Manning will have his full complement of receivers with Wes Welker set to return.
The 2013 version of the Denver Broncos was an offensive juggernaut. Led by quarterback Peyton Manning, these Broncos are a force to be reckoned with. The Broncos clinched their spot in the post season with a win in Week 14 over Tennessee. Denver led the league in several offensive categories this season, including points and yards per game.
LIKE A FINE WINE
Like a fine wine, Peyton Manning has gotten better with age. Most people begin a decline at a certain age, not Peyton Manning. In 2013 he threw for an NFL record 55 touchdowns (he broke Tom Brady’s record of 51, after Brady had broken Manning’s that he had set back in 2004. Manning also threw for 5,477 passing yards this season.
Here is what else San Diego will have to put up with tomorrow afternoon:
-5 players on the roster with at least 10 touchdowns (Welker, D. Thomas, J. Thomas, E Decker and K Moreno).
-3 games with at least 50 points scored
-15 games with at least 27 points
-457.3 yards per game.
And it gets better as Wes Welker returns to the lineup for what we all hope will be a Super Bowl run.
Now, after more than a month away from the field, the wide receiver is two days away from making his return against the San Diego Chargers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
“I’d say it’s fair to say he’s pretty excited,” Head Coach John Fox said.
And the rest of the offense is just as excited.
Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase said that the energy Welker has brought to the practice field has motivated the rest of his teammates as they see how hungry the 10th-year veteran is for a postseason win.
More than that, Welker’s presence on the field gives defenses yet another weapon to account for.
“It puts two guys in the slot that defenses have to find a way to decide how they are going to defend us,” said tight end Julius Thomas, who noted that he and Welker typically line up on opposite sides of the field. “A lot of times, earlier throughout the season, some teams would double me or some teams would double Wes. When you have two people that can make plays in that middle of the field, it makes it a lot harder on the defense from that standpoint.”
When the Chargers defeated the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Week 15, Welker wasn’t on the field.
“The main thing is they played us a certain way because we didn’t have him, I think,” wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “They didn’t account for Wes last game because he didn’t play but they will this game. It’s good for us because you don’t know what they’re going to throw at us, but it’s another weapon on the field to help us out.”
In his time off, Welker said he didn’t have any trouble staying sharp as he cleared through various phases of the concussion protocol.
“Getting with the strength coaches and doing ball drills and doing different things like that – just making sure I’m keeping my strength and stamina and being ready to go,” Welker said.
When he got back on the practice field, he said it didn’t take him very long to find his timing with quarterback Peyton again.
“When you’ve played as long as I have it comes back pretty quick,” Welker said. “I really wasn’t too worried about that.”
The month off could have a silver lining, as Welker has fresh legs for the playoff push.
“Certainly, as an offense, we’re glad to have him back,” Manning said.
Denver had outscored opponents by an average of 20.4 points in winning its first seven home games before falling 27-20 to San Diego on Dec. 12. Ryan Mathews
ran for 127 yards and a touchdown while the Chargers (10-7) held the Broncos (13-3) to their lowest point total of the season.
Having averaged 37.9 points during the regular season — the highest of any team in the Super Bowl era — the Broncos were held to fewer than 30 in just three games, two of which came against the Chargers. Denver won 28-20 at San Diego in Week 10 behind 330 yards and four touchdowns from Manning.
“It taught us a lesson,” tight end Jacob Tamme said of last month’s loss. “We did kind of reboot after that and yes, I think we know that we need to play our best ball going forward and that’s what we’re planning on doing.”
While beating the Chargers remains priority No. 1, the Broncos are also eager to prove themselves following last season’s divisional round collapse against eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore. Denver gave up a game-tying 70-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in regulation before falling 38-35 in double-overtime last Jan. 12 — exactly a year to the day of Sunday’s clash.
“You don’t harp on the first time you fell off your bike, but you remember falling off and you know you don’t want to do it again,” tight end Julius Thomas said. “So, it’s not that we’re dwelling on the Ravens or even if it’s about the Ravens. It could have been any team that we lost to. But we do have a fresh reminder of if you don’t come out and play your `A’ game in this tournament, you’re going to lose.”
Coming off a bye, Denver secured the AFC’s top seed with a 34-14 win at Oakland in Week 17. The Chargers, meanwhile, won their last four regular-season games to sneak into the playoffs, and they stayed hot with a 27-10 wild-card win at Cincinnati last Sunday.
We all still hope that Cincinnati’s shortcoming this season wound up being their lack of experience in playing in big games. They were fine in the first half but all of the wheels fell off in the second half.
Manning, who set NFL single-season passing records with 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, will have his full complement of receivers with Wes Welker set to return.
Welker has been out since suffering a concussion Dec. 8 against Tennessee, his second in a four-game span. Despite his absence, Welker finished second in the league with 18 receptions in the red zone, one behind Chargers running back Danny Woodhead.
“A lot of times teams will decide to go ahead and double Wes,” said teammate Demaryius Thomas, who hauled in 14 TD receptions to rank second in the NFL. “So absolutely, it opens up things for me. If I have single-man coverage, it’s something that I definitely enjoy and look forward to.
“Wes brings a lot to this offense and we’re excited to have him back.”
Manning has lost his last three postseason games and is 4-6 in his past 10 overall against the Chargers, including playoff losses during the 2007 and 2008 seasons while with Indianapolis. Rivers has posted a 99.1 quarterback rating in going 6-2 all-time in Denver.
“They’re a No. 1 seed for a reason. This is a heck of a team and it’s rare to play an opponent three times in a season and being a division opponent, one we know well, they know us well. It’s going to be awesome,” said Rivers.