So Much for Denver being a Run Team – Peyton Manning takes over

manning-vs-chiefs-1With a run-obsessed coach in Gary Kubiak, and Peyton Manning now 39, this was supposed to be the year that the Denver Broncos transitioned to a ground team. After all, Kubiak is the same guy who’s coached 10 teams to top-5 rushing totals in a season, and he also engineered incredible seasons for Terrell Davis, Arian Foster and Justin Forsett. But following a first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs last Thursday where Denver failed to get on the board, the playbook went out the window and Manning took over.

The future Hall of Famer finished 26-for-45 passing with 256 yards and 3 touchdowns. Most importantly, he guided the team 80 yards down the field in the fourth quarter to tie the game with a hostile crowd chanting against their every move. So much for this being the year that Manning handed the ball off to C.J. Anderson for four quarters – No. 18 is still in firm command of this team.

This 80-yard drive would pave the way for Bradley Roby’s game-winning, 21-yard fumble return. But even after Roby’s incredible play, one couldn’t help but think about the reason why they were in this position in the first place.

“Peyton was so calm in the huddle on that drive,” Anderson said about the game-tying march. “You got to see what he’s still got.”

manning-vs-chiefsAt this point in his career, Manning is not going to set any personal single-season records. He’s getting older, his arm is a little less strong, and this isn’t the best offensive line that he’s ever played behind. However, you don’t just cast away 18 years of NFL experience from a guy who’s done nothing but win in his NFL career. When the game is on the line, Manning will be the one making the tough decisions.

Once Kansas City jumped out to a 14-0 lead, the gunslinger scrapped Kubiak’s short routes and runs in favor of vertical passing routes. This allowed Denver to close the first half with two touchdown drives to knot the score up at 14-14 going into the half.

The second half was again a battle, but one that Manning could keep up with, even against a vaunted KC defense that was playing at home. On a night where Ronnie Hillman and Anderson could only muster 61 yards on 21 carries, their signal caller had to bail the team out in what should be an all-important division game.

Who knows how far Denver will go this season with their new-look team. But if their 2-0 start is any indication, they certainly can’t be counted out of the Super Bowl picture. This is especially the case when considering that Manning has proved that he still has it.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 13 (Nov 27, 2014)

legarrette-blount-patriots-20141. New England Patriots (9-2); beat Detroit 34-9, retains same ranking – Exit Jonas Gray, insert Legarrette Bount, who rushed for 78 yards and 2 TD’s. It seems like the Patriots can play anybody and win.

2. Green Bay Packers (8-3); beat Minnesota 24-21, moves up one spot – Eddie Lacy seems to be catching fire for the Packers at just the right time. And they’ll need it as New England visits Lambeau.

3. Denver Broncos (8-3); beat Miami 39-36, moves up two spots – Don’t play Peyton Manning after a loss! The future Hall of Famer tossed 4 TD’s against the Dolphins.

4. Philadelphia Eagles (8-3); beat Tennessee 43-24, retains same ranking – Riding a 10-game winning streak at home, Philly is battling over the final stretch to host some playoff games.

5. Arizona Cardinals (9-2); lost to Seattle 19-3, drops three spots – With Drew Stanton at QB, Arizona is still a good team…just not good enough to win tough road games.

6. Dallas Cowboys (8-3); beat NY Giants 31-28, retains same rankings – All the talk is about Odell Beckham’s amazing TD catch, but Dallas is more than happy with yet another win.

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers7. San Francisco 49ers (7-4); beat Washington 17-13, retains same ranking – Anquan Boldin may be a grandpa by NFL standards, but the 34-year-old can still play, as he proved with 137 receiving yards and a TD.

8. Indianapolis Colts (7-4); beat Jacksonville 23-3, retains same ranking – The Colts were fortune to be playing Jacksonville on a day where they fumbled six times and Andrew Luck struggled.

9. Seattle Seahawks (7-4); beat Arizona 19-3, moves up two spots – Russell Wilson is the NFL’s most-dangerous dual threat, as he showed with 211 passing yards and 73 rushing yards in this contest.

10. Detroit Lions (7-4); lost to New England 34-9, drops one spot – Matt Stafford was off the mark (39.1 completion percentage) and Detroit was predictably blown out on the road against the NFL’s top team.

11. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4); bye week, drops one spot – Pittsburgh gets their bye at a very nice time, with all four AFC North teams still alive for the division title.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1); beat Houston 22-13, moves up one spot – Two road wins in a row for Cincinnati bodes well as they take the AFC North lead.

justin-forsett-superdome13. Baltimore Ravens (7-4); beat New Orleans 34-27, moves up one spot – Justin Forsett managed a career game (182 rushing yards, 2TD) to help Baltimore win in the Superdome.

14. San Diego Chargers (7-4); beat St. Louis 27-24, moves up one spot – Philip Rivers was excellent in the face of pressure, as he completed 8-of-8 passes for 108 yards against blitzes.

15. Kansas City Chiefs (7-4); lost to Oakland 24-20, drops three spots – The Chiefs blew a golden opportunity to cement their playoff chase. Aside from losing to the Raiders, allowing 5.0 rushing YPC isn’t helping matters.

16. Miami Dolphins (6-5); lost to Denver 39-36, retains same ranking – Ryan Tannehill continues putting up strong numbers (228 passing yards, 3TD), but the Dolphins are fading in the playoff race.

17. Cleveland Browns (7-4); beat Atlanta 26-24, moves up spot – With 8 catches and 120 receiving yards in his first game back, Josh Gordon hasn’t lost a step from last year.

18. Buffalo Bills (6-5); beat NY Jets 38-3, moves up one spot – Buffalo proved why they have one of the league’s better defenses by sacking the Jets seven times.

19. Houston Texans (5-6); lost to Cincinnati 22-13, drops three spots – Houston has pieces to a very good team, but they just can’t complete the puzzle and it starts at quarterback.

20. Chicago Bears (5-6), beat Tampa Bay 21-13, NR – Chicago slightly drops their 27.6 points allowed-per-game figure, which ranks second worst in the league.