ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos pushed themselves to 4-0 Sunday with another record-setting day from quarterback Peyton Manning as they scored a franchise record 52 points in the win over the Philadelphia Eagles. And after a long look at the video from Sunday’s win, here are some thoughts on the team's offense:
When the Broncos signed Wes Welker in free agency, they envisioned adding one of the more difficult match-up players in the league for opposing defenses to an already imposing offense. And the Broncos have certainly gotten that kind of production already, but they have steadily expanded Welker’s role beyond simply a slot receiver and he continues to show he can create match-up problems all over the field. On the Broncos' first-play from scrimmage, the Broncos lined Welker up as the outside receiver to the left, then motioned him down toward the slot just before the snap. He then ran a long-developing route, all the way across the formation to catch the ball to the right of a well-protected and patient Manning, good for 33 yards. Later in the game, on his 4-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter, the Broncos started Welker in the backfield. He’s a versatile athlete and the Broncos will benefit from a continued expansion of what they do with him.
Manning has driven defensive coaches around the league 12 kinds of bonkers through the years. And the play, beyond all of the precision throws into tight places Sunday, that showed why came during the Broncos first possession of the second half. As the Broncos were busily working toward their fourth touchdown of the game, they faced a second-and-6 from the Eagles’ 7-yard line. And as he was working through his pre-snap reads, Manning simply pointed at Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin, who was lined up in the slot directly across from Welker, and Manning tells running back Knowshon Moreno “get him.’’ Boykin wasn’t leaning, wasn't looking in at the quarterback or doing anything else that made him appear to be a pass-rusher, yet Manning, looking at the Eagles’ alignment in that particular down and distance, still identified Boykin as the blitzer. And sure enough at the snap Boykin rushed Manning on what was an incomplete pass to Eric Decker in the endzone. The Eagles were flagged for pass interference on the play. On Welker’s 6-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, Manning beat another blitz out of the slot.
Many teams use the enhanced audio on game broadcasts to try and nail down a team’s audibles and checks at the line of scrimmage -- they can be heard clearly with even standard equipment. And the Eagles had obviously decided “Omaha,’’ was one of those key words from the Broncos. Manning caught the Eagles defensive linemen trying to jump the snap after hearing “Omaha,’’ and lured the Eagles into two encroachment penalties.
For the second time in two games, the Broncos put three tight ends in the formation with Demaryius Thomas as the only wide receiver and still completed the ball to Thomas. They turned the trick for a 6-yard gain in the third quarter of the win over the Raiders and did it again for Thomas’ 1-yard touchdown grab Sunday. The three tight ends were lined up left, Thomas to the right, in man coverage and no help for Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher on that side of the field because the Eagles linebackers and safeties had to honor the three tight ends on the other side of the formation. Manning simply threw the ball for the pylon in the back right corner of the ednzone, a throw the Broncos repeatedly make in practice and Thomas made a one-handed catch for the score.
The Broncos have had some high-end moments in the run game, especially when they go to a zone look to the right, behind Louis Vasquez and Orlando Franklin, but they’ve had their share of troubles moving the line of scrimmage as well. They’ve had six runs for negative yardage so far this season and 39 carries have gone for two or fewer yards -- or 32.5 percent of their carries. They have had at least seven runs of two or fewer yards in each of their games with a season-high 12 carries of two or fewer yards against the Giants.
The crew has made the difference in penalty flags for the Broncos. The Broncos had 13 penalties called against the Giants, including eight on defensive backs in the game. Gene Steratore was the referee for the game. They were flagged just five times the following week against the Raiders, with no flags on the defense with Jerome Boger as the referee. And Sunday, with Pete Morelli’s crew calling the game, the Broncos had just two accepted penalties (cornerback Tony Carter was flagged, but penalty was declined) – both ill-timed, unnecessary roughness penalties on Moreno and Kevin Vickerson. Moreno's penalty took the Broncos' out of field-goal range.