ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Defensive coach after defensive coach who has studied the Denver Broncos' offense will offer the usual football commentary about quarterback Peyton Manning, about preparation and anticipation, about Manning's recall and decision-making.
And with Manning now on the doorstep of several single-season records, the other word many of those coaches use is “balance.’’
That, on the way to staggering numbers all around, Manning isn’t targeting one or two receivers an inordinate number of times compared to everyone else in the formation, but that the Broncos, who are second in the league in pass attempts overall, are throwing the ball plenty and they are throwing it all over the formation. Deep, short and everything in between.
So much so that when running back Knowshon Moreno finished with five catches for 36 yards in Thursday night’s loss to the San Diego Chargers, the Broncos became just the fourth team in league history to have five different players with at least 50 catches in the same season.
“We really have a good group in that they don’t worry about anything other than the wins and losses,’’ said Broncos head coach John Fox. “And they know the defense dictates where the ball [goes], some weeks people try to take away some things and some weeks they might try to take away some other things. And Peyton gets the ball where it needs to go.’’
Demaryius Thomas leads the Broncos with 78 catches, Eric Decker and Wes Welker each have 73 and tight end Julius Thomas has 54 to go with Moreno’s 53. Manning has also targeted Demaryius Thomas, Decker and Welker 122, 113 and 111 times respectively this season.
The Broncos have joined the 1980 Cleveland Browns -- current Broncos play-by-play man Dave Logan was one of the Browns’ five with at least 50 catches that season with 51 -- the 1994 New England Patriots (they had two running backs among the five) and the 2011 New Orleans Saints.
All three of the previous teams made the playoffs with the Browns having finished 11-5 in ’90, the Patriots having finished 10-6 in ’94 and the Saints finished 13-3 in ’11. But New Orleans is the only one to have won a playoff game in any of those seasons, however, winning in the wild-card round before losing to San Francisco in the divisional round.
Cleveland lost a divisional-round game, in the pre-wild-card years, to the Oakland Raiders while the Patriots lost a wild-card game – to the Browns – to close out the ’94 season.