In Beating Patriots, Osweiler Shuts Door on Peyton's Return, Maybe Forever

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterNovember 30, 2015

Nov 29, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) celebrates following the overtime against the New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 30-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In Denver, a star is born. Welcome, Brock Osweiler.

And goodbye, Peyton Manning.

This is the cruelty of sports, especially in football. It is a young man's game, and when one person enters the room, it usually means another is exiting.

All Osweiler did Sunday night in Denver was beat an undefeated Super Bowl champion. A wounded team, to be sure, but a team still piloted by Tom Brady and coached by Bill Belichick. Beating any Patriots team is no small feat. Beating New England is something Manning had a tough time doing.

Brock Osweiler outdueled Tom Brady. Read that sentence again. It is not a sentence you expect to see. Sort of like "Mariah Carey becomes an astronaut."

This is Osweiler's moment, but it would be short-sighted not to fast-forward to when Peyton Manning is healthy again and talk about what the Broncos will do. This is a no-brainer. This decision isn't tough at all. You stick with Osweiler. And my guess is that is what the Broncos will do.

Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

Gary Kubiak's offense simply runs better through Osweiler. If this was Manning five years ago that wouldn't be true. If it was Manning even one year ago, you'd take Manning. The truth is Manning's body is shot. He's aged in dog years.

If there's anything Sunday's 30-24 Broncos overtime win shows, it's that the Broncos should feel secure in turning the team over to Osweiler. Not next year or in a few. But now. Right now. He's ready.

"He's very composed," Kubiak said at his postgame news conference. "He handles himself very well. Even the turnover tonight didn't bother him. He just keeps going. He gives great feedback to me for a young player."

Kubiak added that in the Broncos' last drive in regulation, to take the lead, the Patriots' coverage twice dictated that Osweiler make certain throws, and Osweiler did. Overall he was 23-of-42 for 270 yards, one touchdown and a pick. On the team's final two drives, the one in regulation and the additional drive in overtime, Osweiler was 4-of-5 for 86 passing yards and a score.

"I'm not 2-0," Osweiler told NBC after the game of his starts. "The team is 2-0."

He even has the cliches down.

"I think Brock is taking advantage of an opportunity," Kubiak said. "In this league, you work, you work, you work, and you never know when an opportunity's going to come or how it's going to come."

The Broncos will say all the right things. So will Osweiler. They will say this is Manning's team. They will say Osweiler is a caretaker. He's learning. We love him but no one is Manning. They will say all of these things and they will likely mean none of them.

Truth is, there is a high probability that not only will we not see Manning play for the Broncos again, but we will also not see him play in the NFL again.

Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

At the beginning of the game, cameras caught pictures of Manning's foot in a boot and cast. It was impossible not to juxtapose those images with the news that Kobe Bryant is retiring at the end of this season.

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

"I finally had to accept the fact that I don't want to do this any more," Bryant said at his press conference, which ESPN carried live.

Every player eventually comes to that conclusion. Some are shoved out the door. Some get to pick when they leave. I get the feeling, after Osweiler's performance, Manning might be the former.

Bryant has looked like a different player in recent weeks—slower and broken. Aside from the one game where Manning looked fresh, after the bye week, he's also appeared like a player who should step away.

There are few times in sports when you can clearly see a page turn. Osweiler beat Brady and Belichick, knocking them from the unbeaten ranks in spectacular overtime fashion. I don't think Osweiler's performance was a fluke. I think we are seeing a special player grow right in front of us.

Everything has shifted in Denver.

Turn the page.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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