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Gazette Premium Content Klee: With Von Miller out, who picks up the slack? Surprise, it's Peyton Manning

By Paul Klee Published: August 21, 2013

DENVER - From behind closed doors, the NFL's jury finally emerged and delivered a cold ruling:

Star linebacker Von Miller is bound to be a spectator for the first six games of this Broncos season.

Worried?

Me, worried? Not in the slightest.

The Broncos already have the ideal replacement to pick up the slack in Miller's absence:

Peyton Manning.

Feel free to chuckle. Sometimes truth is funnier than fiction.

But if this Broncos offense is as explosive as it appears to be, Manning will bail out Miller and save the Broncos from the kind of bumpy start that could doom their Super Bowl hopes.

If there was any question whether this is Manning's team, the 2013 season should make the answer more clear than a diluted urine sample.

This Broncos offense is wired to score, perhaps at a faster rate than we've ever seen at Mile High, Invesco Field, Sports Authority Field or on the original Nintendo console boxed up in the basement.

To reach their stated goal of a Super Bowl championship, I think it might need to.

After practice Tuesday, Miller declined to speak with media assembled on the east sideline at Dove Valley. That's probably for the best.

Nothing he could say changes the facts:

The Broncos defense will take a painful hit with Miller suspended for six games due to a violation of the NFL's drug policy. He is too disruptive not to be missed.

But as Miller prepares to take a seat, armchair quarterbacks are hell-bent on breaking down the Broncos defense. Everyone has a strategy or a scheme to implement when Von's gone.

Shaun Phillips and Danny Trevathan are capable, if not comparable, linebackers who can attempt to fill the void while Miller watches from a luxury box.

"We're going to treat it like an injury," Trevathan said Wednesday.

Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is the kind of gamer who, I think, relishes the challenge of putting the puzzle back together again.

Remember how we thought it would be nice if Del Rio would stick around and be the first defensive coordinator in seven years to stay in Denver for consecutive seasons?

Now it's really nice. Sometimes the best moves are the ones that aren't made, and Del Rio staying put just became the most important one made by a Bronco this offseason.

And sometimes the best comments are those that aren't made. Asked for his reaction when he learned the length of Miller's suspension, Del Rio said:

"I'll keep my reaction private."

One man's guess: The DC is not OK with VM being MIA.

One man's other guess: We are focusing on the defense when what has mattered the most, all along, is Manning and the offense.

Through training camp and in preseason games at San Francisco and Seattle, I saw a Broncos team that will look more like Manning's high-scoring outfits in Indianapolis than the balanced Broncos of last season.

I see a team that will lean on its offense to bail out its defense.

Numbers and linebackers can lie, but this one doesn't: The Broncos averaged 30.06 points per game in Manning's first season as the quarterback.

Only two Broncos offenses were better - 1998 (31.3) and 2000 (30.3).

Simply with the natural progression of an offense, and the addition of Wes Welker, it is reasonable to assume Manning's offense will be even more prolific in his second season.

Right?

If Manning and his deep fleet of wide receivers can score 30 points per game, the defense becomes nothing more than an opening act for Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Over the past decade of football, the Broncos have played 160 regular-season games. I looked it up, and this is how many times the Broncos scored 30 points and lost: three.

Give me a shootout, and I'll take Manning every time, twice on Sundays.

One of those three losses was in 2006 to Indianapolis. The score was 34-31, and Manning was the quarterback.

Hey, it's not like Manning's Colts were known for their defensive stops. In 13 healthy seasons in Indy, the quarterback learned too well how a powerful offense could carry the day.

Manning won a Super Bowl with the league's 21st-ranked defense. He carried the Colts to a 14-2 record and another Super Bowl appearance with the league's 18th-ranked defense.

"Von is one of our teammates," Manning said. "He's part of the family, and I certainly have his back as his teammate. I know that all of the players do and the organization does. We'll get through this time, and we support him 100 percent."

If he's smartened up, Von will support Peyton twofold.

Bring an ice-cold Gatorade and drop it off at his Buick after practice every day.

Manning is the one player who can get Miller off the hook.

-

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

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