Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

January 25, 2014

Peyton Manning spreads the wealth in Denver

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary led by All-Pros Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas may be able to slow down, say, Demaryius Thomas, in the Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean Peyton Manning will have to tap the brakes on Denver’s Lamborghini offense.

Manning doesn’t have just one go-to receiver like most quarterbacks.

He has five.

The Seahawks will match up the NFL’s top pass defense this season against the best passing offense of all time in the Super Bowl at East Rutherford, N.J.

“That’s the matchup everybody is going to be talking about, Peyton Manning vs. the Legion of Boom,” Hall of Famer and Fox color analyst Troy Aikman said. “I’m excited to see it. That’s why I spoke about how disappointing it would be if conditions keep that part of it from happening the way we’d like to see because of the impact the weather may have on the passing game.”

Even if wintry weather curtails his passing prowess, Manning can downshift as easily as he can dial up a deep pass. With the bunch formations and picks and rubs that got under Bill Belichick’s skin, the turbo-charged Broncos have morphed into a yard-chewing, clock-eating machine in the playoffs.

With Manning dinking and dunking his way downfield, Denver’s three most time-consuming drives of the season have all come in the last two weeks, 7-minute masterpieces that rendered Philip Rivers and Tom Brady short-tempered sideline spectators to Manning’s magic.

He simply has more outlets than defenses have answers for.

“It’s hard to catch a break with him, catch a tendency or something that you can jump,” Sherman said of Manning, who sports a 40-1 TD-to-interception ratio in the red zone this season, including the playoffs — and that one interception bounced off his receiver’s chest, no less.

Of all the records Manning and the Broncos set this season, the one that stands out to Denver wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert is this: No team in NFL history ever had five players reach the end zone 10 or more times until Demaryius Thomas (14), Knowshon Moreno (13), Julius Thomas (12), Eric Decker (11) and Wes Welker (10) did it this season.

“That tells you about the players we have on our team, the way Peyton spreads the ball out, how anybody can score at any given time,” Tolbert said.

No other team has ever had more than three players hit double-digit TDs.

This quintet helped the Broncos break the once-unfathomable 600-point barrier and each of them also caught 60 or more passes. No team had ever had five players do that before, either.

Manning says his unprecedented 55 TD passes and 5,477 yards through the air are only temporary records which will be surpassed by Brady or Drew Brees in no time — or by any number of other quarterbacks if owners get their way and expand the regular season to 18 games. But Tolbert thinks the 5-10 guys have nothing to sweat.

The beauty of the Broncos’ offense is in its balance.

Manning targeted his three starting receivers almost identically: Demaryius Thomas (8.87 times a game), Welker (8.54), Decker (8.5). Julius Thomas, whose dozen scores broke Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe’s club record for tight ends, was targeted 6.42 times per game.

Take one away and another will burn you.

“Peyton doesn’t discriminate,” Decker said.

“He doesn’t force passes,” Demaryius Thomas said.

“He just takes what the defense gives him,” said Julius Thomas, the power forward-turned-tight end who caught 65 passes for 788 yards after catching just one pass in his first two seasons.

“He just goes down the line and finds whoever is singled up,” offensive coordinator Adam Gase said.

“Or whoever’s wide open,” suggested backup tight end Jacob Tamme, who was left all alone for a TD in Denver’s win over New England last week.

“Yeah, that’s the truth, we’ve got a lot of weapons on our offense,” said fellow fill-in Bubba Caldwell, who caught two TD passes against San Diego last month when Welker was sidelined. “If you shut down one guy, we’ve got like four or five other guys that we can go to at any other time.”

The common thread among Manning’s many targets, including Moreno, who had three TD catches to go with his 10 TD runs, is a refreshing unselfishness in an age where prima donnas so often demand passes and attention.

“To be an outstanding team, you have to be selfless, not selfish,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “I think that speaks to the character of those guys in that room. They don’t get all pouty about things like that.”

Manning wouldn’t put up with such shenanigans anyway.

“The only thing that makes all of us happy is if we win games, whether that’s blocking all day and having zero catches or whatever it is,” Welker said.

That’s what Decker did before breaking out for eight TDs in December, his blocks on screens springing Demaryius Thomas, who led the league’s receivers with 718 yards after the catch.

“Our whole group is like that and Decker knows that at any point in time that day can be your day,” Tolbert said. “Like when we went to Kansas City, I mean, who’d have thought he’d have four touchdowns? But any day a guy can go out there, it can be a receiver, it can be a tight end, it can be a running back, any day can be your day.”

1
Text Only
Local Sports
  • Grable signs with Tampa Bay

    Another former Valdosta State football player joined the ranks of the National Football League when linebacker Jeremy Grable signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday morning.

    July 23, 2014

  • MaryAlice.jpg Just Keep Running

    Forrest Gump once said, "I used to run to get to where I was going, but I never thought it would take me anywhere." In the case of 18 year-old Mary Alice Smoot, anywhere is Tampa, Fla.
    After four years of unparalleled success running cross-country at Valwood, Smoot will continue running competitively next season at the University of Tampa.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10U ELITE World Series Champs.jpg DKSA Elite win USSSA Global World Series

    DKSA ELITE just continues to win, the 10U team’s latest victory came in the USSSA Global World Series held in Destin, Fla. July 8-12.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lowndes_McPherson.jpg Milestones on tap for upcoming season

    Some milestones are destined to occur, like when Georgia Christian hosts David Emanuel on Aug. 22 in the Generals’ first varsity football game since the late 1960s.
    Others will have to wait and see what continues to take shape come Friday when teams can begin fall practice, and especially Aug. 1 when teams can suit up in pads for the first time, such as can Valdosta win its record 24th state title, or can Lowndes capture its fourth state championship under Randy McPherson, or can Valwood and coach Ashley Henderson play in its third straight GISA state championship game?
    As we start to find out the answers to those questions in just a few short weeks — the regular season is just 31 days away — there should be a few more milestones for area coaches to mark 2014 right along with the Generals getting back on the gridiron.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • ACC_Jimbo.jpg Back on top

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • ACC_Petrino.jpg Petrino returns to Louisville for first ACC season

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Braves_Marlins JUpton.jpg Jones lifts Marlins past Braves in 10

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ant Smith.JPG Anthony Smith ready for new test in college

    Smith was a three-year starter as a Wildcat and quickly worked his way up as a leader on both the defense and the team as a whole.

    July 21, 2014 3 Photos

  • Wildcats participate in national 7-on-7 tournament

    The Valdosta High Wildcats have been working extremely hard this summer to prepare for the football season. Summer workouts and a plethora of 7-on-7 tournaments and competitions have kept the Wildcats busy.

    July 20, 2014

  • Valwood.jpg A Different Look

    With football summer workouts in full swing, occasionally the intensity and competitive drive can wane going against teammates. But on Friday, Valwood, Brookwood, Lanier County and Tiftarea Academy broke up the monotony by meeting at Goddard Field for a four-team, 7-on-7 passing league.

    July 19, 2014 2 Photos

Blazers Blog
More