Lost in the shuffle of the media’s obsession with Peyton Manning is the fact that Manning himself isn’t the one winning games for the Denver Broncos. Gone are the days of Manning-led teams riding their quarterback’s arm to the playoffs. Those 40,50-touchdown seasons? A thing of the past, a feat left to quarterbacks who can deliver a deep ball without a grimace.
For a player who struggles to remove his own shoes after games, it’d be unrealistic to expect Manning to lead his Denver Broncos to yet another Super Bowl. The sun began to set on Manning’s game near the end of the 2014 season, and now, we’re witnessing a player’s unglamorous descent into the twilight of his 18-year career.
Fortunately for Peyton, the Broncos have a defense that’s doing all it can to hold off the imminent sunset. According to the Denver Post, Wade Phillips’s unit is leading or near the top of every major statistical category, and they’re the first team since the 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers to record at least 10 sacks and 10 takeaways through the first three games of the season:
- Takeaways: 10 (2)
- Sacks: 11 (3)
- Yards allowed per game: 259 (1)
- Passing yards allowed per game: 176.3 (1)
- Rushing yards. allowed per game: 82.7 (7)
- Pts. allowed: 49 (4-T)
- TDs allowed: 6 (4-T)
- Defensive TDs: 2 (1-T)
- Opponents third-down pct.: 19 percent (1)
On the opposite side of ball, the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian Peterson will need to play their best game of the season to leave Denver with a victory this week. This Sunday’s game is Mike Zimmer’s first chance at a “statement” win, and gashing this Broncos defense would be a step in the right direction — a playoff direction — for the second-year head coach.