Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is in the midst of a legendary season. He broke Tom Brady's single-season record for touchdowns with 55 and followed that up by breaking Drew Brees' record for passing yards in a season.
But lost in the endless praise of Manning is the spectacular play of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Thomas is a critical component of the offense, and for the Broncos to have success in the postseason, they'll need to find ways to get the ball in the hands of No. 88 as much as possible.
Thomas has averaged 97.1 yards receiving in the Broncos' 13 wins this year. In their three losses? Just 56. He was also targeted 9.2 times per game in their wins versus just 7.6 in their losses. Getting Thomas heavily involved in the offense is essential for the Broncos to continue their success in the playoffs.
Thomas is coming off of another fantastic regular season in which he eclipsed 1400 yards receiving and 90 catches for the second straight year. He's caught 24 touchdowns in the last two years, tying him for second most in the NFL behind tight end Jimmy Graham.
"His size and strength and speed allow you to do certain things with him that other players just can't do," Manning told Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post.
At 6'3", 225 pounds with 4.38 speed, he'll present matchup problems for any team that the Broncos face in the playoffs. The Broncos will start with the San Diego Chargers, whom Thomas torched for 108 yards and three touchdowns back in Week 11. A repeat of that performance would go a long way toward earning the Broncos a spot in the AFC Championship game.
Thomas' numbers have exploded since Manning's arrival, but don't let Manning's continued dominance diminish what Thomas has become. He was No. 1 among receivers with 633 yards after the catch in 2013, and fourth in the same category in 2012 with 538. He's had a remarkable amount of success despite having to share targets with what is arguably the most elite group of receiving options in the NFL.
He's a dynamic playmaker who can turn innocuous looking screens into huge gains, and he can single-handedly alter coverages and burn defenses deep with his straight-line speed. He can break tackles with ease, and he's a willing blocker in the running game. Thomas is as complete of a wideout as you'll find in the NFL.
"I want to be one of those guys that isn't forgotten once I'm done. That's my main thing," Thomas told USA TODAY Sports.
If Thomas can continue to be the momentous force that he's been for the past two years in the playoffs, he'll take a huge step in building a permanent legacy for himself.
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