The Denver Broncos had their hands full with the Atlanta Falcons in a game this past Monday night that they ultimately lost 27-21. While I’m not one to jump to conclusions and say Peyton Manning is done, I will say that if the Broncos and Manning had trouble with the Falcons, the Houston Texans are likely to give them the same kind of trouble.
With a strong offensive attack spearheaded by Arian Foster and Matt Schaub, it stands to reason that a Denver defense only a year removed from being extremely inconsistent and ineffective against the run could be heavily outmatched.
To be fair, the Broncos defense has performed well against the run in their first two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Falcons, holding Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Dwyer to 43 yards and Atlanta’s Michael Turner to 42 yards. Yet, the inconsistencies surrounding the Broncos defense, and particularly their linebacker core without D.J. Williams–who is serving a six-game suspension–still loom fresh in our memory. If the Broncos can hold off Foster the same way they’ve held off Dwyer and Turner, it will be the beginning of a rare stretch of consistently stopping the run.
With a secondary that looked very outmatched and somewhat in disarray last week against the Falcons, the Broncos will have to find a way to establish enough order to stop Schaub and Andre Johnson if they hope to avoid playing from behind. If they aren’t able to do that, expect the Texans to enjoy a lead throughout most of the game and to respond by giving the ball to Foster.
That means trouble for Denver no matter how many interceptions Manning throws.
The fact is that Manning is going to be fine. He had a rough first quarter Monday night, but he’s a future hall-of-fame player and will bounce back like he always does. Yet Denver’s downfall will continue to be what it has been for years now: a defense that fails to provide consistency.
If the Broncos can slow down the run and keep Schaub under wraps, then Manning will have a chance to get on the field and make plays like he always does. If not, he’ll spend a lot of time on the sidelines watching the Texans move the chains.