Examining Peyton Manning's and the Denver Broncos' Aerial Success This Season

Jon Heath@http://twitter.com/JonHeathNFLContributor IJanuary 6, 2013

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 30: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos run off the field after a score during a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 30, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 38-3. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

In 2012, the Denver Broncos had the fourth-ranked offense in the NFL while their quarterback, Peyton Manning, broke single-season franchise records for completions (400), yards (4,659) and touchdowns (37).

The Broncos' offense found success through a balanced attack this season (averaging 283.4 passing yards and 114.5 rushing yards per game), but this article will focus on their aerial assault.

Peyton's arm is not as strong as it used to be, but his first season in Denver appears to have been just as successful as his final years in Indianapolis, when he threw for 9,200 yards and 66 touchdowns in his final two seasons.  At his current pace, Manning is on track to throw for 9,318 yards and 74 touchdowns through his first two seasons in Denver.

This season, Peyton has found success by spreading the football around to his most dangerous weapons.

Getting the ball out of his hand quickly, Manning has allowed his receivers to make plays in 2012, giving the Broncos their first pair of 1,000-yard receivers (Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker) since the 2004 season (Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie).

In the play above from Week 1, Manning reads that Pittsburgh is sending a blitz and the Broncos have the perfect play to counter it.

Thomas runs a short dig and starts coming back to the quarterback while Manning gets the ball out of his hand quickly, beating the blitz and giving Thomas and opportunity to make a big play.

Once Thomas has the ball in his hands, the blocking is set up and well and Demaryius has a straight shot to the end zone.

Thomas ran 71 yards untouched for a score. That's 71 passing yards for Peyton and 71 passing yards for Denver's offense.

Not all of Manning's 4,659 yards came this way, but having receivers capable of making big plays proved to be a deadly combination in Denver.


Another key to Denver's passing game this season has been timing. In the play above, wide receiver Eric Decker runs a 15-yard comeback.


Before Decker even turns for the football, Manning is making his release. Once again, Peyton has gotten the ball out of his hand quickly, allowing his receiver to make a play, this time for a first down.

The Broncos' balanced offensive attack has been led by Manning this season, but receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are the ones that have done the dirty work. An experienced, smart quarterback, Peyton knows where Thomas and Decker need to be in order to make plays. When the pair of young receivers do their part, Peyton does his.

The result has been a dangerous aerial attack. Watch for that to continue next weekend during the divisional round of the AFC playoffs in Denver.