In his third game as a Bronco, Peyton Manning started looking like his former, blue-and-white self. His final stat line that was good, not great: 26/52 for 330 yards, with 2 TD’s and zero INT’s. But for those of us who think he’s the GOAT, and hope to see him solidify that claim with continued success, there were plenty of positive signs to take away from the loss to the Texans.
To my eyes, he’s looking better every week. Especially in the second half, running no-huddle and pass-happy after the Texans took an early lead, he was slinging the ball around the field. He seemed to have plenty of velocity getting to their targets — so much for the “noodle arm” diagnosis. Whatever the cause of last week’s run of interceptions, this week his throws were on time and on target. (Several bad drops by his receivers didn’t help his stats any; I’m guessing Demaryus Thomas is already reminding him of Pierre Garçon.)
Like during his years with the Colts, Manning moved around in the pocket under a lot of pressure, showing off that sneaky mobility and uncanny awareness of the pass rush. (It’s crazy to watch Luck do this, too, in his third NFL game. There are moments where it’s easy to forget that #18 isn’t our QB anymore.) For a guy who was supposedly “one hit away” from a career ending injury, he took several hard hits and got back up firing. From the shotgun with a single back, he audibled to a draw play when the defense showed him a vulnerable look, alternating it with a play action of the same run that was beautiful in it’s execution — just like the good old days. There were several familiar looking plays and route combinations, and his chemistry with Brandon Stokely seems undiminished. Hearing the announcer call out a Manning to Stokely reception triggers little jolts of nostalgia for the 2003-06 era.
Why the Broncos aren’t running Manning’s patented no-huddle the entire game is baffling, especially playing at home. It seems like they could wear out a defense in the first half and then just roll on them. Granted, it takes more than a few months to turn a jury-rigged freight train into a “genetically encoded starship”. But his new O-line seems to be getting used to him changing plays at the line, and his receivers seem to be making the right reads. Hopefully it’s just a matter of time. Maybe the coaches are waiting for all the intricacies to look solid in practice, and only roll it out now in desperate circumstances. Whatever the reason, it feels like they’re leaving the Ferrari in the garage and riding around town in the minivan. Why pay top dollar for one of the best QB’s ever if you’re not going to let him do what he does best?
On a related note, during the Colts game the announcers made a big deal of the unique silence at the Luke during Indy’s offensive drives — one of many lingering bits of the Manning legacy. The crowd in Denver needs to learn how to shut up and let him do his thing. “Wide… Omaha… Omaha… hut!”
Watch quietly, people. You’re witnessing history.