Broncos vs. Texans: 8 Takeaways from Denver's 37-13 Victory over Houston
Along the way, Peyton Manning broke the single-season touchdown mark with his 51st touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter. It capped off a performance that saw Manning throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns.
Denver struggled to put away Houston until the fourth quarter, when Broncos safety Mike Adams picked off a Matt Schaub pass. Two plays later, Peyton threw his 49th touchdown pass of the season. From that point on, it was all Broncos.
Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno went over 1,000 yards on the season for the first time in his career, while Broncos receiver Eric Decker had 10 catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
All was well in Week 16 for the Broncos. Here are eight takeaways from Denver's 12th victory of the season.
Peyton Manning Breaks Single-Season Touchdown Record
Peyton Manning was excellent in this game. He's been excellent all season. Hell, he's been excellent throughout his entire career.
The Broncos did struggle to put away the league's worst team up until the fourth quarter. Most of Manning's passing yards were for naught, because the Broncos failed to punch it in the end zone on countless drives before Mike Adams' interception. However, it still doesn't take away from the fact that Manning now holds sole possession of the NFL single-season touchdown mark.
With 51 touchdown passes, Manning will end the season with the most touchdown passes of any quarterback in a single season in NFL history, regardless of what happens in Week 17 at Oakland.
Peyton came out gunning from the very beginning, ending the first half with 32 passes attempted. He finished with 51 attempts for the entire game.
From an individual standpoint, congrats to Manning on breaking the record in just his 15th game of the season.
From a team standpoint, the Broncos can head into Week 17 without worrying about their record anymore. The only thing that should be on the Broncos' minds next weekend is clinching the AFC's top seed.
Broncos' Lack of Offensive Balance a Concern
Maybe the Broncos just got caught up in the whole single-season touchdown record mark. It seemed from the very beginning that Peyton Manning and the Broncos were on a quest to break the record in this game so they wouldn't have to worry about it in Week 17.
But over the last few weeks, the Broncos have struggled to find balance on offense.
When the running game excelled in New England, as Knowshon Moreno ran for over 200 yards versus the Patriots, Manning struggled while passing for just 150 yards in the 34-31 loss. In Denver's 27-20 loss to San Diego, Moreno carried the football for just 19 yards, while Manning threw for 289 yards on 41 passing attempts.
All week long, the Broncos preached how offensive balance would be key entering the playoffs.
You see teams that make it to the championship, (and) they're running the football. That is something that, we've got some good backs, we've got a good offensive line and we've been making strides every week. So that's a focus of ours.
Even Manning preached how important offensive balance was leading into this week's game:
We talk about balance, but we talk about effective balance. It's one thing to have the equal amount of runs and passes, but if one is doing well and one is not getting much production, that really isn't effective balance. It'd be nice to get that balance. The coaches have pointed that out to us, and that is something we would like to fix this week.
Moreno would end the game with 11 carries for 76 yards, with Montee Ball chiming in four carries for 32 yards.
When Denver's running backs were given a chance to run the football, however, they ran it well. With the Broncos leading just 16-13 early on in the fourth quarter, and with the offense failing to move the football for an entire quarter, it was a bit perplexing as to why the Broncos chose to pass so often with Manning.
Of course, Broncos safety Mike Adams picked off Matt Schaub in Denver territory, and Manning would go on to throw for three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to make it a moot point.
Having said that, if the Broncos are to beat elite teams in the postseason, they can't stubbornly rely upon the passing game as they did today against the worst team in the NFL.
As mentioned before, maybe the touchdown record had something to do with it. But if the Broncos are to rely on Manning the way they did today and last week versus San Diego, the 2013 season will not end well for them.
The Broncos Are an Offensive Juggernaut
Peyton Manning now holds the single-season touchdown record. He'll need 266 passing yards in Week 17 in order to best Drew Brees' single-season record for passing yards (5,476 yards), and he'll need 34 completions to best Brees' single-season record for completions (468).
To top things off, the Broncos need just 19 points in their game at Oakland in order to break the single-season mark for points scored by a team (589), held by the 2007 New England Patriots.
I think it's safe to say the 2013 Denver Broncos are the most dominant offensive team in NFL history.
Knowshon Moreno Eclipses 1,000 Yards for First Time in Career
Lost in Peyton Manning's record-breaking 2013 NFL season has been the play of Knowshon Moreno.
A former first-round draft pick of the Josh McDaniels regime in 2009, Moreno was considered a bust before the season began. In fact, many people thought he would be, at best, Denver's No. 3 running back this season, behind Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman.
It's been the exact opposite, as Moreno has established himself as Denver's No. 1 running back and has had one of the better seasons of any running back in the NFL. His 12 touchdowns entering this game were good enough to be within the top five spots of any running back or receiver in the entire league.
With an 18-yard run in the fourth quarter, Moreno eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing in a single season for the first time in his NFL career.
A 17-yard reception on a screen pass earlier in the game also gave Moreno over 500 yards receiving on the season.
Although the former first-round draft pick won't ever receive much attention because of the play of Manning and the Broncos receivers, without Moreno's contributions, the Broncos wouldn't be the offense they are today.
Champ Bailey Returns, Von Miller Leaves with Knee Injury
For the first time all season, Broncos fans can feel comfortable that Champ Bailey played an entire game without any lingering effects from his foot injury.
In making just his fourth appearance of the season, Bailey played most of the game as Denver's nickel corner, while Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris Jr. started the game.
With that good news, there comes bad news: Von Miller left the game with a knee injury.
Miller suffered a knee injury in the first half and was ruled out for the rest of the game at halftime. The severity of Miller's injury is not yet known, but considering Denver's defensive struggles throughout the 2013 season, the Broncos need to be at full health before they begin their postseason run in three weeks.
Broncos Struggling with Penalties
Again, considering the Broncos won their 12th game of the season, clinched their third straight AFC West division title for the first time in franchise history and secured a first-round bye due to their 37-13 victory over Houston, you would think that this game was filled with nothing but positives.
But that couldn't be further from the truth.
A week after six penalties cost the Broncos their game against San Diego, penalties were again an issue against Houston. The Broncos had eight penalties on the day, costing them 67 yards in the process. Seven of these penalties were committed in the first half.
Yes, the Broncos won today. Yes, if the Broncos win next week, they will be the AFC's No. 1 seed for the second straight season.
But if the Broncos continue to have issues with penalties and other minor things that can easily be corrected, the Broncos won't be winning games in January.
Trindon Holliday Fumbles Again
Yet another issue that will be overlooked because everything is going well for the Broncos (for this week at least) is the fact that Trindon Hollliday continues to struggle with his return-man duties.
On a punt return in the fourth quarter, the speedy return man muffed the punt and luckily recovered his own fumble. Had the Broncos lost the fumble, the play would have been called back due to offensive holding by Texans player Eddie Pleasant.
Having said that, however, this is a recurring issue that needs to be fixed if the Broncos are to advance in the postseason for the first time in the Peyton Manning era. Holliday has struggled with fumbles throughout his career, including this season (four fumbles, two lost).
The Broncos can afford fumbles such as these against the Texans, but they cannot against teams such as the Patriots in January.
The Broncos Can Clinch the AFC's No. 1 Seed in Week 17 with Win
After all of the hoopla surrounding Peyton Manning's record-breaking touchdown pass to Julius Thomas in Denver's 37-13 victory over Houston, and in spite of a few negatives that Denver displayed in their victory, the bottom line is this: the Broncos can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a victory over the Raiders in Oakland next week.
Although clinching the AFC's No. 1 seed does not guarantee that the Broncos will advance to the Super Bowl, home-field advantage would certainly help Denver's quest in hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.