If you look at the box score, Peyton Manning didn’t have an overwhelming game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, finishing 21-of-37 for 222 yards in a 23-16 Denver win. But while his receivers certainly didn’t do him any favors with eight drops, Manning’s most important number against Pittsburgh was zero.
As in, zero turnovers.
“His 17 interceptions earlier in the season, they were very lucky to win a number of those games with him throwing those interceptions,” former NFL linebacker Chad Brown said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I think Peyton was still trying to recapture the Peyton of old, mentally thinking, ‘This is a throw I can make,’ and not realizing physically, ‘No, this is a throw you can no longer make.’ I think his time off, the time on the sideline, watching Brock Osweiler (was helpful). One of the best things that Brock did was Brock understood, ‘This is my first year starting. I’m not truly a rookie, but I’m kind of like a rookie because I’ve been backing up Peyton so long. My job is not to go out there and fling the ball around, throw 40 times a game and score 35 points. My job is to be a safe keeper of the football.’ And I think now, based on this last week’s performance, that Peyton finally understands if he does that, that actually gives the Broncos the best chance to win and the best chance for success – instead of thinking, ‘I’ve got to put this whole thing on my back and I’ve got to throw for 400 yards and put 35 points on the scoreboard.’”
Denver struggled to run the football, finishing with 33 carries for 109 yards (3.3 yards per per carry). C.J. Anderson, though, had 15 of those carries for 72 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and scored what proved to be the game-winning touchdown with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Still, it figures to be tough sledding for Denver this Sunday against New England.
“It’s going to be very interesting this week playing the Patriots,” Brown said. “Bill Belichick obviously has Peyton’s number. It’s going to be interesting to see what defense he dials up to deal with Peyton’s really clear limitations. People know he can’t throw very far outside the numbers, he’s not going to throw very far downfield, and they begin to really tighten their zones up and try to take away the middle of the field where he’s trying to throw most of his footballs right now.”
Brown, in fact, doesn’t believe the AFC Championship is going to be all that competitive. He thinks the Patriots will win with ease.
“I think the Patriots’ offense will be able to generate more points than the Broncos’ offense,” Brown said. “Wade Philips loves to go man-to-man, but with Chris Harris (shoulder) not being 100 percent, he went to more zone this week, and it was clear against the Steelers that is not what the Denver Broncos excel at. They excel at man coverage. So having to go to zone, which he’s going to be forced to do with Chris Harris not being 100 percent, I think Tom Brady is going to find windows and ways to exploit that.”
Kickoff Sunday is at 3:05 p.m. ET.