Sunday, September 15, 2013
Broncos say there is plenty more to come
By Jeff Legwold
Peyton Manning and the Broncos have dominated their first two games, but can still improve.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- There are certainly times, such as when the inevitable announcements that follow any Peyton Manning touchdown arrive because he has made history yet again, when it just seems like the next pass will bring the next benchmark.
When you’re in the 16th season of what will be a Hall of Fame career, perhaps it’s to be expected that, every time you move your right arm, people have to make some notations here and there to update the league’s record book.
But when the Denver Broncos were done with a 41-23 victory against the New York Giants inside MetLife Stadium on Sunday, they were picking the usual nits about the running game (it was inconsistent), penalties (the Broncos looked undisciplined at times) and flow (the Broncos look choppy -- again -- during the first half). They were talking about getting back to work, fixing this, taking a look at the film to fix that.
That's probably a good thing for a team whose biggest challenge might be keeping itself on the tracks, but there are at least two things that are now abundantly clear about these Broncos:
They have scored 90 points in two games. The next highest total in the league, after two games, is Green Bay with 66, and only two other AFC teams have even topped 50 -- Houston and San Diego.
They are 2-0, have intercepted Joe Flacco and Eli Manning a combined six times, and sacked the two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks a combined five times. And they have done all that without cornerback Champ Bailey or top pass-rusher Von Miller on the field.
“I guess it’s scary," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "I think everybody in here thinks we can be better across the board, though."
The Broncos didn’t have a 100-yard receiver Sunday, they didn’t have a 100-yard rusher and they piled up 13 penalties -- for 132 yards -- including eight on the team’s defensive backs alone. They even fumbled away a certain touchdown on their opening possession, usually momentum-crushing behavior on the road, when rookie Montee Ball fumbled into the end zone after the Broncos had put together a 12-play drive.
Those are all usually scary numbers for folks in the Sunday league. But the Broncos answer scary with scarier, or at least they have so far in September.
Because Sunday answered at least one question about whether they could run at their preferred breakneck pace when they weren’t in front of a home crowd sitting on its hands. The Broncos’ offense wasn’t troubled in the least in front of 81,275 people as they used silent counts, various hand signals, and Manning made the rounds in the formation before the snap at times just to keep everybody on the same page.
They ran a uber-brisk 25 plays in the first quarter, 40 in the opening half, and finished with 72 after they backed it down a bit when they got the big lead. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has said they don’t want to be the pitcher who throws nothing but fastballs, but the Broncos showed definitively they can bring the heat on the road when they want.
And they did it without allowing a sack or committing a single false-start penalty.
“I feel at times we got to the quarterback, but we just didn’t get a handle on him," Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said. “I don’t feel like we put that kind of pressure on him [Sunday]."
Toss in the fact the Broncos are now just the seventh team in the Super Bowl era to put up at least 90 points in the first two games of the season, and the idea there are so many rough edges from time to time in their game is going to create a bigger problem for opponents if all cylinders ever get involved.
The Broncos gained 45 yards rushing on Knowshon Moreno’s two touchdown runs and averaged just 2.4 yards on their other 27 carries. Ronnie Hillman carried just one time, for 3 yards, and Ball averaged 1.3 yards per carry to go with his first-quarter fumble. There is a lot more there for the Broncos, and as much of a festival as it is for folks to watch Manning throw down after down, they’ll still need a little more from the other side of the offensive coin at some point.
“They battled us hard," is how Broncos coach John Fox described that.
Defensively, the Broncos have surrendered 81 yards rushing combined in two games as opponents have had to chuck conventional wisdom to chase the Broncos' second-half vapor trail. But Denver has still done that against two teams that have prided themselves on being able to power the ball at will. Giants coach Tom Coughlin called New York’s 23 yards rushing on 19 carries “very difficult to explain." And it probably doesn’t get any easier to wrap anyone’s head around it when the Broncos are doing it without Miller and without Bailey.
“We kind of are where we are right now," Fox said. “Our guys responded. We’re happy to get the 'W' and worked very hard for it."
And where they are is 2-0, with the league’s highest scoring offense, having outscored their opponents by a league-best 40 points.
"You play, you try to get the win, you move on to the next one," Moreno said. “Any win feels special, any way you get it. Now you just back to work to get some more."