By Mark Schiff
After struggling to score points in the season’s first six games, the Broncos offense looked downright scary through Halloween. Turns out they were just gone ’till November.
In a battle of two unbeaten teams, the Broncos offense erupted for 500 yards while the defense held Packers quarterback and reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers to just 77 yards. Denver rolled Green Bay 29-10 to improve to 7-0 for the first time since their Super Bowl season in 1998. Although the game was billed as a litmus test for two teams that had fattened up on lesser competition, it was less a clash of the titans than a good old fashioned beat down, as Denver opened up a 17-0 lead in the second quarter and never looked back.
Here are your Week 8 team grades following the Broncos most impressive win of the season.
With zero touchdown passes and a fourth quarter pick, Peyton Manning’s TD to interception ratio (7-11) dipped even lower on Sunday night. That’s about the only bad thing you can say about Manning’s game against the Packers. Behind a greatly improving offensive line that didn’t surrender a sack, Manning looked poised and played sharp, finishing a cool 21-29 for 340 yards.
The offense as a whole played exquisitely. Demaryius Thomas shook off his recent case of the drops by hauling in a series of long balls, finishing with eight catches for 168 yards. Tight ends Owen Daniels and Virgil Green got involved, each catching three passes for a combined 105 yards. And the beleaguered C.J. Anderson finally broke off the long runs that had eluded him, as he finished with 101 yards on 14 carries. With strong play from every position group, it was a convincing way for the offense to finally break out of its slump.
Aaron Rodgers dates Hollywood stars and pitches insurance as effortlessly as he does touchdown passes; it is not easy to make him look bad. The Broncos defense made Aaron Rodgers look bad. The 11-year veteran finished with just 77 yards, the lowest total yards of his career, excluding games in which he was injured as Denver’s secondary smothered the receivers, leaving him nowhere to throw.
The Packers run game was also held to less than 100 yards and as they have all season, the Broncos pass rushers lived in the backfield, pressuring Rodgers throughout the first half and sacking him three times in the second. One of those was by DeMarcus Ware, who made a huge impact after missing the Browns game with a back injury. Ware stripped Rodgers in the fourth quarter, resulting in safety and putting the game safely out of reach. The defense is so good they seem to try to challenge themselves by consistently committing drive-extending penalties on third downs.
Special Teams: B+
Brandon McManus won AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for October and he kicked off November by connecting on 50 and 24-yard field goals. Fortunately, he wasn’t pressed into too much action as the Broncos were able to finish most of their drives with touchdowns. Emmanuel Sanders continues to be a non-factor on punt returns, as he tallied just 12 yards on three punts returns.
With his intricate schemes, Wade Phillips has already put himself in the conversation of the league’s best defensive coordinators and with their outstanding game plan against the Packers, Denver’s offense staff deserves some shine this week as well. Exploiting the middle of the field to get the players into favorable matchups, Rick Dennison had the offense running smoothly by putting players in positions to succeed. It’s taken time, but the Frankenstein offense that’s part Manning, part Kubiak is finally coming alive.
Denver will try to keep it rolling as Manning looks to set the all-time career wins mark by a quarterback against his former team when the Broncos take on the Colts in Indianapolis.
Mark Schiff is a freelance writer and music journalist for AXS.com. In 2013, his coverage of the Seattle Seahawks ended in heartbreak when they defeated the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Now covering his beloved hometown team, his knowledge and passion for pro football has resulted in multiple fantasy football championships. Find him on Twitter at @mihilites.