Reanalyzing Manning's 7 TD Performance. Are the Broncos That Good, or Were the Ravens "That Bad?"
Well it's been almost a week since the Manning led Broncos took the field to open the season in shellacking the World champion Ravens on Thursday Night Football to kick of the season. Manning has been and still is the talk of the town after tossing for 7 TDs in that game. While the critics and fans alike still gush over Manning and the Broncos, I challenge all to take a closer look at what "really" took place in that game. Were the Ravens really that bad or were the Broncos really "that good?" One of my favorite quotes from coach Pagano is: "You're never as good or as bad as you look." It's easy to get caught up in the "That's Peyton freakin Manning" thought process of it when all you do is look at the final outcome. For me, I like to look at the intangibles of what went into to the final score.
Up until the injury to Jacoby Jones, the Ravens were right there with the Broncos. Denver's vaunted defense was not stopping Flacco and the Ravens offense as they moved the ball well throughout the 1st half. Once Jones got hurt on the punt return in the second quarter, the dynamics of the game changed. From that point on Denver was able to roll their coverage toward Torrey Smith and all but erase him from the game as Baltimore's lack of WR depth was magnified. Flacco couldn't get the offense moving as Denver was able to send more pressure against a Ravens offense that only had one legit WR on the field. When Brandon Stokely and Dallas Clark become your primary weapons on offense I don't care who you're playing against or who your QB is: "You're in trouble."
With his defense able to terrorize the opposition, Manning went on a tear. Couple that with the fact that playing in Mile High Stadium is one of the most difficult stadiums to play in for visitors due to the altitude and you could pretty much see the writing on the wall. With no Anquan Boldin as a safety valve, Joe Flacco had his work cut out for him, especially after losing Jones. Make no mistake, the Broncos are a very solid football team this year, and I can see why many are picking them to represent the AFC in this year's SB. However, I still think that there is a lot of football to be played yet. In my observation of the Broncos, they look a lot like the Pats of last year offensively, but with a better defense. That said, I'll bet many of you are asking, how do you stop a team like that? Well, you've already seen the answer and here's how.
Even though the NFL has made rule changes that benefit the offense in order to boost scoring, the formula for stopping high powered offenses like the Broncos is still the same: "Be physical." When you can't get to an opposing team's QB, you abuse his WRs once they catch the ball. As I watched Manning torch the Ravens secondary time and time again with short to intermediate passes to Wes Welker and Julius Thomas, I couldn't help being reminded of how much the Ravens missed Ed Reed and Ray Lewis. If Reed was still back there Peyton would not make those throws with the success he had on Thursday because Reed would either pick them off or knock the snot out of whoever caught a pass in his area. That's how you stop a pass happy offense like the one Denver has. You be physical with them, knock their WRs off their routes and hit them when they catch the ball. Sooner or later those WRS will start hearing footsteps and start dropping passes. The Colts have the secondary to match up with the Broncos. With Laron landry and Antoine Bethea patrolling the middle of the field do you think Manning will test them often? When he does, do you think those WRs won't be looking for where Landry is on every play?
For all the A ratings given to Denver's aerial attack, they still lack the one thing every championship team needs in the post season: A running game. Monte Ball and Ronnie Hillman don't strike fear in the hearts of anyone around the league. That said, if Denver doesn't find a running game at some point, I believe their 2013 season will end the same way their 2012 season did: "Ring-less."
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