Sunday Night wrap-up: Peyton Manning gets it done, differently

Whether or not Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning any more isn’t really the point.

Because the questions of whether he can move the ball down the field the way he used to shouldn’t even be up for debate any longer, since he can still move a team.

Manning’s doing his football differently, but it still works, as he showed in Sunday’s 24-12 win over the Lions.

The 39-year-old Broncos quarterback threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns, and there were moments when he looked like his old self. But he’s also clearly older, and doesn’t throw the ball with the same authority. That’s not based on sources. That’s based on having two working eyes. The ball flutters more. Doesn’t arrive as quickly. But it’s arriving often enough.

His 45-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas was more than double his previous long completion of the year (a 22-yarder to Thomas). But it doesn’t stand as evidence of a miracle cure, as the ball traveled 30 yards or so in the air. Thomas made a great play on an under-thrown ball.

But Manning has also figured out other ways around it. He can still evade rushes, and fit balls into windows other quarterbacks don’t see, as he did dumping it off to Jordan Norwood coming across the middle as he was being chased the other way, and as he did by adjusting at the line of scrimmage and finding Owen Daniels for a only-where-he-can-catch-it pass for the game-clinching touchdown.

And by shifting to the pistol formation as the foundation for the Broncos offense, he’s shown he can compromise. Head coach Gary Kubiak still gets to talk about caring about the run, and Manning gets a chance to stand back and survey. The running part of the equation hasn’t come through yet, and Kubiak may eventually realize he’s hammering something with corners into a hole that is round.

The play-calling disparity makes it clear who’s driving, as the Broncos threw 42 passes and ran it just 19 times (counting the knee Manning took to close it out).

So it’s not a full-blown mid-life crisis, as I don’t think Buick even makes a convertible. But Manning is changing in front of our eyes. It’s less arm, but more mind.

It doesn’t look like what we’re accustomed to from one of the best passers the game has ever known. But with every passing day, we’re all getting older, and Manning isn’t immune to that. He’s just figuring out a way to diminish the effects of aging, or at least to hold it off for one more day.

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

1. Lions quarterback Matt Stafford is taking a beating, and it’s not because he’s playing a bunch of meanies every week.

The Lions have some pretty glaring protection breakdowns, and they were made more obvious by a Broncos defensive full of pass-rush threats.

DeMarcus Ware dropped Stafford on the second play of the game, primarily because he was unblocked. Von Miller was able to blow up a run play later in the game on a laughable block attempt by tight end Eric Ebron.

The cumulative effect is that Stafford doesn’t often have time to move the ball downfield, which is the thing he’s best at. And without that, the Lions offense as a whole looks out of sync.

He can make the rare throws, but partly because of what’s happening around him, he’s making them too rarely.

2. Of course, the Broncos had a little something to do with that.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has an impressive array of playmakers at his disposal, guys who can change a game at each level of the defense. Their secondary depth is impressive, as the interception made by third corner Bradley Roby underscores.

And they spent a first-round pick on pass-rusher Shane Ray, who doesn’t get all that many snaps because he’s playing behind two guys named Ware and Von Miller.

3. It’s an overstatement to say the Lions’ defensive issues stem from the loss of any one player.

But the loss of so many has left their defense a shell of itself.

While there’s little they could have done to kept defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh considering the pile of money Miami was willing to throw at him, he’s not the only impact player they’re missing.

The hip injury that’s keeping linebacker DeAndre Levy off the field has left the Lions without much presence on defense. For the last few years, they had a degree of edge, and now, they have a collection of players, some better than others. That’s it.

4. The Lions should probably draw up a new two-point conversion play.

The draw to Joique Bell has now not worked in back-to-back weeks, after it failed against the Vikings last Sunday. For a team with multiple weapons on the outside (including backs), it’s a stodgy choice to run it up the middle, and it’s hardly an accident it didn’t work.

5. They should also work on being more responsible. Giving the Broncos a chance at another field goal after a late miss is the kind of sloppy penalty that separates good teams from bad ones.

At 0-3, it’s clear which kind the Lions are at the moment.

62 responses to “Sunday Night wrap-up: Peyton Manning gets it done, differently

  1. As a Packers fan, I wasn’t sure this offseason whether the loss of Suh would be good or bad for the Lions. Fortunately, their defense hasn’t been able to stop anybody so far.

  2. Good game Broncos. Manning came through with some tough plays and that secondary is really good.

    On the Lions side Lombardi needs to be canned. Had zero experience before the job and if if wasn’t for his last name wouldn’t be on the sidelines.

    Running up the middle with Bell over and over watching it go backwards every time. The “definition of insanity” comes to mind.

  3. “under threw” Get a life clown! Lots of balls right through the hands of Daniels and DT. Were you at the keg or a Pats fan? Stafford was hurt coming in and much more worn for the Ware afterwards. Can’t wait to see Shady Brady at Mile High where things don’t go so well for him. Getting the National Guard ready as the Broncos are going to kill the Patriots.

  4. Say what you want about 2015 Manning, but Flacio, Smith and Stafford are considered above average QBs and Manning outplayed them all in their match ups.

  5. He threw a 20 yard out that was perfectly timed, the only reason it was incomplete was because Sanders bobbled it. The 15-20 yard out is the gold standard for judging NFL QBs, Peyton is still an NFL QB.

    The change to the pistol is the first step in getting the ground game going, in pistol Peyton can get to the stretch mesh point will little problem.

    The line has improved their pass blocking greatly, now they just need to get the run blocking going.

  6. @refswin, lol, oh yeah, over 300 yards and two touchdowns, clearly he under threw his receivers etc all night long. Hey, since you like to bank on things, what we can bank on is you have no clue to what you are talking about.

  7. And Von Miller got away with a HUGE hit to the head on Stanford! But Luck gets grazed in the helmet by Couples last Week and it’s call a Ruffing the passer?? But Who cares! Same old slow a$& boring, commercial filled, garbage as is every game is!! But WHO CARES it’s the NFL??!!!

  8. Peyton Manning gets it done, differently


    Agreed, it’s called letting Matt Stafford play q.b.. Two most importand drives he fumbles and throws INT, and it’s Peyton who got the job done. LOL

  9. It wouldn’t matter if he threw for 648 yards & 18 TD’s in one game. Haters are gonna hate, who knows why. Their fav player doesn’t hold the records Peyton does? Isn’t as well loved off & on the field as he is? I’m a 43 year old mother of 2, God knows I sure couldn’t have gotten out on a field & played such a physical game 4 years ago. He will NEVER do anything right in some people’s eyes. He is a great example for other men, players & kids to watch.

  10. How many games in a row is now that Von Miller has gotten a personnel flag thrown against him!

    Please Von stay in you position while Adrian Peterson flattens you next week!

  11. Lol … seriously he has a bad OL how do you expect him to make long throw in 2 seconds? I don’t think there is a WR in the NFL that can run that fast.
    His last TD to Owens was a perfect throw with a player breathing down his back as soon as the ball was snapped. If Teddy Bridgewater had the Vikings 3-0 over 300 yds and 2 tonight … You would be saying he is a HOFer.

  12. Peyton is not the same. But I for one love watching an almost 40 yr old guy who’s out there scrapping and battling against Father Time and guys ten yrs younger than him and still finding ways to get it done. I was always a fan, but this version of him out there struggling against the odds and finding different ways to still compete and get it done only makes me a bigger fan!

  13. People here in denver are already talking like the broncos will be 6-0, and they sure are overlooking the Vikings. Watch out, denver. Minnesota can knock heads around with their defense.

  14. Manning looked in pain at the follow through of every pass he threw. He wound up well, but after releasing the ball, by the time his arm completed the full arc, the pain was obvious. I hope he has the wisdom to hang it up after this season and stop chasing impossible dreams. At 39, after having earned well over $100 mil in his career, he should enjoy a long and relatively pain free retirement, and never mind the record book.

  15. 24-12 against a troubled, winless team is not overly impressive, guys. November is the key: The Packers and Pats both visit Denver, and Denver has to visit the Colts.

  16. Can’t handle New England.
    We’ll see you after thanksgiving.

    Enjoy the easy schedule, the chicken parm commercials and the good ol boy interviews Denver.


  17. The difference in this game was a few boneheaded plays by the Lions. That TD before halftime was inexcusable. A foolish offensive PI penalty killed a drive in Denver territory in the 3rd quarter. That fumble in the 4th quarter by Stafford was terrible and on him for holding the ball too long. Finally, that last interception sealed it.

    All of the Bronco opponents so far have handed over the game.

  18. Manning is becoming more of a Greg Maddux of football. He doesn’t have the same zip so he has to be smarter and more technical with his passes. 31/42 324 yards is not a bad night.

    His best skill is clearly being on the team with the best pass rush in the NFL.

    Even an old half-armed Peyton is going to be a tough out for a lot of teams, don’t kid yourself.

  19. I’m starting to think Sylvia Plath was a Lions fan.

    This was not any fun. The 2 point conversion has me completely baffled. We couldn’t run all night. Why run a draw on the 2 point conversion? Seems like the obvious play would have been the best move — throw a jump ball to Calvin Johnson. And if you don’t do that there’s Tate, Riddick, Abdullah, even Ebron … plenty of guys who can catch a ball.

    Darius Slay introduced himself as “Big Play Slay” — he needs to take a queue from the radio – less talk more rock.

    The good news is that Suh didn’t turn Miami into Super Bowl contenders, so that didn’t go as planned either.

  20. The Broncos are playing terrible offenses & bad defenses.

    Thats the only reason they are 3-0.

    Noodle arm will only survive another couple of weeks.

  21. As a Lions fan, props to Peyton. And not taking anything away from him, but we stink. We’ll be lucky if we can beat the bears, and we are starting 0-5, unless miracles are a real thing.

  22. And one more game and the already daunting defense gets another great player back from suspension….Derek Wolfe. Look out.

  23. I would assume that one would change physically due to age (referring to Mannings arm strength) seeing as though im 27 and cant do the things I did when I was 22. Nonetheless, I would still take a 39 yr old Peyton over lets sayyyy Kirk Cousins… Ryan Mallet… Andy Dalton… just saying

  24. He looked good. Don’t know what game you were watching, but I saw him throw a couple of darts. And this was one of the few games where he did toss some perfect spirals.

  25. Even though the Lions defense was not good, they shutdown Broncos run game. I should know, I started Anderson. I guess it’s time to bench or drop Anderson from my team. I should have take Anderson’s advice last week and dro him. Broncos offensive line just sux

  26. Peyton is old in football terms but he also has lost welker and J. Thomas , and with what most people called one of the worst OL’s in the game. Every week he is looking better Ohh and he went 32 of 41 with at least 4 drops and that’s being nice to Owen Daniels, so that’s 36 of 41 exactly what do you want from Peyton. By season end he will be considered top three in the league again statistically.

  27. Being 3-0 with the Viking, Raiders and Browns coming up doesn’t seem like the worst place to be. Peyton, may very well enter the playoffs with the best defense he’s ever had.

  28. It should be a great game next week (Broncos/Vikings). Vikings beat up Stafford and Rivers the last two weeks. And now the Vikings get another shot at an immobile QB.

  29. Lol, you realize he was playing the Detroit Lions right? He is now the best game manager this game has ever seen but that’s all he is: a game manager. Broncos Defense looks vicious, but playoff teams have nothing to fear from this team.

  30. Can’t handle New England.
    We’ll see you after thanksgiving.

    Enjoy the easy schedule, the chicken parm commercials and the good ol boy interviews Denver.

    Easy schedule? Beating a decimated Steelers team (that by the way had a chance to win hadn’t the kicker missed two FG and also the team was missing its main RB) and the Jaguars is not considered hard. The Pats have benefited of an easy schedule every season.

  31. Manning’s passes looks slow, duck like, and under thrown yet somehow he ends up with over 300 yds passes and multiple TDs. Looks like typical Peyton Manning to me, and I’ll bet he finishes the year as a top 3 QB again.

  32. These pundits are focusing too much on Manning. This defense is elite, and it’s getting better. We’ll see if the Patriots can hang 50 on this defense, I doubt it. Aslong as the offense can score 21-24 points a game the defense dog the opponents with turnovers. They have so many play makers, there isn’t a clear weakness on defense.

    Peyton just needs to move the ball, and they been doing it. The run game concerns me but they have played 3 straight run stopping teams. The Patriots have kinda got lucky with ther schedule. They played 2/3 at home a Steeler team missing ther best player, a Bills team with basically a first year starting qb, and a horrible Jax team. The teams the Broncos have played are better then their records indicate. Of course until you dethrone the champions, they are number 1, but it appears that Denvers defense is legit, it’s probly the only team in the Afc that could match up on New England.

  33. The schedules are fixed. THey play an NFC division, an AFC division and the other two AFC divisions with teams in NE’s place (1st) in their division.

    It rotates.

    This year they play NFC east and AFC south. Last year it was NFC north and AFC west.

    Next year they’ll play AFC north and not sure about the NFC.

    This year they’ll also play Steelers and Broncos as they finished in 1st in their divisions.

    It can’t be “fixed” or “gamed”.

    So stop with the “easy schedule every year”. IT’s only easy b/c they don’t play NE.

  34. Lions have gone from a playoff team…to a train wreck.

    Same thing Caldwell did to the Colts… playoffs with someone else team…

    10-6 – 2010 with someone elses work
    2- 14 – 2011 with his own mark… and this is how the Lions look for 2015.

  35. Bottom line is this…. Peyton plays and everyone watches… 39 or not, throwing ducks or not… Even Pats fans will take time out of their busy schedules to watch a Broncos game and then turn around and read an article about him…….. For 16 weeks, so dont kid yourself, the guys the GOAT… O and he didnt need deflated balls, or taped opponents practices to break every record possible

  36. The announcers never mention the one attribute that Manning learned early in his child hood and its served him well his whole career: find the weak link in the pass defense and target that all night long.

    As soon as Manning and he may have known this from film probably, saw that Slay was a horrid pass defender, he went after him when he needed the big plays. It worked all night long, a long pass for a first down in critical part of the game and a TD late in the game to seal the deal.

    No big secret here. He threw to the weakness and won again.

  37. One commentator said it all. Denver is doing the road games early and late in the season have a long stretch at home. So if they get by a decent record, and they are, they could be in the drivers seat the rest of the year with the tough games in their back yard.

  38. I don’t care what his passes look like as long as they’re caught and the Broncos win. He still knows where/when to throw it. Just a little harder to get it done.

  39. Some of you Broncos fans are in a lot of denial about how similar your team looks to an Alex Smith led KC Chiefs with a slightly better defense. You hung 24 pts on the Detroit Lions. That is not impressive.

  40. The Broncos could easily be 0-3. They have made big plays at crucial times in each game. Each opponent had a good chance of victory late into the fourth quarter. Each opponent has made costly errors to give the Broncos another chance.

    If the Broncos offense does not get more productive early in the game, I do not think that the defense can continue to bail out the offense. It is a long season but I see problems. Manning faded last year in the last month of the season. He has delivered in the clutch this year but I suspect that he will not be able to deliver later in the season as his body wears down and the weather becomes cold.

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