Through the first two games of the 2015 NFL season, the Denver Broncos’ offense looked out-of-sync. New head coach Gary Kubiak traditionally likes his quarterback under center; while Broncos gunslinger Peyton Manning prefers to work out of the shotgun. On Sunday, the two sides compromised, and silenced the doubters en route to a 24-12 victory over the Detroit Lions.
Operating mainly out of the pistol formation, which features the quarterback in a shallow shotgun with a running back behind him, the Broncos netted 354 yards on offense. After being sacked seven times through the first two games, Manning was only sacked once; completing 31 of 42 passes with two touchdowns and one interception. He joined Brett Favre as the only quarterbacks with at least 6,000 completions.
“That was something coaches came up with during the week,” said Manning. “Green Bay did it last year against them late in the season and had pretty good success with it, so something that we’ve repped throughout training camp. But something they wanted to do this week and I imagine it’ll be a part of the arsenal throughout the season whether we use it next week or two weeks from now, I don’t know.”
Truthfully, the 39-year-old Manning may have ended all over-the-hill talks with a single throw. With five seconds remaining in the first half, on fourth-and-one, he threw up a jump ball to Demaryius Thomas; who scampered in for a 45-yard touchdown.
For as improved as the passing game looked on Sunday, it was more of the same on the ground for the Broncos. The team was held to 41 yards rushing, and has yet to crack 100 yards in a single game this season. Starter C.J. Anderson, who was forced to leave for a time to be checked for a concussion but returned, was held to 18 yards on eight carries. And while the offensive line looked much improved protecting Peyton, it still failed to open up the gaps needed to establish an effective rushing attack.
The defense proved stout yet again, allowing only 290 total yards while sacking Matthew Stafford four times, intercepting him twice and forcing a fumble. Aqib Talib, who drew the difficult assignment of covering Calvin Johnson, also got into the act on special teams, blocking an extra point attempt by former Bronco Matt Prater. Currently, the Broncos rank third in the NFL in sacks (11) and second in takeaways (10).
“We’re going to challenge all throws. We’re not going to hide what we’re doing,” said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. “We’re going to play the bully. That’s our motto: ‘Be the bully.'”