Not many people expected Denver Broncos backup quarterback Brock Osweiler to get any playing time in a one-possession game this season if Peyton Manning was healthy, but that's just what head coach John Fox had in mind in the closing moments of their 27-21 loss in Atlanta Monday.
According to Mike Kils of the Denver Post, coaches instructed the rookie to warm up around the two-minute warning when the Atlanta Falcons had the ball, up six points with a potential late punt in the balance that would've left the Broncos backed up in their own territory with barely any time left.
"I was going in for the Hail Mary," Osweiler said. "I'm not sure what the dividing line was as far as me going in, but I was getting ready to go in."
Michael Turner would end up scampering for the first down and clinch the game for the Falcons, but you have to wonder what this means going forward for the Broncos' quarterback situation.
Manning got off to an atrocious start in his 2012 Monday Night Football debut, throwing three interceptions in the first quarter on some bad reads and even worse throws. But he turned it on late and led the Broncos on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives that made it a one possession game.
Kils states that Peyton, even on his best day, couldn't out-throw Osweiler, a 6'7" rookie known for his arm strength. Manning doesn't have a weak arm by any means, but he wouldn't have given the Broncos the best chance to get the ball into the end zone from as far as 80 to 90 yards out.
Prior to Manning's neck surgery and ensuing absence from the NFL in 2011, no one would've even come close to suggesting that his backup should go in for a Hail Mary. Though it must not be blown out of proportion, this may be the beginning of the talk of Manning's long-term receding arm strength.
He's still putting his signature zip on the ball on most of his throws, but his power was off on two of his three picks Monday night.
The bottom line is, there is no quarterback controversy brewing in Denver. As bad as Manning looked in the first quarter, he's still proved to us this season that he's back and just as good as he's ever been. Manning will have to do much more treacherous things than throwing three early INTs on a ball-hawking defense for there to be any sort of question as to who the Broncos should start under center.
And even if Manning's reached the end of his prime and is slowly receding, a bad game by him can still potentially be one of the best performances of the week and far superior to a rookie of Osweiler's caliber.
It's interesting, nonetheless, that Fox may have been opting to go with Osweiler in a play that would've decide the game. After the efforts John Elway put in to bring Manning to Denver and help win a Super Bowl, don't expect Elway to look much into his receding arm strength or even consider the possibility of a premature retirement.
And while that may be a good thing for Manning this year and his chances of starting for many more, could it be a bad thing for Denver's long-term success?
-- Steven Cook is a TNT breaking news writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.
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