There were so many scenarios that could have played out for the Denver Broncos after their week five loss to the New England Patriots that left them 2-3 and in a tough position going forward. Sure, Peyton Manning and the offense still needed time to get in sync. Of course the defense still had to get used to new coordinator Jack Del Rio and his blitz packages and personnel changes. And all fans understood that the 2012 season may just be a tune-up for things to come.
But not many foresaw the scenario of the Broncos winning 13 games and becoming the number one seed in the AFC the way the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens were coming out of the gate. But an improbable second half comeback against the San Diego Chargers in week six was the win that made this team realize just what it was capable of. That was the moment, down by 24 at the half, that the Broncos not only scored 35 unanswered points and shut the Chargers down, but propelled them to reel off 11 straight wins and elevate them to the only team in the NFL with a top five offense and defense.
Manning would never allow his new team to quit, and his work ethic, fanaticism of detail, and pure will rubbed off on this perfect mix of veterans, rookies and all around quality players. It was after that San Diego game that I took a good look at the remaining games on the schedule, and predicted that the Broncos would win out the rest of the way.
Now that the Broncos have accomplished that feat, Manning, LB Von Miller and John Elway are candidates for major awards and they can get focused during a bye week and sleep in their own beds throughout the playoffs, this season can truly be looked at as special.
After a 2011 season of ups and downs, a playoff berth and win with Tim Tebow as their QB because no other team in their division wanted to go on to the second season, the Broncos have now solidified themselves as a team that needs no help going on and will have to be reckoned with. They are the only team to rank in the top five in both offense and defense, Manning has thrown for over 4,500 yards, 37TDs and only 11INTs, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are 1,000 yard receivers and the defense has the best sack tandem in the league in Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
What does this all mean for the Broncos? Absolutely nothing, except that the road to the Super Bowl goes through the Mile High city. The only thing that proves is that the Broncos coaching staff has taken talented individuals and produced a contender that is worthy of recognition. Lastly, the only thing that really means is that the Broncos are your number one seed in the AFC. It’s a long road through the playoffs, but winning three games is always easier than winning four.
The Broncos are a solid club, but so are the Patriots, and even the Texans, who have lost two straight and losing the one seed down the stretch. They are the trouble that will be awaiting the Broncos Super Bowl dreams. But for this night, with a convincing win over the Kansas City Chiefs, 38-3, nobody can take away the fact that they are the best team in the NFL, winning their last 11 games.
Fans, NFL analysts and pundits alike saw something in the eyes of Manning and the Broncos that second half against the Chargers. It was a glaring look like they had had enough of the schoolyard bully and decided to not only stick up for themselves, but become the bully themselves. This may be the attitude and difference between the Broncos of 2011 and 2012. This will also be the difference in a playoff rematch,between the Broncos and Patriots. This time, the Broncos will not allow Tom Brady and Bill Belichek to double team them and knock them out. This time, they brought back up!
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