Denver Broncos: Week 13 Game Balls
The Denver Broncos did it. On the road, they defeated the Kansas City Chiefs to close out a clean 2-0 sweep of their division rival. It was a very impressive win. As a Bronco, Peyton Manning is 10-0 in divisional play.
It's not easy to win in Arrowhead Stadium. Especially when the Chiefs field a good team, like they have this year. It is in fact the loudest stadium in the NFL.
But that's not what makes this win so sweet. The fact that the Broncos had to overcome the loss of Julius Thomas, Derek Wolfe, Rahim Moore, and Kevin Vickerson in order to win this game, also makes this an impressive win.
The Chiefs were without starting outside linebacker and DPOY candidate, Justin Houston. But the Broncos were missing several starters on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball and they still were able to pull out the win.
The fact that they overcame a 21-7 1st half deficit is also cause to feel good about where the Broncos are as a team right now. Alex Smith and the Chiefs were moving the ball with ease in the 1st half, gashing the depleted Broncos' defense. Yet the Broncos' defense responded in the 2nd half.
Smith looked like a different player than he did early on this season. He was throwing the ball with precision and confidence. He played amazingly well, despite his goal line interception on their opening drive.
But Smith and company also got a boost from Knile Davis when he returned a 2nd quarter kickoff 108 yards for a TD.
Add to that the fact that Peyton Manning threw 2 INTs in the 1st half. The Broncos overcame some true adversity. On the road. The Kansas City Chiefs are a very good football team.
At 10-2, the Broncos are not only the sole possessors of 1st place in the AFC West, but also the #1 seed in the AFC. Over the next 4 weeks, they'll face the Tennessee Titans and San Diego Chargers at home and then they'll go on the road to play the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders.
I see 4 wins during that stretch, which means that the Broncos will likely finish the season at 14-2 and would then have the opportunity to host 2 playoff games. Win those and they'd make it to the Super Bowl in New York.
When you consider all of the adversity the Broncos have had to overcome this season, with the Elvis Dumervil faxgate fiasco, the D.U.I incidents of Matt Russell and Tom Heckart, the Von Miller suspension, losing Ryan Clady and Champ Bailey for most of the season, and then to top it off, losing head coach, John Fox, for a time, it really would be a remarkable feat to end up 14-2 and the #1 seed.
A lot of that credit goes to Peyton Manning obviously. But we can't discount the play of guys like Knowshon Moreno, Shaun Phillips, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Danny Trevathan, Julius Thomas, Chris Clark, Manny Ramirez, and the list goes on.
As V.P. of Football Operations, John Elway has accomplished an immensely difficult feat. Kudos to him.
And now the Broncos get their venerable head coach back for the last quarter of the season and a hopefully successful playoff run.
Game Ball: Montee Ball, running back
What a truly breakout performance by the rookie runner. He was benched last week for fumbling for the 3rd time this season and instead of getting down in the doldrums and losing his confidence, he came out and ripped off 117 yards on 13 carries. That's 9 YPC! He was a huge factor in Manning being able to torch the Chiefs' defense deep with play-action. If the young RB can continue to improve, he and Moreno will make a dangerous postseason duo.
Game Ball: Peyton Manning, quarterback.
Manning looked a little off to start the game. As mentioned above, he threw two INTs early, but he stormed back, throwing for 403 yards and 5 TDs. Manning tied his own personal Chiefs franchise record with those 5 TDs. No visiting QB has ever thrown for more TDs than that in Arrowhead. He also broke the Broncos single season TD record (37) that he set in 2012. He now has 41 on the year. 51 TDs is certainly in his sights.
Player of the Game: Eric Decker, wide receiver
Just when you think that Decker might be the odd man out in this offense, he goes off the chain with a big day. And what a day he had. It was a record breaking day for him too, as he broke the Broncos' team receiving TD record with 4. He absolutely owned which ever Chiefs DB lined up against him, whether it was the veteran cover corner, Brandon Flowers, or the talented rookie, Marcus Cooper. His final stat line on the day: 8 receptions, 174 yards, 4 TDs.
You can follow ProFootballSpot on Twitter @pfspot.
And you can follow Chad Jensen @CJ_BroncosPFS for continuing coverage of the Denver Broncos.