Tom Brady and the New England Patriots orchestrated a comeback victory for the ages, as they overcame a 24 point deficit in the 2nd half to defeat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in overtime.
The Peyton Manning/Cold Weather narrative reared it's ugly head again last night. And it's a narrative, unfortunately, that won't go away until Manning makes it go away.
The New England Patriots stormed back from a 24-0 deficit to snatch victory from the clutches of the Denver Broncos in overtime. It was cold last night. And very windy.
In sub temperatures, Manning is 1-6. That's bad, folks. And it raises some genuine concerns for Bronco fans. The average temperature in Denver, CO in January is about 47 degrees. Now, that's not freezing, but it's a far cry from the comfy environs of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Provided the Broncos take care of business in the AFC West, which they will, they'll more than likely go into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the AFC. And that means the road to the Super Bowl will go through Denver, NOT New England, most likely.
We can safely assume that home weather conditions for the playoffs this coming January won't be ideal for Manning and the Broncos. And if they are able to win out, and that's a big IF, they'll have to play in New York for the Super Bowl. New York's average temperature for February is between 39 and 41 degrees. Again, not ideal for Manning and the Broncos.
Last night, Manning looked tight, uncomfortable and restricted. His passes seemed to hang in the air, and were often wobblers. Now that's not too much of an anomoly, because Manning's passes have always wobbled a bit, even before his injury, and last night was very windy (see Belichick's overtime decision).
But Manning's numbers tell the story. He went 19/36, for an underwhelming 150 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. That's only a 52.7% completion percentage, his lowest on the season. He also finished the game with his lowest passer rating this year: 70.4.
Whether it was the wind, or the temperatures, or a case of nerves, the Broncos' receivers did Manning no favors last night, as they all dropped passes. Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker in particular, dropped more than one pass.
The Sheriff did make a couple of quintessential Manning passes. His lazer down the seam to Jacob Tamme for a TD in the 2nd quarter was beautiful, as was his touch pass to Demaryius Thomas in the 4th quarter to tie the game.
As much as it pains me to say it, there is something to Manning and his struggles in cold weather. There's no getting around it at this point.
For Peyton Manning to cement his legacy and follow in his boss, John Elway's, footsteps and ride off into the sunset of a NFL legend, he'll have to find a way to win in the cold. But he knew that when he chose to play for the Denver Broncos.
Those of us in Broncos' Country can console ourselves with this knowledge: Manning will get another shot to prove his doubters wrong about his cold weather struggles. The playoffs cometh.
Winner: Von Miller, linebacker
The Broncos' defense, despite being put under the gun in the 3rd quarter by turnovers, played one hell of a game. They completely bullied the Patriots in the 1st half. And when the chips were down, late in the game, they rose to the occasion and repeatedly gave Manning and company chances to win.
Von Miller continued his streak of playing some of his best football vs the Patriots. He finished the game with 8 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD. Hot damn! If that isn't a full stat sheet, I don't know what is. He was a force. Alas that it wasn't in a winning effort.
Winner: Knowshon Moreno, running back
Knowshon Moreno had a career game last night. He rushed for a career high 224 yards on a career high 37 carries and a TD. The Broncos' coaching staff tries to limit Moreno's carries, to avoid injury. His injury history is extensive, but his effectiveness on the ground was one of the reasons Manning's numbers appeared somewhat lackluster.
The running game was working. The Broncos' offensive line and Moreno, were imposing their will on the Patriots' defense. But the Broncos' fears were realized. Knowshon injured his right lower leg late in the game and was seen leaving the locker room following the game, in a boot and on crutches. More info will follow on his injury and status for Sunday's game vs the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium.
Loser: Montee Ball, running back
Just when Ball seemed to be improving and making a difference in the Broncos' offense, he fumbled AGAIN. And it was in a clutch situation, with the Broncos protecting a lead and the Patriots controlling the momentum. The Patriots were able to take advantage of the turnover with a TD.
Broncos fans are sick of every running back not named Moreno putting the ball on the ground. It really is getting ridiculous. For the Broncos to succeed down the stretch and in the playoffs, they'll need Ball, C.J. Anderson, and maybe even the benched Ronnie Hillman, to dig deep and remedy this grievous case of fumblitis. Especially with Moreno's health moving forward in doubt.
Jack Del Rio said Knowshon Moreno's ankle is bruised. He's day to day, as is DRC w minor shoulder injury.
— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones)November 25, 2013