Good Morning, Broncos fans! Last night was about questions answered.
Not regarding Peyton Manning - at least around these parts, there have been no concerns about the 36-year-old's play or physical condition since Week 3 - when he established for good that his arm was more than fine.
In the four weeks that have followed, Manning has played at a level far beyond any Broncos quarterback has ever performed. He's the first in NFL history to top 300 yards, 70% completions, and three touchdown passes in four consecutive games; against San Diego, he had become the first to do that three times in a row. File that under the category of arbitrary trivia, but it's still impressive and speaks to how great Peyton has been.
Over that stretch, Peyton has piled up 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns on a 75.4% completion rate and 127.9 QB rating, with just one interception and two sacks. Both sacks came against New England; against Oakland, San Diego, and New Orleans, the Denver QB was not taken down behind the LOS.
For the season, Manning's QB rating is a league-leading 109.0; the Denver record is 102.9, set by Brian Griese in 10 games during his injury-shortened 2000 season.
In terms of PFR's advanced metrics, he's tops across the board - in Net Yards per Attempt, Adjusted Yards per Attempt, and Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt.
But enough about Peyton, for now.
The biggest questions regarded the defense.
Could they play a 60-minute game? Contain an elite offense? What about a top QB?
Drew Brees was held to 201 net passing yards, and New Orleans posted just 14 points on 252 yards of offense, after having averaged 29.3 points and 411 yards during their first six games.
Wesley Woodyard (13 total tackles, one sack, one pick, two passes defensed, one forced fumble) was an otherworldly stat-sheet stuffer, Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil were impactful despite barely posting any stats (two tackles, one QB hit), and Chris Harris and Tony Carter were again a revelation.
Champ Bailey was Champ Bailey (six tackles, two passes defensed), and there's still no reason to think he'll slow down anytime soon, not even age. It's convenient to compare him to Darrell Green, whom he was essentially drafted by Washington to replace, but it's also appropriate. Green was a 16-game starter at corner through his age 39 season, and he played until he was almost 43 years old.
Champ is 34. Watch the film, read the stats, do the math.
The Broncos are set at corner for years to come with the trio of Bailey, Harris, and Carter, giving Omar Bolden (how about that play in punt coverage?) time to develop. This doesn't even account for Tracy Porter, whom we're glad to not see playing, given the seriousness of his health issue.
What about the offense?
It starts at the top, with our concerns that John Fox and Mike McCoy were apparently holding Manning's no-huddle offense back until the team was in seemingly insurmountable holes. Last night, they didn't mess around, and went with the no-huddle right from the start. For this, we heartily applaud Fox and McCoy. Indeed, they now appear to know what they've got.
Again, this is not about pass/run balance, which last night favored the run 40-30 (not including the final kneeldown by Brock Osweiler); it's about letting Peyton make the call at the line, and not constraining him with one-dimensional personnel packages.
More kudos to the coaches for not letting up at 24-7; instead of trying to burn clock, they stayed (conservatively) aggressive, by quickly getting the ball into the hands of Jacob Tamme and Demaryius Thomas. Manning threw for 48 yards on a four-play, 51-yard drive that culminated with Eric Decker's second score of the night, putting the game away at 31-7 on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
As for Thomas (seven catches, 137 yards, one score) - to anyone who envisioned him being this good, this soon (with still so far to improve), a gold star to you.
Denver now leads the AFC West alone at 4-3, with San Diego and Oakland trailing by a game in the standings, but by miles in quality. The Broncos will play five of their next seven games away from the rocking SAF@MH, including trips to Cincinnati and Carolina in the next two weeks, and we'll soon learn if this team can be road warriors.
Until then, queries answered.
Look out, AFC.
Mike Klis and Andrew Mason recap the game, plus Mason goes over some key numbers; Jeff Legwold praises the aggression of Jack Del Rio's defense; Woody Paige says the Broncos have firm control of the West; Joe Mays left with an ankle injury and did not return.
As for the rest of the AFCW - in San Diego, Nick Canepa says the Chargers proved themselves the worst team in football by losing at Cleveland, and Tom Krasovic sees a team in freefall. Sam Mellinger thinks the Chiefs are done falling, because they've hit bottom. Is the Raiders defense reaching competency? Well, it's hard to judge that when playing the lowly Chiefs, isn't it?
Atlanta remains undefeated after punishing the Eagles 30-17 as the chorus in Philly grows in support of canning Andy Reid and benching Michael Vick.
The G-Men jumped out to a 23-0 lead, the Cowboys stormed back with 24 straight points, but New Jersey held on for a nerve-wracking 29-24 win bolstered by six takeaways. Tony Romo, who threw four interceptions, is again under fire, but benching him would be foolish.
Green Bay snuck past Jacksonville 24-15 in a game that was surprisingly close for much of its duration.
Matthew Stafford threw three touchdown passes and ran for another in leading the Lions to their second late comeback win in three weeks, this time a 28-24 win over the Seahawks.
Andy Benoit, Mike Tanier, Matt Bowen, Will Brinson, Peter King, Clark Judge, Don Banks, John Clayton, Jason Cole, and Alex Marvez recap the day's action; Doug Farrar lists his MVPs and LVPs (Saints DC Steve Spagnuolo) from Sunday; advanced metrics from Brian Burke; Brian McIntyre goes over the day's injuries.