Sunday night’s NFL game wasn’t going to reveal anything new about the Broncos or Colts. Week 1 of the NFL season wasn’t going to give you much foresight into the future. As long as Peyton Manning is healthy and slinging the pigskin for the Broncos, they will be a cut above the Colts. People say Andrew Luck is the heir apparent to Manning. He made Indianapolis Colts fans forget the living legend in the same fashion that Derrick Rose made Chicago fans forget MJ for one shooting star MVP season in 2011, before injuries stole his momentum.
Manning’s not ready to relinquish the crown quite yet. He feasted on the Colts D, throwing three touchdown passes to Julius Thomas in a 31-24 season-opening win. Manning gave his former team some serious work, completing 22-of-36 passes for 269 yards, but the story of the day was a revamped Bronocs defensive unit, that held Luck in check until late in the game.
Denver’s prolific offense accomplished a lot without Wes Welker, the game’s premier slot rocker, who is serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on PED’s. Welker’s absence wasn’t glaring until the second half, when the Colts made the game closer and Denver needed to convert a third down. The Broncos went 1 for 7 in the second half.
Following that 43-8 Super Bowl stomp-out loss to Seattle last February, John Elway and Denver brass decided it need to get tougher on D.
"We said we've got to make a play to win the game," Roby said. "We can't rely on the offense. It's on us."
GM John Elway spent more than $100 million on a defensive makeover in the offseason bringing in “names” like DeMarcus Ware to aid a feeble pass rush and safety T.J. Ward and corner Aqib Talib, to sure up a shaky secondary that has already cost Manning, Elway and Fox a trip to the c’hip in 2012.
Ware collected 117 sacks in a dazzling nine-year career with Dallas, including a club-record 20 sacks in 2008 and 19.5 more in 2011. After a six sack 2013, Jerry Jones released the costly Ware as part of a salary cap move. What a find for Denver.
Although Luck—in typical fashion—engineered four second-half scoring drives to make the score close, the Broncos D looked funky fresh, coming up with two big stops deep in its territory in the third quarter capped by a Ware sack. Rookie Bradley Roby broke up Luck's fourth-down pass to Reggie Wayne just after the 2-minute warning to seal the win.
The past two seasons, the big scoop in Denver was how Manning’s fused neck would hold up. This season, the magnifying glass in on the Denver D, how it develops, and if it can remain healthy
We pretty much know the offense is off the hook and Emmanuel Sanders has added another dimension at wide receiver to an already loaded team. Nobody knows better than Denver that defense wins championships. It was reported that Denver watched footage of the old “Orange Crush” defense during the week. At some key moments in Sunday’s game they played like them too. What a boost it would be to Denver's Super Bowl revenge aspirations if Manning can get a 15-sack season out of Ware or some shutdown secondary play from Talib.
Manning's win over his former team means he and Brett Favre are the only QBs to have beaten all 32 current NFL teams. "I think it means you have to be old," Manning said.
Now if only this new defense can give the old, flame-throwing fart some help.