The Broncos finally lost last night — to the Colts, of all teams. Perhaps it was the emotion of Peyton Manning returning to Indianapolis, or the fact that Andrew Luck played like an absolute stud, but at the end of the day, the Broncos lost and a loss is a loss.
If you didn’t watch the game, you might think that, on paper, Peyton Manning played extremely well, while his offense line failed to protect him at critical junctures and his team got called for tons of stupid penalties that amounted to over 100 yards lost. This is, to a point, not false: Manning had almost 400 yards and threw for 3 TDs, and you can’t argue with those numbers.
But his arm looked, in a word, terrible. Particularly after Robert Mathis got to Manning, hit him during his windup, and forced a safety (via @jose3030):
Manning’s passes were often under-thrown, and no pass over 10 yards had anything resembling a spiral to it. Thankfully for Manning, he has an incredibly talented receiving corps that made some fantastic plays on his poor balls, like Demaryius Thomas did here (via GIFD Sports):
Or like Eric Decker did here:
The Colts secondary was also depleted by injuries by the fourth quarter, and mostly played a prevent defense to protect their large lead (which they almost gave up, but were bailed out by Ronnie Hillman’s red zone fumble). Basically, Manning lucked (no pun intended) out.
The fact that the Broncos almost still won this game is a testament to their talent and skill. They’re still an elite team. But the shine is coming off Peyton Manning after he started the season blazing hot. Despite what his teammates might say, NFL insiders testify that his arm strength isn’t nearly what it used to be. And if you think a 37-year old with neck issues is going to get stronger as the weeks pile up, you’re clearly a Broncos fan.
The Broncos have their toughest stretch of schedule coming up, with two games against the Chiefs in a three week span and a game in Foxboro in between them. And come playoff time — Manning’s long-time Achilles heel — the Broncos will face nothing but quality teams. It’s doubtful that the kind of passes Manning threw for touchdowns last night will end up in his teammates hands with the same regularity as they did yesterday.
After the game, Manning was asked about his arm strength issues, to which he replied: “I throw a lot of wobbly passes. I throw a lot of wobbly touchdowns, too.” Oh, snap, he done told us. But seriously, those wobbly passes will become wobbly interceptions if he keeps throwing them at this rate (read: every time he throws). Besides an undisciplined defense and ball security issues (both fixable), Manning’s arm could end up being the Broncos undoing.
Photo via Getty