Is it really that time already, just three wins into the season? Are we really talking about the Broncos going for a perfect season? Well, the way Peyton Manning and the rest of the Broncos multifaceted offense are playing so far, why not?
Tuesday morning, after a 37-21 Monday night’s ass-kicking at the expense of the Oakland Raiders, there were a lot of newspaper headlines with the words “Broncos” and “undefeated” in them. Yes, a lot of those headlines read “Broncos Remain Undefeated,” while many others questioned whether this will be the year the National Football League will see its second team go undefeated and win a Super Bowl.
Generally, just three weeks into a season is way, way too early to start talking about an undefeated season. In fact, players, coaches and a lot of fans get angry, because people are talking about something that is so far in the future. But here we are. The undefeated conversation is already underway, for good or ill. Nobody wants to talk undefeated just three wins into the season, but when you see Peyton Manning play, frankly it sticks in your mind. The guy is playing that good right now. He’s unstoppable.
On Monday Night Football, it seemed Manning was just toying with the Raiders defense. Manning went wherever the Raiders’ defenders weren’t. Manning completed 32 of 37 pass attempts. He threw for 374 yards and three touchdowns. It was a night that added to an already monumental for the seasoned veteran.
In the three victories so far, he’s thrown 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions. (Looks like I picked the right year to have Peyton on my fantasy team.) Peyton is as good as he’s ever looked in his 16 years in the N.F.L. Peyton’s offense is simply a scoring machine. Cover Wes Welker, he’ll throw it to Eric Decker. Cover Decker, he’ll throw it to Demaryius Thomas. If Thomas is covered, he’ll throw it to Julius Thomas. If J.T. is covered, we’ll, I’m sure Welker will be open. Peyton Manning has plenty of targets to throw to, and it completely stymies defenders. According to SI.com, Manning’s 12 touchdown passes total one more than pretty boy Tom Brady’s old record for the first three games in 2011. The record for touchdown passes in a season is 50, which was set by Brady back in 2007. If Peyton keeps up this pace, he’ll throw for a whopping 64 touchdowns.
“We get to play with one of the greatest quarterbacks and football players to ever play the game,” tight end Julius Thomas told SI.com after Monday’s game. “He's great. There's no other way to cut it up or slice it.”
“You see what he can do. I don't even know too many people who can do that in Madden,” running back Ronnie Hillman said, referring to the video game. “It's pretty cool to have a quarterback like that.”
The Broncos score on average 42.3 points per game (first in the N.F.L), have an average of 486.7 yards per game (first), pass for an average 374.7 yards per game (first) and rush for 112 yards per game (14th). Besides having an average running game, those statistics say it all. The Denver Broncos have an offense that is second to none. Perhaps the statistic I like the most is that the Broncos third-down conversion rate is 21 out of 39 attempts. That’s how you win games.
The Broncos offense on Monday night was having so much fun that running backs Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball and Hillman played an impromptu game of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” in the fourth quarter to see who would get the chance to run for a 1-yard touchdown. If that’s how easy it is for the Broncos offense in the fourth quarter of a game against an AFC West division rival, I like it. For the record, Moreno was disqualified for throwing rock early and Hillman’s scissors beat Ball’s paper. Hillman then went on to score the 1-yard touchdown.
Perhaps the most encouraging part about the Broncos offense right now is that it’s the N.F.L.’s best offense, and yet there is still room for improvement. We have seen a great offense of the field, but I don’t believe we’ve seen Denver’s best offense on the field yet. There’s still room for improvement, and that’s scary.
While Peyton Manning continues to get all the attention for the Broncos’ impressive start (as he should), we can't forget about the defense that was supposed to be hobbled by the suspension of Von Miller and the foot injury of Champ Bailey. After losing Miller to a six-game suspension, I remember thinking that the Broncos could really struggle to keep teams off the scoreboard, but so far, they’ve done everything we could have hoped for. Robert Ayers has been getting a damn good rush onto quarterbacks, while the Broncos secondary has been surprisingly fast and effective. I really like this Duke Ihenacho guy. Man, he flies to the ball and can make a tackle with the best of them. To be perfectly honest here, I am so in love with the speed of our secondary, I am apprehensive to see Champ Bailey return. I love the guy, but we all know he’s lost a step over the past few years. Hopefully his leadership on the field will outweigh his slower speed. As it is right now, I love our secondary.
Could we use more of a pass rush? Absolutely. The Broncos are already halfway done with the Von Miller suspension. It’s going to be a nice game with Miller and his fresh legs back in the lineup.
Denver’s victory on Monday was the team’s franchise record-tying 14th consecutive regular-season victory. If they can focus, and win another game against the Eagles next weekend, they’ll break that franchise record. They can extend that franchise record by beating the Cowboys the following weekend…and so on after that. Perhaps, we, as fans, should just focus on extending our regular season franchise victory record one game at a time, instead of looking at the entire season right now. I know it’s too early to start talking 16-0, but when you see the precision of this Peyton Manning offense, it’s damn hard to keep it out of mind. For good or ill, the undefeated conversation is underway.