What Do Peyton Manning's Preseason "Struggles" Mean for the Broncos' Season?
Headlines such as "Manning's home debut so-so in loss to Seahawks" and "Manning in preseason: 0 TDs, 3 INTs" would lead some to believe that the Broncos made a mistake in giving the former Colts quarterback $96 million to end the Tim Tebow era in Denver.
Let's just end that talk before it even starts. Manning's "struggles"—if you can even call them that—mean very little for the Broncos' 2012 season. Nothing Manning has shown so far this preseason should lead anyone to the conclusion that he's not going to be a huge upgrade for Denver at the quarterback position.
Most are focusing on Manning's three interceptions as a cause of concern.
But one could argue that only Manning's second interception on Saturday night was a glaring mistake, and even an errant overthrow or two could be expected from a quarterback who is just returning from a prolonged absence from the game.
The positives are much more encouraging.
On his first drive as a member of the Broncos, Manning completed 4 of 7 passes for 44 yards before misfiring in the red zone on his final throw. The pass, intended for Brandon Stokley, was behind the receiver and intercepted by Chicago's Major Wright.
However, Manning did complete a 3rd-and-long situation earlier in the drive by delivering a dart to Eric Decker down the middle of the field. That throw was arguably a better indication of where Manning is at than the interception.
Saturday night against the Seahawks, Manning completed his first two passes before a short pass was tipped in the air and intercepted by K.J. Wright.
A drive later, Manning went 4-for-4 for 47 yards as the Broncos scored a touchdown to go up 7-3. The drive covered 11 plays, 80 yards and took up over five minutes of the first-quarter clock.
Manning then erased his mistake on the overthrow one drive later.
Taking over on his own 20-yard line with 2:39 left in the first half, Manning orchestrated a 12-play drive that should have ended with tight end Jacob Tamme catching a touchdown pass. Instead, the ball bounced off Tamme's hands with six seconds left and the Broncos were forced to kick a field goal.
The drive was vintage Manning, masterfully working the two-minute drill with short-to-intermediate throws that moved the ball downfield and stayed within the framework of the clock. Seattle stayed mostly in a comfortable zone, and Manning was more than content to work underneath it.
Manning even took his first big hit since returning from neck surgery, getting slammed to the Mile High turf on a hit from Seahawks rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin in the second quarter.
Manning got up, dusted himself off and then delivered a 22-yard strike to Stokley on the very next play.
The crowd in Denver went from audible gasp to a standing ovation—from worst fear materialized to hope that Manning can last this entire season despite four operations over the last 24 months to fix a neck problem.
Yet the focus remained on the interceptions and Manning's lack of touchdown passes through two preseason games.
On the surface, it's fairly easy to see why casual observers would raise an eyebrow to a stat line that reads "0 TDs, 3 INTs." But digging deeper, Manning has shown plenty in two preseason games for Denver to feel comfortable with their new situation at quarterback.
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