Denver out to avoid being on wrong side of history
Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels and a handful of his players were members of the New England Patriots when they set the NFL record with 21 straight regular season wins last year.
So, they must have added incentive to deny Indianapolis the record Sunday when the resurgent Denver Broncos (8-4) visit the steamrolling Colts (12-0), right?
McDaniels insists the only reason he wants to win is because it will put the Broncos closer to ending a three-year playoff drought.
But he certainly wouldn't mind carrying the banner for his friends back in Foxborough, Mass.
``I mean, my big focus this week is beating them because it will mean we're 9-4. And I think that's the most important thing for me, for our team,'' McDaniels insisted.
``If in some way it can derail history, then it is what it is.''
The Broncos have busted out of their slump with back-to-back wins over the Giants and Chiefs, whom they outscored by a combined 70-19. Those wins vaulted them to the top of the wild card race in the AFC, where they're looking down on the likes of Baltimore and Pittsburgh, two teams that manhandled them a month ago.
So, the team that shows up at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday should have a bit of a swagger.
It just won't match Indy's strut.
In extolling the Colts' many talents Monday, McDaniels painted a picture that even the most die-hard of Broncos fans will have a hard time sifting through to find slivers of hope.
``This is a very talented team that doesn't make mistakes, very well-coached, great organization,'' McDaniels began. ``I've had an opportunity to play against them a number of times at New England and it's always been a great challenge to get ready for them.''
Where to start?
``The offense of Peyton Manning and their ability to throw the ball and score a lot of points certainly poses a huge challenge,'' McDaniels said. ``Defensively, I think they're leading the league in points allowed. They get to the quarterback.''
McDaniels saved his most effusive praise for the Colts' special teams.
``They're fast. They do a great job of kicking the ball. They return the ball well. They cover well. They got great speed,'' he said. ``This is to me the ultimate complementary football team. They get ahead of you, and then they send the rushers at you. And they don't give up many big plays on defense, which forces you to go a long distance and run a lot of plays to score on them.''
Controlling the clock is no antidote, either.
Consider, on Sept. 21, Manning spent most of the night on the sideline but made the most of his chances in leading the Colts to a 27-23 win at Miami. The Colts had the ball for only 14:53, the lowest time of possession for a winning team in the NFL since 1977. They ran 35 plays to 84 for the Dolphins.
``It doesn't take them long to make big plays,'' McDaniels said.
And in this era of parity, the Colts are a throwback to a time when the NFL was like college football, where the rich get richer.
``They have one of the best receivers in all of football in Reggie Wayne. They have one of the best tight ends in football in Dallas Clark. They have one the best quarterbacks in football in Peyton Manning. I could go on and on,'' McDaniels said. ``And they're not even playing with (injured safety) Bob Sanders.''
The Broncos wouldn't seem to have a chance against such a stacked deck.
Then again, who thought back in the summer that the Broncos would go 6-0? Or have a shot at 12-4?
``We're peaking at the right time,'' running back Correll Buckhalter said after rumbling for 113 yards on just a dozen carries in the Broncos' 44-13 whipping of the Chiefs at Kansas City on Sunday. ``You want to start peaking in December in order to have a chance to do it in the playoffs, and that's what we're doing.''
Rookie Knowshon Moreno, who scored twice Sunday, has averaged 90 yards on the ground over the last month, finally putting up numbers befitting the top running back selected in the NFL draft.
``That two-headed monster in the backfield, they are running pretty hard,'' receiver Brandon Marshall said. The Broncos piled up 245 yards on the ground at Kansas City and also scored four TDs in six trips inside the 20, which has been their Achilles' heel all year.
Will the good vibes resonate into next week?
``Well, I hope so,'' quarterback Kyle Orton said. ``That's two good weeks in a row that we've put it together on offense. I think as a team, we played well for two weeks in a row and hopefully we can continue that momentum.''
Against a team that hasn't had a bad day itself in a long, long time.