Week 1 - 09/07/14
Time: 6:30 PM MDT
Location: Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Line: Broncos -8
Colts: 0-0 (T-1st AFC South)
Broncos: 0-0 (T-1st AFC West)
Regular Season- Tied 11-11
Playoffs- Colts lead 2-0
At Denver- Broncos lead 6-3
Broncos: 08/28/14 @ Dallas Cowboys. Won 27-3 as both teams' backups and those on the roster bubble played in place of the starters. The Broncos defense, regardless of who was playing, continued their solid play by denying the Cowboys entry into the endzone. Brock Osweiler concluded the best preseason of his three year career by throwing 9-of-13 for 190 yards.
Colts: 08/28/14 - Cincinnati Bengals. Lost 35-7 as the Colts concluded a winless preseason. The Colts' reserves managed just 186 yards of total offense against the Bengals.
Last Time Met: 10/20/13 at Colts. Broncos lost 39-33 in an emotional homecoming for Peyton Manning as he returned to Lucas Oil Stadium, the house his success built. The Broncos entered the Week 7 matchup undefeated at 6-0 and one of two teams in the NFL still undefeated (Kansas City Chiefs). A 90-second video tribute for Manning was followed by a standing ovation that lasted minutes during pregame warmups.
Once the game began it was Colts' linebacker Robert Mathis who greeted Manning with two of the Colts' four sacks of the Broncos' quarterback. Mathis also slapped the ball out of Manning's hand and into the endzone for a safety.
The Broncos defense had a nightmarish second half as mental errors resulted in several penalties that kept drives alive for the Colts' offense. Fumbles also added to the Broncos' woes as former kick returner Trindon Holliday fumbled two kick returns, losing one that resulted in a Colt's touchdown. With 3:03 remaining in the game and down 39-30, running back Ronnie Hillman committed a costly fumble on the Colts' two yard line that killed a potential touchdown for the Broncos.
Manning threw 386 yards with a touchdown and interception while Andrew Luck threw for just 228 yards but also connected on three touchdowns. The Broncos defense was able to sack Luck twice in the game.
Manning admitted that it was an emotional homecoming but any future meetings shouldn't carry the same emotional overtones.
"I think if there is a next time it may be a little bit easier," said Manning following the game. "Just because it was somewhat of an emotional week and it can be a little bit draining, I will say that."
|Yards Per Play||5.9||4.7|
|Red Zone (Made-Att)||3-5||3-4|
|Time of Possession||28:13||31:47|
|CB||Chris Harris Jr.||Knee||Probable|
|DE||Malik Jackson||Non-Injury Related||Probable|
|LB||Danny Trevathan||Lower Leg||Out|
What To Look For As The Broncos Play The Colts:
Both teams enter this game with high hopes for the postseason. Despite it being only Week 1, this game has implications for AFC playoff seeding and home field advantage.
Broncos Offense Minus Wes Welker
Going into the first week of the season without WR Wes Welker was a possibility the Broncos had to have prepared for following Welker's third concussion in the last 10 months that came in the preseason game against the Houston Texans on August 23.
Now that Welker has been suspended for four games following his failed drug test for amphetamines, the Broncos will have to put the non-Welker offensive game plan into play against the Colts. That game plan will see TE Jacob Tamme and WR Emmanuel Sanders occupy the slot position with TE Julius Thomas possibly sliding into the slot on third downs. Manning and Tamme have built a tight bond having played with each other for years, dating back to their Colts days. Sanders played the slot while with the Pittsburgh Steelers and showed his potential during the two touchdown explosion in the final two minutes of the game against the Texans. Having Thomas bring his 6'5", 247 lb frame through the slot on third downs has to be an exciting possibilty for Manning and the Broncos as the potential for matchup problems with linebackers is an appealing idea.
Debut of the Miller/Ware Pass Rush
In last year's game between the Broncos and Colts it was Peyton Manning who had to deal with a Colts pass rush that was non-stop and constantly in his face. Andrew Luck had a minimal pass rush from the Broncos that included Von Miller who was returning from a six game suspension overweight and rusty.
This year, Colts' linebacker Robert Mathis is suspended and Luck will be facing a Broncos pass rush that just might be the best in franchise history. The Colts offensive line is also banged up with guard Joe Reitz out, center Khaled Holmes questionable and backup center Jonotthan Harrison probable but nursing a hand injury. Andrew Luck has described the condition of his offensive line as being "like a horror movie." Not a good sign when you are depending on your line to protect you against the likes of Miller and his new pass rushing partner, DeMarcus Ware.
Shutting Down The Colts Running Game
With the injuries on the offensive line, it doesn't appear that Sunday night will be the right time for Trent Richardson to get it going at running back. Not only will Richardson have to deal with defensive tackle Terrence Knighton, "Pot Roast" was the Broncos most effective defensive lineman last season, he will have to deal with newly acquired costless agent safety T.J. Ward which is not a pleasant prospect for anyone. Ward developed a reputation with the Cleveland Browns as one of the hardest hitting safeties in the league. If Richardson is able to break past Knighton on the line, he will have to avoid the oncoming collision from Ward. Fantasy players may want to avoid playing Richardson this week.
Broncos Running Game
All offseason the Broncos have been talking about involving the running game more in their pass-heavy offense, especially in short yardage situations at the goal line and to chew up the clock when they own a lead. The Broncos' stable of running backs contains young, inexperienced runners who are full of potential.
Montee Ball will start for the Broncos in place of Knowshon Moreno. Last year against the Colts, Moreno managed just 40 yards on 15 carries. Ball, coming off emergency appendedctomy surgery that kept him out of the first two preseason games an limited him to just one series in the third, will be challenged up the middle by Colts linebacker Jerrell Freeman. Freeman led the Colts in tackles last season with 126 and looks to be just as good this season. The Broncos offensive line is healthy with the return of Ryan Clady and will look to overpower the Colts defensive line to open holes for Ball to get into the secondary.
Hillman experienced fumbling issues last season that led head coach John Fox put him on the inactive list. Hillman had a costly fumble on the Colts two yard line that kept the Broncos from scoring a critical touchdown with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter. This season, Hillman is second on the depth chart and is expected to see action as the changeup to Ball. If Hillman once again suffers from fumbleitis, C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson will step up to take his place.
#18 Peyton Manning
Coming off a record breaking season, the question around the country is whether or not Manning will match his 2013 output. With a defense that seems poised to win games, not just rely on Manning to bail them out, there isn't the pressure to throw 50+ touchdowns in 2014.
The Broncos are coming off a Super Bowl loss and history hasn't been kind to the losers. The last team to win the Super Bowl following a loss is the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins have won the Super Bowl after losing it the previous year. However, the Broncos didn't lose their core players in the offseason like losing teams in the past who have gone through rebuilding years after losing the big game. In fact, the Broncos went out and acquired All-Pro talent to strengthen their weaknesses. Coming off a record breaking season in 2013, the Broncos look to make more history in 2014.
|Passing the ball||X||Manning is a record setting passer plus the Broncos have a better defensive secondary.|
|Running the ball||X||The Broncos' offensive line is healthy, unlike the Colts. Even though Ball is young, he is a better runner right now than the underachieving Richardson.|
|Pass Rush||X||The Colts head into Sunday night minus Mathis who has been suspended while the Broncos may be putting their best pass rushing tandem ever on the field in Miller and Ware.|
|Secondary||X||The Broncos augmented their secondary with the additions of T.J. Ward at safety, Aqib Talib at corner, return their best corner last year in Chris Harris Jr., and drafted cornerback Bradley Roby in the first round.|
|Special Teams||X||The Broncos have rookies starting at kicker and returner while the Colts have a playoff tested veteran at kicker by the name of Adam Vinatieri. If the Colts were able to keep up with the Broncos offense and force the game into a last second field goal, you would have to like their chances.|
|Head Coach||X||Broncos head coach John Fox has been to the Super Bowl with two teams in his career and in his last three seasons has coached the Broncos to three division titles and a trip to the Super Bowl.|