accuracy was spot on. His TD pass to Dreessen proved this beyond a doubt.
2. Every player who caught a Peyton Manning pass - As mentioned above, receivers and running backs were beginning to develop a reputation of dropping too many passes. With the exception of a low-to-the-ground incomplete pass to Eric Decker - which was originally ruled a completion - receivers caught everything thrown to them.
3. Defense - Oakland's offense had no answers to the scheme used by Jack Del Rio's squad. As mentioned above, they were in Palmer's face all day and they totally shut down the Oakland running game. They held the Raiders offense to only 1 of 12 on third down. I would also venture to guess that the Broncos will win nearly every game where the defense only surrenders six points.
4. Special Teams - As mentioned in past articles, this team relied on special teams too often to win last year. Today, they could have almost been put on the inactive list. Matt Prater was 3 for 3 on field goals and Britton Colquitt got to work on polishing up his resume for life after punting. Anytime the kicking game is this much of a non-factor, it's a good thing. By the way, it was only the fifth time in franchise history that the team had no punts in the game. And don't forget David Bruton's blocked punt. It set up the second score of the third quarter and essentially put the game away very early.
The not-so-good stuff:
As great as this game was in every facet, there were still a few not-so-good things to note.
1. Demaryius Thomas - His non-contact fumble killed a huge scoring play that would have put the Broncos up by 14 early in the game. While it didn't affect the eventual outcome, a fumble like his is inexcusable.
2. J.D. Walton - He's out for the remainder of the season due to his broken ankle. Hopefully, recent ex-Patriot Dan Koppen will jell with Manning and his O-line teammates in a hurry.
3. The fake field goal - I don't know how I feel about this one. I appreciate the attitude, but it looked like it hadn't been practiced enough to have a chance at success. The kick was within Prater's range, and at the time would have put the Broncos up 13-3.
4. Punt returns - Jim Leonhard had 5 returns for 40 yards. One of them was for 16 yards, which means he had 24 yards on the remaining 4 returns.
Offensive Player of the Game: In a game where everyone played so well, it's a tough one this week. I'm picking Willis McGahee because of how well he performed with a lingering rib injury. His 112 yards rushing was the 9th 100 yard game since the start of the 2011 season. That ties him with Arian Foster in that category.
Defensive Player of the Game: The defense was a total team effort today, but I'm giving the DPOG to Champ Bailey. He tied Rahim Moore with 5 solo tackles and he shut down the only serious receiving threat in Denarius Moore.
Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe. - Albert Einstein
He is the most popular player we have traded. - Champ Bailey on Jay Cutler