Contrary to what the first four weeks of the 2013 NFL season may have had you think, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is a mere mortal; he just has a tendency to play football like a superhuman. On Sunday afternoon of week five as Denver was involved in a shootout with the Dallas Cowboys, Manning threw his first interception of the season.
However, it’s obviously trivial and inconsequential to criticize Manning for just one interception. After all, he has thrown 20 touchdown passes to just one interception and his team is now 5-0 after taking down the Cowboys in a shootout thanks to a last-second Matt Prater field goal. In the Broncos 51-48 victory, though, there definitely appeared to be some chinks in Denver’s armor.
It’s hard to criticize anything that the Broncos offense has done through five weeks. As I said, Manning has been the MVP of the league thus far throwing to Denver’s talented trio of receivers and emerging tight end Julius Thomas. Beyond that, Knowshon Moreno and company have been successful running the ball as well.
The Broncos defense is another issue entirely, though. As my colleague Wola Odeniran discussed, Denver’s defense looked to be the weak-link going forward. After all, this is a team that gave up 506 passing yards to Tony Romo and the Dallas passing attack on Sunday, a unit that was averaging just 238.8 yards per game through the air coming into the game.
It’s important to note that the Denver run defense has been and remained solid for them. They came into Sunday leading the league in rushing yards allowed per game and continued that trend by limiting the Cowboys’ ground attack to just 52 yards on 14 carries. However, their passing attack was a problem in Dallas and, quietly, has been an issue for them all season.
While everyone has been focused on the Broncos’ unstoppable offense, their passing defense has been swept under the rug. Despite playing four struggling teams in the first four weeks of the season, the Broncos ranked 30th in the league against the pass coming into Sunday against the Cowboys. As you might expect after the game that Romo had, the Broncos now rank last in the NFL against the pass, allowing 347 yards per game.
As this league has still pretty clearly shifted towards a passing-dominated attack, having such a susceptible pass defense could really be something that haunts this Broncos team as they try and make a run to a Super Bowl. Denver faces off against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week six, so their pass defense shouldn’t be much of a problem next week. Moving forward, though, they are going to have to improve on stopping the ball through the air if they want to be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.