Peyton Manning: Broncos QB Needs Supporting Cast and Defense to Step Up

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 7:   Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos reacts after his team fumbled in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on October 7, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

What more should Peyton Manning do to help the Denver Broncos win?

Should he run the ball, too? Maybe play pass defense? Start blocking defensive linemen perhaps?

I ask because Manning did just about everything he could to lead his team to a win on Sunday against the New England Patriots, and the Broncos still lost 31-21. He finished 31-of-44 for 345 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He did fumble once, but in general, he was spectacular.

His supporting cast let him down.

Demaryius Thomas fumbled in the red zone after a long pass. Willis McGahee dropped a 4th-and-1 pass that would have given the team a vital conversion in the fourth quarter then fumbled the ball in the red zone with the team down 10 points.

Manning put the Broncos in position to overcome a 31-7 deficit with just over a quarter to play, but the team wasn't up to the task.

Of course, that brings to mind another issue with this team—why was it down 31-7 in the first place?

In three losses this year, the Broncos have given up 27 points (Atlanta Falcons) and 31 twice (Patriots, Houston Texans). Granted, those are three of the top teams in football this season, but wasn't this defense supposed to be one of the NFL's best this year?

That hasn't quite come to fruition. The Patriots ran—yes, ran—for 251 yards on Sunday. While this newfound running attack in New England makes the Pats incredibly difficult to defend, allowing them to rush for 251 yards simply isn't acceptable. 

And despite a defense that was overmatched and a 31-7 deficit, Manning still had this team in a position to make the comeback.

Now, I'm not saying that No. 18 has been perfect this year. His three interceptions in the first half against Atlanta—by the way, the only three he's thrown this year—killed the Broncos in that game. His 50 percent completion percentage against the Texans was disappointing, even considering how good that defense is.

But in general, Manning has been, well, Manning-esque this season. He's living up to his end of the bargain. 

Now, I'll grant his supporting cast and the defense a caveat—the schedule has been brutal thus far. Along with the three losses listed above, they also opened with a win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The schedule gets much easier after this.

Next week is key, with a trip to San Diego on Monday Night Football to take on the AFC West-leading Chargers before the bye hits. Win over the Chargers, and we'll forgive Thomas, McGahee and the defense for Sunday's letdowns.

Lose again, and maybe it's time to start asking Manning to catch, carry, block and tackle, too.

Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets know when to apply the infield fly rule.

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