When Broncos fans read the term “rematch” up top, it’s safe to assume I’m previewing “Broncos vs. Seahawks part two”. However, that’s two weeks away. I’m speaking of Manning’s long awaited do-over in week one against Indy. Manning wants this matchup again more than you think…perhaps more than Seattle.
As we all know, the Broncos suffered a frustrating defeat against Indianapolis in week seven of last year. The Broncos couldn’t find their rhythm as the Colts’ defense disrupted the flow of Denver’s dynamic offense. As a result, the Denver “D” bent so much that they had no choice but to finally break. Meanwhile, Peyton’s predecessor Andrew Luck looked great, throwing three TD’s while also running for one more. Just as some may have feared, Peyton didn’t look as focused that night as he usually is on game days. Simply put, Peyton looked distracted.
He lacked the intensity his eyes usually carry in pre-game warm-ups and on the sideline as the camera gave him his customary primetime headshots. He looked like a player that was going through the motions: someone who arrived at Lucas Oil Stadium, but didn’t show up. After a week of downplaying the significance of his return to the place he called home for 14 years, the intense, stony Peyton we have come to know on game-days was unable to harness his emotions this time.
His timing was off, his decision making questionable, and overall he looked very uncomfortable in the pocket. Isn’t it ironic that the two games Peyton seemed most unprepared for last year happened to be the two biggest games of last season against Indy and Seattle? Those were also two games in which the Broncos accrued a safety. Coincidence? Analysts from all networks piled on all the hype and pressure to Andrew Luck last year leading up to “Manning vs. Luck”, but it seemed to be Peyton that was the only one feeling the heat.
One could tell Manning wanted so bad to stick it to his former squad, mainly Colts owner Jim Irsay for cutting ties with the future first ballet Hall of Famer. He had something to prove, but on that night Peyton underestimated the magnitude of what he would be returning to. The chip he carried on his shoulder going into that game last year vanished as Peyton realized that those fans still love him dearly and that competitive fire he is known for seemed to be blown out on that night. As all 67,000 plus fans in attendance stood on their feet applauding their beloved former QB, Peyton then seemed to understand Irsay made the tough decision to let Manning go because it was the best thing to do for that team; for those fans. And Luck was the perfect replacement.
So as we look ahead to Sunday’s primetime sequel, this time it will be much more than “Manning vs. Luck”. Peyton will be focused this time. Perhaps more focused and determined than we may think. After last year’s loss to Indy, Peyton said in his postgame interview that “Hopefully we’ll have a chance to play these guys again… I think if there is a next time it may be a little bit easier just because it was somewhat of an emotional week and it can be a little bit draining, I will say that (*CBS Sports).” Manning no question wants this rematch because the nerves are now out of the way and what better way to redeem yourself from a heartbreaking season than to begin with the game that left the first bad taste in your mouth?
The Colts and Irsay may have won the battle against Manning, but they sure haven’t won the war. Though Indy has a bright future with their promising young quarterback, they seem to be a couple years away from achieving something The Sheriff can accomplish this year: winning a Super Bowl. Manning his first year in Denver just wanted to prove he could still play at a high level. Last year he wanted to show he could not only play at high level, but also be PFM again. This year, Peyton wants to prove he can not only do those things, but also deliver when it counts and lift the “Best Regular Season Quarterback of All-Time” mantra from his resume. To do so, he must first survive the gauntlet that is this season. However, as we saw in the preseason game against Houston, Manning is up for the challenge.
There is a saying that’s been going around the sports networks when describing the Seahawks and their chance to repeat: “It’s easier to be the hunter, than the hunted”. Denver arguably should be the ones being hunted at this point, but injuries and a better team got the best of them last year. With that being said, things actually seem meant to be at this point. Immediately after Denver lost the Super Bowl, the Broncos’ Executive Vice President and GM John Elway made it clear this team needs to get tougher to seal the deal this time around. They did that by bringing in guys like Ward, Ware, and Talib while also adding valuable pieces back to the lineup in guys like Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. The most important addition however, may be Manning.
Not the Manning of the past two years, but the Manning we saw versus Houston. The one that got in D.J. Swearinger’s face for injuring one of his receivers. This Peyton seems to be more than just all business. There’s an attitude and a fire that exists within him and this team and they’re sending a statement early that they won’t be afraid to mix it up and take what they want. And after the Seahawks dismantled the Packers on Thursday, it looks as if Denver will need all the ”nasty” and “grit” they have to be able to go toe-to-toe with the defending Super Bowl champs.
But, before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s get back to game one. Denver is poised to showcase their attitude adjustment and their new additions and what better team to unleash these on than Indy? As I said earlier in this column, Peyton wants this game badly and it will be the first step in ensuring this team has what it takes to accomplish what they want.
Now some of you may be shaking your head thinking there is no way Manning wants this rematch more than Seattle. Here is why I disagree. No doubt Manning and all the players still on this roster from last year’s Super Bowl embarrassment want another crack at the Seahawks, not just to show they’re a worthy opponent, but also to heal their pride. The reason I believe Manning may want this game just as bad, if not a little bit more than Seattle, is because this game with the Colts actually means something to him personally. We know it and Manning himself admitted in that post-game interview last year he was distracted by the emotions that came with his return to Indy. Therefore, Manning was not able to showcase what Irsay ultimately decided to cut loose.
Peyton still has some pride toward being let go and he wants to make sure Irsay knows that. Of course the Seattle game means something to him and this team for the reasons I listed a few sentences ago, but it’s basically for the same reason Peyton wants another crack at Indy: pride. That’s why I believe Manning wants this week one game just as bad, if not more because this one at least is more personal to him. Conversely, if the game against the Seahawks was a rematch for the ‘ship, then that’s a different story. Hence for now, to me the desire to play both seem equal, if it indeed doesn’t favor the Indy game.
Just one day away, football is finally back! Your Denver Broncos are on the #RoadToRedemption. It’s about that time again Broncos fans, the weather is changing and we all need to “Stand United in Orange” and claim what is rightfully ours. Let’s go get that third championship! And this time, Elway can repay the honor: “This one’s for Bowlen!”
Denver 27 – Indy 17
*Quote courtesy of http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/gametracker/recap/NFL_20131020_DEN@IND