The Denver Broncos bullied the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night with 530 yards of offense and stamped out any possible opposition with a stifling defense that knocked around Drew Brees. The end result was a 34-14 victory that gives the Broncos sole possession of first place in the AFC West at 4-3.
The win also makes a statement to the rest of the NFL that the Broncos can win with the pass, run or defense. The Broncos had 305 passing yards, 225 rushing yards and held the high-powered Saints to just 252 total yards.
Peyton Manning has proved that he’s not only back, but better than ever. At 36 years old, Manning is having a season that rivals his prime years. The last time Manning was this good he was throwing or handing the ball to Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, Brandon Stokley and Dallas Clark.
The Saints posed little difficulty for Manning as he had just eight incomplete passes, no sacks and three touchdowns. Manning’s teammates had numbers that would rival a video game. Demaryius Thomas had 137 yards and a touchdown and Eric Decker had 43 yards and two touchdowns.
The Broncos didn’t forget to mix the run into the game plan and Willis McGahee was having a nice night even before the Broncos used the ground game to run out the clock. Rookie running back Ronnie Hillman got his first extensive action and ran to the tune of 86 yards on 14 carries. McGahee finished with 23 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown.
There were other bright spots including three catches for 44 yards from tight end Virgil Green, and another impressive performance by the secondary without Tracy Porter.
Defensively, the Broncos didn’t respect the run and that enabled Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil to go after Drew Brees. The Broncos knocked Brees around, but they were only able to sack him once. Wesley Woodyard was the big standout with one sack, nine tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.
Brees would finish just 22-of-42 with 212 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The second touchdown came with just over three minutes in the fourth quarter when the Broncos had a huge lead and the game was clearly over. Brees hadn’t been held to so few passing yards since Week 17 of 2009, a span of 26 games including the playoffs.
If there’s one concern for the Broncos, it’s that they haven’t defeated a quality opponent. The Broncos defeated the Steelers, Chargers, Raiders and Saints, all of whom have a combined record of 12-16. The losses came at the hands of three very good teams with a combined record of 18-4.
Even the bad news comes with a silver lining as the only team left on Denver’s schedule with a winning record is the Baltimore Ravens, and the Broncos will not face them until Week 15. The rest of Denver’s schedule is a combined 17-40.