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Friday, March 21, 2014
An answer for Peyton Manning and defense

By Jeff Legwold

In the wake of the Denver Broncos' free-agency spending binge on defense, you asked, so I tried to answer ...

But from the aisle at my local King Soopers came this query:

What is the highest-ranked defense Peyton Manning has had in his career?

Sift through the numbers and there are two candidates, really.

In 2007, the year after Indianapolis won its only Super Bowl with Manning behind center -- also the franchise's only title after moving from Baltimore -- it finished third in total defense (yards allowed per game), and the Colts were No. 1 in scoring defense.

The Colts finished 13-3 in the regular season but then lost to the San Diego Chargers in the divisional round.

And in the category of lost opportunity also resides the 2012 Broncos, Manning's first season in Denver. The Broncos were second in total defense, No. 4 in scoring defense, tied for the league lead in sacks and third in forced fumbles.

Couple that with the Broncos' offensive output that season, at 30.1 points per game on offense, and it's one of the most balanced teams they have fielded in any era. They finished, yes, 13-3, and also lost in the divisional round.

So, while, even though the Super Bowl stomp-down by the Seattle Seahawks left a significant bruise on the local football psyche, many long-time fans say the double-overtime loss to the Baltimore Ravens to abruptly close out the 2012 season stings even more since it came with the shocking Ravens touchdown in the final minute of regulation to go with the Broncos' kneel-down that followed.

In the year Manning and the Colts won the Super Bowl, Indianapolis was 21st in total defense and 23rd in scoring defense. And in the 2009 season, when the Colts advanced to the Super Bowl where they were beaten by the New Orleans Saints, they were 18th in total defense but eighth in scoring defense.

All food for thought as the Broncos have gone about the business of rebuilding the defensive depth chart, including the three recent signings to go with the recovery of the starters who finished last season on injured reserve.