Broncos vs. Giants: 8 Takeaways from Denver's 41-23 Victory over New York
Although it took a bit of time for the offense to get going after entering halftime with just a 10-9 lead, the Broncos exploded for 31 second-half points, continuing a trend from last season of being the definition of a "second-half team."
The passing game clicked as Peyton Manning threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns. The four-time NFL MVP has now thrown for nine touchdowns as opposed to zero interceptions through the first two weeks of the season.
The running game finally added another dimension to the offense, as Knowshon Moreno emerged as the front-runner to remain the Broncos' starting running back. The fifth-year veteran ran for 93 yards and two touchdowns in helping the Broncos pull away from the Giants in the second half.
The defense gave Eli Manning fits all game as the Giants quarterback struggled to punch it in the end zone. Eli failed to throw a passing touchdown until late in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach. He threw four interceptions to the Broncos secondary.
For the second straight week, the Broncos pulled off an impressive victory versus a solid team. What are some takeaways following the Broncos' 41-23 victory over the Giants at the Meadowlands?
The Denver Broncos Are a Second-Half Team
The Denver Broncos entered halftime in their victory over the Baltimore Ravens down 17-14. They ended up outscoring the defending Super Bowl champs 35-10 in the second half for a final score of 49-27.
Fast-forward a week later, and the results were similar—the Broncos entered halftime up 10-9 versus the Giants. They finished the Giants off by outscoring them 31-14 in the second half for a final score of 41-23.
The Broncos had a reputation of being a second-half team in 2012. Through the first two weeks of the 2013 season, it looks like the Broncos will be continuing that trend.
After Sunday's victory over the Giants, the Broncos are now riding a 13-game regular-season winning streak.
Julius Thomas Is Here to Stay
For those fantasy football owners who thought Julius Thomas' Week 1 performance was a fluke, think again.
The third-year tight end was once again a prominent weapon in the Broncos passing attack, catching six passes for 47 yards and a touchdown that helped put the Broncos up 31-16. His nine targets were the second-most on the team.
With opposing secondaries keying in on Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, it may be near impossible for any opposing defense to shut down the Broncos passing attack with so many potent receiving weapons.
The Secondary Is Superb
The Broncos secondary played for the second straight week without 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey.
And for the second straight week, it looked just fine.
In fact, it looked superb.
The defense limited Eli Manning to just a touchdown on 49 passing attempts while forcing the two-time Super Bowl MVP to throw four interceptions. The Giants went 1-of-11 on third-down conversions.
The Giants were in the red zone three times, and they finished just one of those drives with a score.
With the Giants threatening in Broncos territory on four different occasions in the first half, they came out with just nine points—three field goals and an interception at the end of the first half.
Four of the five top defensive backs in Denver's secondary had an interception—Chris Harris Jr., Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Rahim Moore and Tony Carter.
In spite of not having Von Miller or Bailey present in the first two games, the defense is doing just fine without its top two defensive stars.
Knowshon Moreno Is the Best Bet at Running Back
Despite missing most of OTAs recovering from offseason knee surgery and in spite of receiving reps mostly with the backup offenses throughout the preseason, Knowshon Moreno has emerged as the Broncos' most reliable running back out of the backfield.
The veteran running back paced the Broncos rushing attack by rushing for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. In comparison, his rookie counterpart—Montee Ball—carried the ball 12 times for 16 yards and a fumble in the end zone.
Although it seemed unlikely just a month ago, Moreno is the Broncos' best bet at running back.
Peyton Manning May Win His Fifth MVP Award
Peyton Manning did not throw for seven touchdowns in Week 2, which means he is no longer on track to throw for 112 touchdowns in a single season.
However, he threw another couple touchdowns versus the Giants without any interceptions, which means he is now on track to throw for 72 touchdowns on the season.
OK, it's safe to assume Manning won't keep up this record-setting pace (72 touchdowns that is), but it is reasonable to come to one conclusion—Manning may just win his fifth MVP award in 2013.
With the Broncos playing dominating football on both sides—without Von Miller and Champ Bailey—and with the number of receiving weapons Manning has at his disposal, would you really bet against Manning knowing his track record?
When One Receiver Fails, Another Picks Up the Slack
The Broncos' receivers didn't have a field day like they did against the Ravens.
No receiver had a 100-yard game or a two-touchdown effort.
However, Peyton Manning still threw for over 300 yards.
Eric Decker led the team with nine receptions for 87 yards. Demaryius Thomas had five grabs for 52 yards. Julius Thomas had six receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown. Wes Welker had three catches for 39 yards and a score.
That is the scary thing about this offense—although none of the Broncos' receivers had an overly impressive game, all four contributed in some way.
If you slow one down, the other just picks up the slack.
The Secondary Is Hungry
Although I've already mentioned how well the secondary has played in Champ Bailey's absence, let's take a step back and look at the Broncos' cast of players in the secondary.
The five defensive backs who played key roles in both victories over the Ravens and the Giants are the following: Rahim Moore, Duke Ihenacho, Tony Carter, Chris Harris Jr. and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Moore is the Broncos' starting free safety. Although he was a second-round draft choice two years ago, he has faced more scrutiny than any Broncos player in recent history—his gaffe in the divisional playoffs versus the Ravens cost the Broncos a chance at advancing to the AFC Championship Game.
Ihenacho, Carter and Harris Jr. are all undrafted free agents who had to fight their way just to make the Broncos roster in recent years.
Cromartie was a Pro Bowl selection a few years ago but went through a rough two-year stretch with the Philadelphia Eagles that saw him go from a young Pro Bowl cornerback to a young cornerback bust.
The point stands—all five of these guys have faced adversity in their NFL careers. And the great thing about it is, they all play with ruthless aggression.
This may be the best Denver secondary we've seen since the new millennium began.
The Broncos Are the Best Team in the AFC
It's only two weeks into the season, but the Broncos have to be considered the AFC's team to beat.
The Ravens are struggling to formulate a passing attack. The Texans struggled to beat a mediocre Titans team. The Patriots have no offensive identity as Tom Brady looks to make Julian Edelman the next Wes Welker.
The Broncos are riding a 13-game regular-season winning streak, and if it wasn't for one of the most unlikely gaffes in NFL history (sorry, Rahim Moore), we're possibly talking about the Broncos as defending Super Bowl champions on the verge of creating a dynasty.
There's no question the Broncos will enter the playoffs. There's a good chance they'll enter it as the AFC's No. 1 seed for the second straight season.
The question is, what team in the AFC will be able to slow down this juggernaut?