What makes the Denver Broncos, finishing the season with a 13-3 record, and some would say the favorites in the AFC to reach the Super Bowl? Peyton Manning is the easy, and obvious answer.
There’s been plenty of talk over the years about the Indianapolis’ Colts offense under Peyton Manning, which eventually evolved into a no-huddle attack, and its complexity. In truth, it was never something too hard to grasp. It was just executed so well by Manning and the group around him, it was too simply to just say: They’re that good.
It only won the Indianapolis Colts one Super Bowl and taking them to another, but the Colts were consistently one of the best teams in the NFL, winning at least 10 games in a season in all but two of Manning’s healthy seasons with the team, making the postseason 11 times, also including a streak of 8 consecutive years with 12 wins or more.
In Denver, the start, a 2-3 start (which is easy to forget), was a difficult one. Manning wasn’t physically back to where he was before the neck injury that cost him a season and paved the way to something a lot of people thought they’d never see – Manning leaving the Indianapolis Colts.
The Broncos also tried to blend Manning’s style and on-field play calling with their own play book. Manning was up for the challenge early on, but eventually, as the Broncos saw things weren’t going too well, they folded and gave in to what Manning does best, and that’s run a very simple offense he constantly used in Indianapolis, without too many two-back sets or others similar things, which is executed so well it’s very hard to stop despite knowing it’s coming almost every time.
The Broncos weren’t supposed to be an offense that’s so reliant on Manning, but he put up some of the best numbers of his career, finishing with a 68.6% completion ratio (second best), 4659 yards (second best), 37 touchdown passes (second best) while throwing only 11 interceptions, and finishing with his highest ever 105.8 passer rating.
The play called the Dig is as simple as you might imagine. A three wide receiver set with one tight end and one running back. The tight end runs a read-seam up the middle, while the half back sets up a screen and moves on to the flat. Meanwhile, the side with two receivers has the inside WR running an in-route while the outside WR runs the same route, just shorter. On the other end, a Wide Receiver runs a simple straight route.
Nothing complicated, but highly successful It does come in variations, but the formula remains the same. That’s why the Colts collapsed when Manning went down to injury. Only a quarterback as good as him could make something as simple and rather predictable work so well all the time, with his familiarity and performance level outdoing the un-complexity of the schemes. The Denver Broncos have put themselves in the same place, although with a very good defense as well. After what looked like a career ending injury, Peyton Manning is running his favorite plays and succeeding with them just like before, maybe even more.