It was another victory and another tale of two halves for the Denver Broncos.
Much like last week when they trailed the Baltimore Ravens 17-14 at the half before pulling away, the Broncos were clinging to a 10-9 halftime lead Sunday against the New York Giants. Denver actually was in danger of going into the locker room down at least 12-10 until an Eli Manning interception gave the Broncos the ball back with seconds left in the first half.
When the second half started, much like the Ravens again, the Broncos poured it on and never looked back. Denver blew out the Giants 41-23 to win their 13th consecutive regular season game. Last week, the Broncos also romped over the Ravens 49-27 on the strength of seven Peyton Manning touchdown passes.
For two weeks in a row now, Denver has turned a small lead or deficit at the half and turned it into a blowout victory. In the first half thus far in 2013, the Broncos have been outscored by opponents 26-24. The second half is a little more lopsided in the Broncos' favor as Denver has blown out opponents 66-24. To put that in perspective, the Green Bay Packers have scored 66 points total in both games and they have scored the second most points in the NFL behind the Broncos.
With those stats in mind, what exactly have coach John Fox and his staff been doing in the locker room during halftime?
It’s near impossible to tell for certain unless you are in the room, but one can speculate just by comparing the second halves of both games so far in the 2013 regular season. Both contests have seen similarities as well as differences.
One common denominator in the second half against both the Ravens and the Giants has been an increase in pressure placed upon the opposing quarterback by defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Denver struggled to get much pressure on Manning at all in the first half against New York on Sunday, but things changed when the teams came out of the locker room after halftime.
After being able to pick apart the Denver defense with relative ease in the first half (late interception aside) Manning had Broncos defenders in his face consistently for the rest of the game. He was only sacked once, but the pressure got to him enough that it forced him to throw a career high-tying four interceptions that ultimately doomed the Giants.
The same was true against the Ravens and though Joe Flacco’s two interceptions came in the first half, the increased pressure in the second half essentially shut the Baltimore offense down and allowed Peyton Manning to go off for the record seven touchdown passes.
The other factor both contests had in common is the obvious influence of the Broncos’ starting quarterback. Peyton Manning’s football mind is well-documented and he has always been a strong second-half quarterback dating back to his time with the Indianapolis Colts. With a full half worth of pictures he’s usually able to diagnose what teams are doing and how to properly adjust in the second half.
That’s where the big difference between the two contests comes into play. Peyton Manning will do what it takes to win, even if it means the passing game playing more of a secondary role. Against the Ravens, the Broncos adjusted their offense heavily around the pass and Peyton Manning tied an NFL record.
Against the Giants, meanwhile, Denver wore the Giants down with the run. Running back Knowshon Moreno had his best afternoon in a long time, rushing for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. It was awfully reminiscent of the Mike Shanahan-coached Broncos of the late 1990s and early 2000s and that is an encouraging sight for Denver fans.
If Moreno can continue to put together solid games, the Broncos will have a nice complement to the Peyton Manning-led passing attack that is amongst the most stout in the league. In fact, when Broncos receivers struggled to catch the ball at times against New York, Moreno was able to keep the Denver offense rolling.
Again, the Broncos showed enough sense at halftime to make the appropriate adjustments and it won them their second straight regular season game going away. It’s not the heart-stopping excitement the 2011 team had, and Broncos fans are thankful for that. If Denver is ever able to put a full 60-minute game together, they are going to be incredibly tough to beat.
Of course, as the Broncos know, Super Bowl titles are not won in September. It’s going to take all 16 games to put them in position to get back to MetLife Stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII. After that, anything can happen in the playoffs.
It’s only a two-game sample, but the Broncos and their fans have to be encouraged by what they've seen from their team, especially when the chips were down in the second half.
The 2013 season is only an eighth of the way finished for Denver. What the next seven-eighths show should be a lot of fun to watch.