Following that dastardly Super Bowl performance against the Seahawks last winter, the Broncos’ road to redemption begins Sunday evening against the Colts in Denver. Finally, the time has come when we can put the past behind us and look forward to the future.
And what a bright future it is.
With the pain of the Super Bowl loss still burning, a renewed focus from John Elway and Peyton Manning and some great off-season acquisitions, there are plenty of reasons why the Bronco faithful should feel confident that a world championship is on its way back to Denver at the end of this season. If injuries don’t get in Denver’s way, the Broncos will be Super Bowl champions once again in just a few months. Yes, there are a lot of things that can happen between now and then, but there’s never been a better time to feel confident about the Broncos going all the way.
First and foremost, there is Peyton Manning. I’m not sure the guy could ever get more focused on winning, but after that embarrassing Super Bowl loss, he’s coming back this year even more dedicated to scoring perfection. Except for that damn Super Bowl, last season could be the greatest season of all time for a pro quarterback. With a record 5,477 passing yards and a record 55 touchdown passes, Manning won his fifth N.F.L. most valuable player award. The question on everybody’s mind this year is, can the 38-year-old can match those numbers. Or better yet, can he beat those numbers? Well, why not?
With N.F.L. officials emphasizing their enforcement of defensive holding in the secondary this year, the league is going to become even more passer friendly. Quarterbacks like Manning are undoubtedly going to take advantage of this new emphasis, which could make it even easier for Manning to pick apart offenses.
If you’ve watched any preseason football this year, and I hope you haven’t, you’ll have noticed that Manning’s arm seems even stronger than last year. He seems to have more zip on the ball. That strength is going to come in handy when he’s going long with the fast wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders the Broncos picked up from the Steelers during the offseason.
“Emmanuel Sanders gives them the speed element that they really didn’t have so much last year,” former N.F.L. quarterback Warren Moon told The Washington Post. “I think that helps them and it helps Peyton. They didn’t really have that dimension last year. If Peyton doesn’t have another major injury, and they can take some of that wear and tear off of him, there’s no telling how long he can go. He’s not slowing down yet.”
While Manning has new focus, fast new targets, a mean offensive line and an unstoppable offensive system, what I like most is his dedication to revenge. Sure, he’ll never step in front of a microphone and tell the media he has revenge on his mind, but I think we all know he always does and always will.
Remember that shitty first-round playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens two years ago? It was the regular season opener against the Ravens, and not long after that playoff game that Manning got his revenge by throwing seven touchdown passes in a 49-27 embarrassment for the Ravens. I expect to see some Manning revenge on Sunday against Andrew Luck and the Colts. They beat the Broncos 39-33 last year. I would be willing to be Manning routes the Colts by at least 21 points on Sunday.
But while Manning is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the Denver Broncos right now, Elway did a fine job of shoring up the Denver defense over the off-season and by signing seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who will not only add another pass rush weapon but also a mentor to the younger defensive players on the team, including Von Miller.
According to ESPN.com, the Broncos have Ware working with the team’s youngest players in between drills at practice. A longtime veteran, he’s taken on the leadership role very quickly in the Broncos locker room and already players on both sides of the ball are looking up to him.
“He just knows,” Miller told ESPN.com. “He’s seen it, done it. He’s got all those little things that make you do big things.”
“He’s very good with his hands,” said Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady. “He’s taught me a few things over the past few months about working hands. That’s one thing he’s definitely an expert on.”
I have a feeling Ware is still a little sore that the Cowboys decided not to sign him and he’s looking to set an example of the magnitude that mistake was. He’s looking to be a leader and a force on the Denver defense. And as other teams must focus more on Ware, Miller just may blow up and be one of the best linebackers in all of football this year.
I like the leadership we have on our offense. No doubt Peyton is the best in the business. I like our new leadership on defense. Ware is going to have a huge impact. Add to that the additions of Aqib Talib, Marvin Austin, Sanders and linebacker Brandon Marshall there is plenty to be excited about.
I know the pain of that Super Bowl loss looms in the back of the returning players minds and that should give players plenty to play for this year. But what’s in the forefront of everyone’s mind this year is longtime Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who announced in July that he’s stepping away from control of the team, because of Alzheimer’s disease.
Bowlen has been the glue of the Denver Broncos organization for 30 years.
You could say this season for the Denver Broncos is one of redemption. Or revenge after last year’s Super Bowl loss. Or a last hurrah for Manning.
But really, this season is all about winning another Lombardi Trophy for Mr. B. And if he isn’t reason enough to win one this year, I don’t know what is. I look forward to hearing the words, “This one’s for Pat.”