December 23, 2012
DENVER – The Broncos have immense power in our state. They can produce mass depression. Or mass jubilation.
Let the party begin. As Christmas approaches, the Broncos are delivering a present to Colorado residents.
They are watching the NFL’s best team. The Broncos affirmed their place at the top in Sunday’s 34-12 demolition of the Cleveland Browns.
Listen, I realize not everyone in Colorado roots for the Broncos. Six or seven Steelers fans live among us along with a couple dozen renegade souls who pull for the Raiders.
And I also realize living on top near the end of the regular season is no guarantee of a happy conclusion. The 2005 Broncos were the best team in the game, but in the AFC title game quarterback Jake Plummer suddenly realized he was, well, Jake Plummer. One of the top five teams (along with 1977, , 1996, 1997 and 1998) in Broncos' history did not travel to the Super Bowl.
This edition of the Broncos has holes. Most troubling is a mediocre running game. Can a team that boasts Knowshon Moreno as its featured back win the Super Bowl?
But those bothersome questions are few. This Broncos squad is jammed with talent.
Linebacker Von Miller is a freak, and I’m not talking about his unintentionally hilarious dances after sacks. If desperate linemen didn’t hold Miller on virtually every passing down, he might have collected 40 sacks this season.
Cornerback Champ Bailey is the elder statesman of the Broncos defense. He’s also a perceptive analyst.
“Von is a special talent,” Bailey said. “You always have to know where he is, but once you figure out where he is, here come the other guys.”
Miller will anchor the Broncos defense for the next decade. He’s the hope for tomorrow.
The greatest hope for today walks toward his football sunset. Peyton Manning, who takes every chance to remind everyone (including himself) he’s 36, crafted another masterpiece. Other than an interception at the end of the first half, Manning was virtually flawless.
Bailey was one of the stars of the 2005 Broncos that stumbled one step from the Super Bowl. He laughs when asked to compare 2012 to 2005.
“We’re so much better,” he said.
He believes this team boasts a better pass rush and, most importantly, a better quarterback.
“18 is better,” Bailey said. “I love Jake, but 18 is better. Even Jake would say so.”
Here’s the main reason for optimism as the Broncos travel toward the games that really matter:
This team embraces the Manning credo. Manning, one of the top dozen players in NFL history, endlessly searches for improvement.
After wasting the Browns secondary for 339 yards and three touchdowns, Manning conducted a soul-searching press conference. He said he’s not “as good” as he once was. He said he’s still learning to understand his teammates and a new offense.
This was an honest conversation with a small group of sports writers. Manning chases perfection, and like any perfectionist he never quite arrives there. He was genuinely frustrated by a 22-point victory.
Tight end Jacob Tamme played with Manning in Indianapolis. He knows how Manning can lift a team into a constant sense of striving. Satisfaction is unacceptable in Manning’s football world.
“That’s how he is as a person and as a leader,” Tamme said.
After 10 straight victories, after an impressive road win in Baltimore, after this breezy triumph over the Browns, Manning ruthlessly and endlessly demands more.
His relentless quest leads to the best kind of Christmas present:
There’s every reason to celebrate.