If you had to describe Peyton Manning’s performance against the Chiefs in one word, what word you choose?
On the one hand, Manning was masterful in helping the Broncos overcome a 14-point deficit in the first half and a seven-point deficit in the final minute of play. On the other hand, he was inaccurate early on, missed receivers and threw a pick-six to put the Broncos behind two touchdowns in a game they ultimately won, 31-24.
So, what word you choose? Brandon Tierney chose “misleading,” Tiki Barber chose “dangling” – in other words, hanging by a thread – and CBS Sports Radio Tiki and Tierney producer Michael Samtur chose “encouraging.”
Those words certainly run the gamut of impressions, which is why Jason La Canfora dropped by to settle the score.
“Fool’s gold. Can we go with that as a combination-hybrid word?” asked the CBSSports.com NFL insider. “I think you got to be careful because what (worked at the end of the game) can’t work for 60 minutes. Do you really think that the answer is shotgun all the time? Let’s declare out intent, let’s throw the ball 50 times a game – do you think (Manning) gets through 16 weeks that way? Do you think he’s going to run an offense that way?”
Manning finished 26-of-45 for 256 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The Broncos committed to the run early in the game despite limited production. C.J. Anderson rushed 12 times for 27 yards. Ronnie Hillman rushed nine times for 34 yards. As a team, the Broncos rushed 22 times for 61 yards – a meager 2.8 yards per carry.
Once the Broncos got behind, however, they needed to open things up – and they did, with success.
“I get it,” La Canfora said. “Shotgun gives (Manning) an extra half-second, an extra three-quarters of a second before somebody tears his head off. But they kind of know what’s coming. They’ve got to keep trying to run the ball because they’ve got to try to keep defenses honest. They got to try to keep people off his neck – literally.”
They’ve also got to preserve their 39-year-old quarterback, who last year threw for four touchdowns and six interceptions in the final five games of the season (playoffs included).
“I think what people are forgetting is (the Broncos are) looking at the long view,” La Canfora said. “They saw what he was at the end of last year, and they see what he is now. They’re saying he won’t even be what he was last year if we can’t protect him more this year, which means even if we’re running 2.8 a clip or 2.5 a clip or whatever, we need to put him under center and run the ball a little bit to kill some clock, to get these ends from being able to just absolutely tee off on him and to try to retain some semblance of a balanced offense.”
After failing to score an offensive touchdown against Baltimore and trailing by 14 points at Kansas City, the Broncos could easily be 0-2. But they’re not. They’re 2-0 and atop the AFC West.
For now, that’s all that matters.
Denver next faces the Lions (0-1) in Detroit on Sunday Night Football on Sept. 27.