Peyton Manning threw 2 touchdown passes against Detriot on Sunday to help the Broncos remain undefeated thus far in 2015.
As Sports Illustrated‘s Larry Lage noted, the Broncos’ legendary quarterback was back to the confident Manning we’re used to during the regular season. Manning’s performance is put under a microscope every year, as critics question whether the Broncos’ 2015 captain can put up yet another impressive year of stats. To that end, he did not disappoint. He converted a fourth down for the Broncos by tossing a 45-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas just seconds before halftime. Along with Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman’s 1-yard touchdown rush with five minutes left in the second quarter, the Broncos headed to the locker room with a 14-6 lead. Broncos special teams’ Aqib Talib blocked former Broncos kicker Matt Prater’s extra point attempt, resulting in an 8-point lead going into the third quarter.
When the Lions scored again five minutes into the third quarter, the Broncos defense stepped up once again, stopping the Detroit’s two-point conversion attempt. The Broncos went scoreless in the third quarter.
Halfway through the fourth quarter, Broncos kicker Brandon McManus put Denver up by five when he nailed a 48-yard field goal, forcing the Lions to score more than a field goal to stay in the game. Then, with 2:32 left in the fourth quarter, Manning put the nail in the Lions’ coffin: an 11-yard touchdown pass to Broncos tight end Owen Daniels.
Averaging 3.5 sacks through the first two games, the Broncos offensive line was able to protect their Pro-Bowl quarterback more effectively against the Lions, allowing just one sack. Manning finished the game passing 31 of 42 for 324 yards. He threw one interception to go along with his two touchdown passes.
Two seasons ago, the Denver Broncos started off 3-0. They went on to win the SuperBowl.
But the real star for the Broncos through the first three games is their entire defensive squad. As NFL pointed out, they had three takeaways against the Lions, bringing the Broncos’ season total to 10 thus far. The Broncos held the Lions to less than 30 total rushing yards, and managed to keep Pro Bowl receiver Calvin Johnson to 77 receiving yards and no touchdowns. Bradley Roby and David Bruton had the Broncos’ two interceptions.
The real weak spot for the Denver Broncos may be their running game. Their situation didn’t get any better when Broncos’ running back C.J. Anderson was unable to make it to the second half, due to a possible concussion. Not long after, Juwan Thompson became the second Broncos running back to leave the game, this time due to a neck inury. Anderson, Hillman and Thompson combined for a total of just 42 yards. With Manning’s -1 rushing yard, the Broncos officially finished with just 41 net rushing yards.
The Broncos managed to get by the Vikings with seven players on their Inactive List. According to Denver Post, the Broncos’ list of inactive players against the Lions included Trevor Siemian (QB), Kenny Anunike (DE), Kayvon Webster (CB), Shelley Smith (G), Michael Schofield (T) and new IR additions James Casey (FB) and Omar Bolden (S).
With the Detroit Lions now in the rear view, the Denver Broncos look to their Week 4 opponents, the Minnesota Vikings. Their NFC opponents bring a 2-1 record to Denver for this inter-conference match-up. Minnesota is coming off of a two-game win streak that includes victories over the Detroit Lions and the San Diego Chargers. Unlike all of the teams Minnesota has faced thus far, the Broncos come into Week 4 with a 3-0 record.
You can watch the Denver Broncos host the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday at 3:25 on FOX from Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.
[Image credit Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]