Sunday night wrap-up: Manning, Broncos roll Saints

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His arm might not be full strength yet.

And then he whacked his right thumb on a helmet just before halftime, leaving a small trail of blood on his throwing hand.

Boy, if Peyton Manning ever gets well, some people are going to be in trouble.

Manning was a sharp 22-of-30 for 305 yards and three touchdowns in the Broncos’ 34-14 win over the Saints Sunday night. It was the best indication to date he’s all the quarterback the Broncos need to be contenders if not the favorites in the AFC. (Watch highlights here.)

With an offense that’s beginning to click and a schedule that softens as it goes, the Broncos are in excellent position to make a run.

That he doesn’t look like the Manning of five years ago with the Colts matters not at all. He’s looking comfortable running this offense, which is the important one at the moment, as no one in the AFC looks any better than the Broncos looked dismantling the Saints.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. Putting Chase Daniel in a Drew Brees outfit for Halloween was a bad idea for the Saints.

Oh, wait, that was really Brees?

Anyone who thinks the Saints star quarterback doesn’t miss Sean Payton this year is kidding themselves.

Brees completed just 22-of-42 passes for 213 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and the Saints offense lacked any degree of flow whatsoever.

They’ve got an odd lot of running backs they can’t seem to figure out how to maximize, but they’ve always been able to pass around that. Even with tight end Jimmy Graham back on the field, they looked disjointed.

Sure sign of ridiculousness: The Saints were well under 5.0 yards per pass attempt for the pertinent part of the evening, and part of that is on Brees himself.

Payton may not have been able to have the Saints 5-2 instead of their current 2-5, but he’d make a significant difference in the way they’re playing, and would have Brees looking more like Brees.

2. It’s easy, and appropriate, to spend a lot of time on Manning when the Broncos are on.

But running back Willis McGahee remains the engine of that offense.

As long as John Fox is the coach (and the underappreciated Mike McCoy the offensive coordinator), they’re never going to get too far from the run game. And though it’s easy to overlook, the Broncos called 38 run plays and 30 passes when Manning was on the field Sunday, which is not accidental.

They want to incorporate Ronnie Hillman into things, to take advantage of his explosive speed. But McGahee (23 carries for 122 yards) is still getting it done at a high level.

3. The Saints got an emotional boost from the return of linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

And though he moved back into the starting lineup Sunday night, one thing that was growing more and more evident last year was that Vilma’s play was dropping off.

Acquiring Curtis Lofton was not unrelated to the bounty related uncertainty over Vilma’s future, but it was also a reflection of Vilma’s declining play.

There were moments against the Broncos when Vilma looked out of place, and while he’s coming in cold, and changing positions, the reality is he’s not an impact player anymore.

4. With the way things went down in Jacksonville, I’m not sure Jack Del Rio will get a head coaching gig again soon.

But as a defensive coordinator, he and Fox work very well together. In Carolina in 2002, they helped create a six-game bounce in one season by playing dominant defense.

They’re approaching that now.

The Broncos have an interesting group of players on that side, and Del Rio was willing to move his personnel around, putting Von Miller in spots he hadn’t been to create pressure.

Along with the improved Wesley Woodyard, they’re getting better-than-expected play from their front seven, and Del Rio has a hand in that by putting them in the right places.

5. The Saints lack the personnel up front to play defense the way defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo wants to play.

But while the talent on the edges is deficient, the Saints appear to have at least one promising interior player on their hands in rookie defensive tackle Akiem Hicks.

The third-rounder from Canada’s University of Regina has the kind of strength and burst the Saints were lacking inside.

If you can push the pocket from the middle, that’s the shortest distance between two points, and it also makes it easier for ordinary players on the edges.

33 responses to “Sunday night wrap-up: Manning, Broncos roll Saints

  1. Good god the Saints defense is really bad. The AFC isn’t very good and the Broncos certainly have a good chance but against two of the top teams in the AFC New England and Houston the Broncos went 0-2 and the final score of those two games wasn’t indicative of how badly Denver was outplayed.

    It’d be foolish to say the Broncos couldn’t win the AFC though, Manning looks good and that defense is playing pretty well right now.

  2. This is the best all around Broncos team that I’ve seen since 98, if they stay healthy they’re pretty good.

  3. We also learned, after refusing a punt late in the game with outcome already decided, that Brees continues to pad his stats at all costs. Should someone have been injured during that last drive stupid dumb would have been the reason.
    Know he has won a Super bowl but he has that silly ‘cannot say ANYTHING negative’ label applied to him along with…Tom Brady. Oh, and now RG3.

  4. Booyah, Who Dat? Too bad Peyton and McGahee are over the hill eh? Silence in the bayou, love the sound of crickets.

  5. New Orleans Saints gave it they best without the mastermind Sean Payton on the sense to help get the offensive & defensive on the right track it was going to be hard. Next year for show the New Orleans Saints going to be one of the hottest teams going.

  6. The Saints have a putrid defense, and it is asking a whole lot out of Brees to continue to bail out this woeful unit.

  7. And number 6… Scott Pioli needs to be fired. Lots of people had the Chiefs winning the AFC West and after giving games away time and time again the blame starts with who put this team together. Quinn is as good as Cassel but both play like questionable backups. KC fans are fed up and the way the Chiefs lose proves they’re right, time for Clark Hunt to hand out some pink slips. Maybe Haley deserves an apology too…

  8. Peyton really has that offense humming! You can see a marked difference in Decker and DT as far as their route running and reading the coverages go. They are definately benefiting from being in PFM school! Looks like the Broncos are for real afterall. And Manning is on his way to his 5th MVP.

  9. The Broncos defense shuts down the high powered Saints offense, forced five turnovers in the second half two weeks ago. But it’s all Manning according to the media.

  10. This team is gelling faster than I suspected they would. It’s not perfect by any means, but if this is just a taste of what the Broncos will look like in another 10 weeks? It’s on like Donkey Kong.

  11. I’m sick of hearing about his arm strength the dude is back he’s the same old peyton from a couple of years ago the way he takes command at the line of scrimmage is like no other. This team could very well emerge as the best team in the afc top three right now with New England an Houston ahead of them

  12. OK, so the Bronco’s are this weeks Super Bowl favorite, got it.

    It sure would be a shame if Manning went down for the season, wouldn’t it?

  13. I am laughing at you saints fans who thought they were gonna come in our house and win in a shootout. Looks like it was a blowout to me with the broncos being dominant the whole game. PFM has 4 games where he’s throw less than 10 incomplete passes, NFL MVP this year, put that in the books.

  14. Peyton can have this one but he can’e ever have that Pick 6 back from SB44… BOO-YA!!!
    Which one would you rather? LOL!!

  15. Last year Drew set the record for passing yards.

    This year he is on pace to set the all time record for making the most television commercials during the course of a season. Go Drew!

  16. Who dat getting their butts kicked again? It’s ok though because Brees kept the streak alive and is now a member of the 300 TD passes club.

  17. Its funny cause out of all the fan bases ive seen saints fans are by far the most bandwagon infested.
    Is that why we sell out every season of the past 7 years and for the forseeable future and have the most support of any team besides maybe Green Bay??

  18. I feel bad for New Orleans they have been dealt a raw deal and for all those thinkin the Santa defense is bad is gonna be highly mistaken when those guys did it for 3 years and after the forum of spags this offseason they will get back to normal and then watch out. Because nothing is worse then a whole team with a chip on there shoulder. GOODELL should be arrested for his actions and fined and suspended and all thee above for his lack on punishment toward other teams trying to hurt players an only punishing the saints. What a no good selfish punk this guy is. And I hope he gets booted, fired. Cause his actions are those of a rat. It’s sad that one man can damage a whole for a conplete year because I hear say and no evidence. I really hope no other teams do anything remotely wrong because he will do it again and again to any team and just control the outcome of a whole NFL season. Makes me sick.

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