Sunday night wrap-up: Broncos hang on after hot start

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Maybe it was just 19 seconds, and maybe we’re making too much of this.

But sometimes, it seems like the only non-Seahawk who can slow down Peyton Manning is John Fox.

The Broncos quarterback was on fire in the first half, with 199 passing yards and three touchdowns as they jumped to a 24-0 lead on the Colts.

Then when the Colts scored just before halftime to cut it to 24-7, Manning ran out the clock rather than continue his video game-like roll through the Indy secondary before the break.

It wasn’t as devastating as Manning taking a knee in a playoff loss to Baltimore two years ago — they still beat the Colts 31-24 — but it still makes you wince a bit.

Fox is conservative enough to worry about what might happen if Manning makes a mistake, though he hadn’t made one to that point. But the way Manning was strafing the Colts in the first half, 19 seconds to field goal range was entirely possible.

When they came back in the second half, the Broncos offense lacked the same flair. Part of that was reasonable, given the big lead.

But after years of winning games without a quarterback as talented as Manning, you can tell sometimes that Fox still coaches like he’s got Rodney Peete under center.

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

1. It seems strange to say, but the addition of DeMarcus Ware is almost easy to overlook for the Broncos.

His third-and-goal sack in the third quarter took the air out of the Colts, making them settle for a field goal.

Being able to add a pass-rusher of Ware’s caliber isn’t the kind of move a successful team is supposed to make.

But it’s crucial for the Broncos, since Von Miller’s still not ready to play a full-time role after his December ACL tear.

The Broncos defense as a whole stood up well, particularly while stuffing the Colts at the goal line in the third quarter. That stop, followed the next time by Ware’s sack, appeared to have ended any chance the Colts had to come back.

2. The Colts’ offensive line is kind of a mess.

With injuries keeping Khaled Holmes and Joe Reitz on the inactive list, they were forced to start A.Q. Shipley at center after he had been there a week. Guard Donald Thomas was lost for the season again, and they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel for help.

Their only healthy backups are scrap-heap pickups Jamon Meredith and Lance Louis and undrafted rookie Jonotthan Harrison.

They’re fortunate that rookie Jack Mewhort has the kind of versatility to play four positions, but he can’t play them all at once.

With this week in the books, they should take a serious look at some of the unemployed veteran linemen, since their salaries won’t have to be guaranteed for the season.

They have a rare window with a good quarterback on a cheap contract, but if they can’t protect him or run at all, it won’t matter.

3. Broncos tight end Julius Thomas is going to be expensive.

The prolific pass-catcher had three touchdowns in the first half, not bad for a guy who made less than $38,000 this week (or, one-seventeenth of his $645,000 annual salary).

He can make an easy argument to be in the same ballpark as Saints tight end Jimmy Graham (even if his boss John Elway doesn’t think so) if he keeps this kind of pace up.

Granted, he only caught one pass in his first two seasons, but he now has 15 touchdowns in the 17 games since then, or only one short of Graham over the same span.

4. They were playing a pretty good quarterback, but the Colts looked like a defense that was missing its only reliable source of pressure.

Wait, that’s right, they were.

Without Robert Mathis, there was no pop to the Colts front seven, which was consistently walled off allowing Manning to do as he pleases.

They have to get through three more games of Mathis’s suspension, but they have to hope that 2013 first-rounder Bjoern Werner turns into something quickly.

5. It was not accidental that Luck’s first pass of the game went to Reggie Wayne.

The veteran wideout has made an impressive comeback from last year’s torn ACL, and looked like himself, catching nine passes for 98 yards He had to leave for a play in the third quarter when he slipped on the awful Denver grass, but was back a play later.

The Colts brought in Hakeem Nicks just in case, but it appears from a small sample size that Wayne is someone they can count on again.

40 responses to “Sunday night wrap-up: Broncos hang on after hot start

  1. Great game… Andrew Luck dealing with the Colts reminds me of what Manning had to deal with when he played with the Colts for his first 13 years as well… Bad team with a good QB can get you in the playoffs… but you need a little more than that to get the rings.

  2. Don’t get me wrong the broncos are good, but not great.

    This game makes you wonder what would have happened with the presence of Robert Mathis?!? Granted Denver’s D made some plays but also, Luck picked some holes of that D. Julius Thomas saved the Broncos O, along with Sanders.

    The Broncos didn’t need Welker like how the Colts D needed Mathis. Can’t wait to see this “amazing” Broncos team go against these defenses they have to face in the coming weeks.

    OH YEAH — can we talk about how BAD Manning OVER THREW his receiver on 3rd third down!? Horrible pass, including the one before that.

  3. Denver played the second half trying not to lose rather than trying to win (credit to Indy for making plays as well) hopefully they’ll learn to sweep the leg in future games.

  4. I was not sure why the Broncos got rid of Moreno. He was the biggest difference for the Dolphin offense today, and he was huge for Denver last year. He was a bust early in his career, but he’s developed into a great pass protecting back who can run the rock a little bit. I don’t see that in Ball.

  5. You forgot to mention how the refs keep the game close.
    Seriously after watch the Dallas game and the Colts game the refs keep the game from being a joke.

  6. John Fox and his failure to go for the jugular on both sides of the ball allowed Andrew Luck to make this game much more interesting than it ever should have been. Credit to the Colts for not giving up.

    Thankfully our defense overcame our conservative coach.


  7. Bronco’s don’t FINISH their business. They are a 2 quarter team. THAT is coaching.

    ZERO pass rush… what was up with that??? What a waste of D line talent. Gave Luck ALL night to find open receivers.

    DelRio basically ran the old prevent D and almost prevented a Bronco win. The guy needs to figure out how to use the excellent tools he’s been given. He wasted talent Sunday night.

    Bronco’s may have won the game… BARELY… but they lost in the execution categories.

  8. This game shouldn’t have been close, luck had a miracle TD catch and that 41 yd TD that they thought the guy was out of bounds and the onside kick… Still Denver won, not bad for a team that beat the seahawks last year.

  9. This is adding up to be kind of boring year in the NFL. In the NFC the Seahawks look to be clearly a notch or two above everyone else. I though the Saints were going to be much improved, but they look about the same. Falcons are better but not at Seattle’s level. Green Bay already got humiliated. Unless somehow the 49ers get healthy and clean up their act, Seahawks look to have an easy road back to the Super Bowl.

    In the AFC it isn’t much better. Broncos look the best, and after that a lot of parity, but no one who can really challenge the Bronco’s let alone Seattle.

    I think we are very likely looking at a Super Bowl rematch. I expect the Broncos to do better this time but still ultimately lose.

  10. It amazes me watching Green Bay and Indianapolis play. No matter how many crappy coordinators coach or how bad their cast is, Rodgers and luck still take their teams to the playoffs

  11. No comment about the quality of the grass for a season opener ? They should be fined for putting players at risk like that seriously

  12. The Colts left too many opportunities slip away. Could of, would of, should of. Up side is they competed under pressure. Good week one tune up.

  13. Not making too much out of it, every little bit of advantage counts. I think it’s much more likely that Peyton can complete one 30+yard pass, or two half-sized passes than for an INT to occur. Unlike an average play where there is more temptation to try and force the ball, he could have just thrown it away if there wasn’t a wide-open receiver. There’s no harm to run the route and take a free look to see if a safe pass is available.

  14. Your first sentence was correct – you’re making too much of this. They got the ball on their 20, had 19 seconds, and a 17 point lead; taking a knee and going into halftime is not unreasonable.

  15. At home, to open up the season, on national tv, and that is what we get after the beat down? Pitiful! There is Still no d in denver and it starts with no killer instinct. Offense also needs to learn how to finish.

  16. What happened to Chris Harris? Tony Carter played the 3rd and 4th quarters and Luck was picking on him.

    Need an update please. That guy is a stud. I really hope he didn’t re-injure his knee.

  17. Can’t help but feel that after scoring only 3 points on TWO goal to go situations, Colts let this game get away. It’s both encouraging and disappointing. Encouraging because we only lost by 7 in Denver after playing like total crap for a half, and disappointing because we had every chance to pull that out. Damn.

  18. Officiating made the game almost unwatchable. Since when does the receiver running into the DB from behind constitute defensive pass interference.

  19. I don’t think Denver won this game so much as they managed not to lose it. Yes, the defense looked good at times but if this game had lasted another three or four minutes, it likely would’ve been tied with all the momentum going to the Colts.

    If the Broncos want to be dominating, they need to keep the pedal down for all 60 minutes. Yes, there is a point where you don’t want to embarrass the other team but that offense should be allowed to rev up to 40 points per game before dialing it back.

    That’s assuming of course that the defense plays well enough to allow them a big cushion after having scored those 40 points. Going up against Indy’s patchwork offensive line, I honestly expected Denver to put more pressure on Luck than they actually did. Some of those Colts wideouts were wide open at the worst of times.

    Let’s hope a little fine tuning will over time correct the Bronco’s defensive lapses. If not, they may have managed to shave only a few points off that 38 point deficit to the Seahawks.

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