After watching the first quarter, and two-thirds of the second quarter Thursday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, Peyton Manning looked every bit his 39 years of age, and continuing to underwhelm after a dud of a Week One outing. That was until Broncos’ head coach Gary Kubiak set Manning up for success.
After forcing Manning to take snaps from under center, the Broncos’ braintrust went back to ol’ reliable. The shotgun formation. This allowed Manning and the Broncos to look more like the offensive juggernaut they had been during his first couple of seasons in the Mile High City, and less like the last two months of last season, all of preseason this year, and through the first week and a half this season. Manning and the Broncos came roaring back from an early 14-0 deficit to their division rivals, and put up two scores–the second that tied the game, with less than two minutes in the half.
Manning started his second week under center (literally) by continuing to look gun shy as he was sacked a pair of times by the swarming Kansas City Chiefs’ defense. Battling a raucous Arrowhead Stadium crowd, things only got worse, as Manning threw his second pick-six in as many weeks, revving up the crowd even more. Thing began to look even bleaker for Denver, as the running game was going exactly nowhere.
The knotted up score at the half was indicative of a defensive battle, between two of the premier defenses in the National Football League. Kubiak and Co. realized relatively quickly that if they couldn’t fix their quarterback, tonight’s game–and perhaps the season was going to go down the drain–something that would be unacceptable to the Broncos’ fan base, as the feeling is “Super Bowl or Bust” for a franchise that has been on the verge in each of Manning’s previous season’s in blue and orange.
Once the Broncos’ offense went back to the shotgun formation, Manning looked more confident, had more time to read the defense that has been coming fast and furious, and has been able to find his receivers on open routes, enabling the Denver offense to move up and down the field as they had in past campaigns. At the half, Manning had a pair of touchdown throws, the Broncos had tied the game, and they were looking extremely sharp coming out of the half.
Whether the Broncos win or lose is beside the point. Getting Peyton Manning back to his comfort level goes well beyond a Week Two match-up in one of the most difficult stadiums in all of football to win. If Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ coaching staff realize that going back to the shotgun full time means better results, the rest of the NFL better be on alert. If the Broncos’ running game can gain traction, led by the banged up C.J. Anderson and the diminutive Ronnie Hillman, along with the revamped defense of Wade Phillips, the Broncos should return to the level of respectability that pundits have claimed is now gone because of Manning’s struggles.