Good Morning, Broncos fans! The trap game. It's been a while since the Broncos were good enough to actually have one, but the memories are still painfully fresh.
There was the 2006 playoff-costing finale against San Francisco, the 2008 duds against Kansas City, Miami, and Buffalo, and any number of recent losses to Oakland.
Of course, there are some whopping differences between those middling squads and the 2012 Broncos - namely, Peyton Manning and Von Miller.
With the demanding perfectionist Manning leading the way, it's hard to picture this team having a letdown. Sure, it can lose - but probably not for having overlooked an opponent.
For his part, Manning was again stellar, with 291 net yards, three touchdowns, and 15.2 Expected Points Added (EPA). It was the third fourth-quarter comeback win he's led the team to this year, which isn't because he's clutch, but because he's just great. His stat line was marred by two picks, although the first could easily be blamed on Eric Decker, who failed to complete his in-breaking route on that play, but still ended up with 99 yards and two scores.
The offensive line has now kept Peyton from being sacked in four of the past five games, with the two takedowns at New England the only exception. Unfortunately, the continuation of that trend will be challenged with Chris Kuper out due to a sprained ankle, and Manny Ramirez again taking his place. At least x-rays were negative; Kuper will have an MRI today.
And with Miller omnipresent and making frequent big plays (three sacks, +3.9 EPA), opponent's third-down tries are becoming a lesser worry by the week. It was Von's first three-sack performance of his stellar young career, and let's discard the ludicrous notion he's "becoming a star." Dude's already one of the best players in football, period.
Thanks to Von and Elvis Dumervil's pressure, the Denver defense has allowed just 12 conversions on 41 third-down attempts (29.3%) in their past three games.
At 5-3, Denver remains a game ahead of San Diego, and gained ground on the Raiders (like you were worried), who lost to Doug Martin and the Bucs 42-32. Martin ran for 251 yards and four touchdowns, while Carson Palmer offset his four TD passes with three interceptions.
The Broncos head east to play John Fox's old team in another early kickoff next Sunday, while San Diego travels to Tampa Bay to face Martin & Co.
Carolina won its second game of the year - 21-13 over Washington - and has allowed just 71 points over their past four games. Although their four games prior to yesterday were all losses, they were only by a cumulative margin of 12 points.
Following the loss, Mike Shanahan offered a bewildering statement about his team's chances, basically calling their season over, and saying the coaching staff would be in evaluation mode to start determining next year's roster.
Again, there's no such thing as a letdown game with a Peyton Manning-led team, but next week is a lot scarier than any matchup against a 2-6 team would typically be.
Did anyone else freak out when Demaryius Thomas went down, thinking about his previously injured Achilles? Thankfully, he came back quickly and later was involved in this enormous play (Haha, Pacman).
Trindon Holliday's 105-yard KR TD was the longest play in Denver history; as for his terrible decision to let a subsequent kickoff hit the ground, remember that Holliday still has just 25 punt returns and 12 kick returns in the NFL. He is definitely worth the risk, and we have to think the decision-making will improve.
It's beyond laughable that Andy Dalton was so upset with the holding call on Jeff Faine against Von Miller that wiped out a massive 3rd-and-15 conversion, being that it was one of the most obvious and textbook cases of offensive holding that you'll ever see. Perhaps if Dalton had keep his composure, he wouldn't have thrown the ball right to Champ Bailey on the next play...
Amazing that it took until yesterday for Mark Kiszla to realize that Champ can play cornerback for a long time to come - and at a high level - if he feels like sticking around. We've been saying it since pre-IAOFM, and nothing has changed there. Perhaps it took Champ nabbing his first interception of the season for Kiz to wise up, since crappy football writers the world over judge corners by picks...
This is underscored by the fact that Champ allowed more receptions yesterday than he has in any game since the 2010 matchup against Dwayne Bowe in the Handshake Haley game, and allowed his first touchdown since last season. Not to say Champ didn't play well - he did - but when you have the chance to watch greatness live in action, you should probably do so - not just when there are interceptions involved.
Dave Krieger offers more praise to John Elway & Co., and he thinks perhaps the Broncos will be better off for not having run away with yesterday's game, to help them avoid complacency.
From the beginning, Tony Dungy and Marshall Faulk told us Peyton wasn't going to sign with an NFC team, so that he wouldn't be competing with Eli until the SB. And with Peyton admitting yesterday that he and his little bro discuss common opponents for in-season tips, don't those hints from Dungy and Faulk ring even more true? Also, how zoned in are those guys, to have just noticed they're playing against the same divisions as each other this season?
Remember that so-called stat (it's trivia, not a stat) that said John Fox-coached teams were 39-3 when scoring 26 or more points? Denver has topped 26 points (31, actually) five times this year, and they've won all five of those games.
Oh, and the Bengals still haven't beaten any decent teams this season. Guess that's why their freakshow fans spend so much time crafting their game-day beards - gotta be entertained somehow.
Houston is 7-1 after shutting down the Bills in a 21-9 win; Matt Schaub threw two TD passes, while Arian Foster ran for the Texans' other score.
At 6-2, Baltimore is the only other AFC team with a better record than Denver; they got there by surviving a scare from the host Browns, winning 25-15 by scoring 11 points in the final five minutes.
Three other AFC teams are 5-3; the Patriots had a bye, the Steelers took down the Giants 24-20 despite a failed fake FG on a mind-blowingly bad decision by Mike Tomlin, and the Colts beat the visiting Dolphins 23-20 as Andrew Luck set a new record for passing yards in a single game by a rookie. Luck threw for 433 yards and two touchdowns, and ailing head coach Chuck Pagano gave an emotional speech after having attended the game.
Just before halftime of that game, Solomon Wilcots dropped another nugget of his trademark wisdom. With 12 seconds remaining in the second quarter, and the Colts facing a 1st-and-10 from the plus-29 while down seven, Wilcots decreed that Indy should be attempting a field goal "because they'd already missed one field goal and had another one blocked." That's paraphrased, but still - a remarkably dumb bit of reasoning. Not sure why the two botched opportunities meant the Colts had to now pass up a chance at a touchdown to try for three. There was a fair argument for kicking, but that was certainly not it.
Chicago obliterated the Titans 51-20 in Tennessee, with Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall piling on for three scores after the Bears had already scored on a blocked punt, pick-six, and Matt Forte run.
Detroit easily defeated the host Jaguars 31-14 thanks to three second-quarter touchdown runs by Mikel Leshoure.
Atlanta remains unbeaten through eight games after edging Dallas 19-13; the Cowboys are now a woeful 3-5, and talk is starting to heat up regarding Jason Garrett's job security. The chatter is being helped along by yesterday's news that Sean Payton will be a free agent when his suspension is up at the end of the year. Unless, of course, he's not.
Three touchdown passes from Russell Wilson and one on the ground from Marshawn Lynch were greater than 193 total yards and two touchdowns from Adrian Peterson, in a 30-20 Seahawks victory over the reeling Vikings, who have dropped three of their last four.
Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes despite completing just 14 of 30 passes in Green Bay's 31-17 win over Arizona. The Packers have won four straight games after their Week 5 upset loss to Luck & Co., while the Cards have lost five in a row after having started out 4-0. Anyone who paid attention to Arizona's advanced metrics and PFF grades might have seen that coming; the scoreboard crowd, probably not.
Andy Benoit, Mike Tanier, Will Brinson, Matt Bowen, Mike Silver, Peter King, Don Banks, Clark Judge, John Clayton, Jason Cole, and Alex Marvez wrap up Sunday's games; the FO crew discuss the games live; Doug Farrar lists the best (Von Miller) and worst (Shanny) performances from Sunday, plus the day's notable injuries.
According to Clayton, PM was in shotgun 89% of the time yesterday, and completed all 18 of the passes he threw to within five yards of the LOS.
Chase Stuart offers an excellent thought exercise relevant to the Broncos, who have to figure out just how much Ryan Clady is worth to them next offseason.