The Broncos may have won Thursday night in Kansas City – and their defense may be elite – but can they win consistently without a running game and with Peyton Manning throwing ducks?
Maybe, maybe not.
“I played four or five games in my career against Peyton Manning, and I certainly don’t think anybody expects him to be that guy who he was in the mid-2000s,” former NFL safety and current CBS NFL analyst Adam Archuleta said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “They looked better in the second half, but I’m telling you, the one thing that made Peyton Manning, Peyton Manning – well, there’s a couple things. The first thing is that you could only play a handful of defenses against him. If you played an eight-man front, if you brought any pressure, he was going to kill you – and he would make you pay. So it really limited the defenses that you could play against him – and even then, it was hard to defend him.
“The other thing is, if you made a mistake – if you made one little mistake – he would make you pay every single time,” Archuleta continued. “And the Peyton Manning I saw last night is not that same guy. The Chiefs were able to play whatever defense they want. They were able to stop the run because Peyton Manning could not make them pay for their mistakes, and you saw all the routine stuff that Peyton Manning just naturally has done since he’s gotten (to the NFL) – easy throws, outs to tight ends – he was missing. Those are the things that are glaring about his game – just his inability right now, for whatever reason, to not make you pay for your mistakes in getting guys in single coverage.”
Is it fair to say that Manning’s mind almost always sees the correct throw to make but that his body sometimes won’t allow him to make it?
“Oh, 100 percent,” Archuleta said. “His mind, he knows. Peyton Manning, this is the one guy – and I played against Brady, I played against Brett Favre – this is the one guy that you had to use hand signals and you couldn’t allow him to see it pre-snap because he would pick it up and we’d have to change our signals every quarter. He was that good. That’s the stress that he put on a defense. So he knew pre-snap and he was so in sync with his wide receivers on where he wanted to go. It was just hard.
“So yeah, you see he’s going to the right guys,” Archuleta continued. “That’s not the issue. But man, his balls – they’re so inconsistent. They’re high, they’re low, they’re not getting there. Maybe it’s a bit late. It’s just not Peyton Manning. It’s not the guy that I played against. He’s 39 years old. Obviously that’s an issue. Obviously it seems like it was more than just a quad injury last year at the end of last season and in the playoff game. I think there’s legitimate concern.
“Now, I’m not going to write him off – and I don’t think it’s fair to write him off. I still think that they have growing pains within the offense and they’re still trying to figure out what they want to do, who they want to be. I think Gary Kubiak still has to figure out what the best way to use this personnel is. I think they have significant issues on the offensive line, which is really going to hurt their running game. So there’s a lot more than just Peyton Manning. But it seems that he’s lost his fast ball. Without being around him, without playing against him – just what you see on TV – I think there are some issues there.”