By Rich Kurtzman
In the NFL, when a team is going good, it’s never as good as it seems.
Denver is riding a Rocky Mountain High of a nine-game winning streak, and yet games are “boring” because there’s not enough drama for fans that lived on the edge every single week last season.
Yes, we all remember the “Year of Tebow” that will live on in lore and likely gave many Broncos fans heart attacks. Tebow led his team to six straight victories—four of them fourth quarter or overtime comebacks, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. That team was nowhere near as amazing as this year’s, but some believe Tebow’s team was more fun to watch because of the late-game hysteria, even if they backed into the playoffs with three straight losses. The memory of those losses was erased by the playoff win over Pittsburgh and the joy that came with it.
Peyton Manning’s Broncos haven’t just won by narrowly escaping defeat, they’ve overshadowed opponents in all three phases of the game. Trindon Holliday has sparked the special teams with his remarkable returns while David Bruton has been beastly in his coverage and effort on block attempts. Denver’s defense has been domineering and downright scary for opposing teams, bringing constant pressure and blanketing receivers with a skilled secondary. Von Miller is a candidate for defensive player of the year and his pass-rushing mate Elvis Dumervil has performed well too, but it’s players like Tony Carter and Chris Harris—the lesser known playmakers—that have made the defense special.
Of course, Manning’s impact hasn’t gone unnoticed, but it’s not been fully appreciated, either. He’s led the offense to heights not seen since the glory days of John Elway and Terrell Davis, implementing his own style through thoughtful teaching and leadership. He does all the little things correctly, like calling an audible at just the right time only to see it pay off for a big play because he studies the game like a grad student. His sense of the team aspect is astute, like when he consciously made an effort to get Knowshon Moreno going early in the Chiefs game. Moreno’s proved very valuable the last four games. He’s also passed the ball with precision, playing one of the best seasons of his storied career. All after more than a year away from the game, changing teams and hometowns.
Manning’s Broncos won’t back into the playoffs, they won the AFC West in mid-November. If everything goes right, they’ll finish the regular season with 11 straight wins, the No. 2 seed, home field advantage and a first round bye. Heck, the Broncos could even end up as the AFC’s top team, though Houston would have to lose out as well.
Still, this team is one of the very best Broncos teams not only in recent memory, but of all time. Their current nine-game winning streak is the longest since the 13-0 start in 1998—the second of back-to-back Super Bowl victories—and only the fourth time a streak that long has been reached in franchise history. They’re the only team in the NFL that’s currently top-five in both offense and defense, at No. 2 in scoring (409 points) and No. 5 in points allowed (274). That +125 point differential is massive, and the only other times Denver has done this well they’ve made the Super Bowl.
There’s even a hint that the team is continuing to improve. Last week’s win in Baltimore was the franchise’s first against the Ravens, and it was their first game without a turnover all season. Although Manning threw for a season-low 204 yards, it resulted in the Broncos’ most balanced attack of the year.
Winning football is fun football to watch, and if Denver can find a way to win four more games, they’ll be back at the Super Bowl for the team’s lucky seventh time.
So sit back and enjoy the ride Broncos fans, seasons like this one only come around once in a football generation.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.