The sheriff's back in Denver. Peyton Manning enters the game for the 1st time since Nov. 15 after 7-week hiatus. pic.twitter.com/esv9AiSH3g— ESPN (@espn) January 3, 2016
The Broncos had turned the ball over in their previous four drives with Osweiler under center before head coach Gary Kubiak pulled the young quarterback for the five-time league MVP Peyton Manning, who has been out with an injury since November 15. In his first drive, Peyton led the Broncos on an 80-yard drive leading to a one-yard C.J. Anderson touchdown run.
It’s been somewhat of a circus for Manning, one of the leagues most celebrated quarterbacks, during his seven week absence from the field. After going 4-2 in the past six weeks, including a huge win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, replacement Brock Osweiler had many fans and analysts convinced that he was the answer to Denver’s sluggish offense and should replace the aging Manning for the remainder of the season, even if Manning became available later in the season.
Along with Osweiler’s emergence, Manning had to deal with allegations from an Al Jazeera journalist that accused him of using human growth hormones, which the NFL considers an illegal substance, during his recovery from a neck injury that he suffered in 2011.
Manning has since denied those allegations.
“It stings me that whoever this guy is is insinuating that I cut corners, that I broke NFL rules in order to get healthy,” Manning said.
With all that was surrounding Manning, many wondered if he had thrown his last pass as a Denver Bronco, with some considering the HGH allegation an unfortunate accusation against one of the most respected athletes in all of sports, and one that may deter teams from taking a chance on Manning should his time in Denver be over.
But thanks to the sloppy play of Brock Osweiler in the first half of today’s game, Peyton was given one, maybe last, shot to win back the starting position and use his game to silence the critics and remind folks why he is considered one of the greatest to go behind center.
Though he did not throw a touchdown in the Broncos comeback win, he did provide a boost of morale and maintained the game well enough for his team to seal the victory against the San Diego Chargers and claim first place in the AFC.
But how will the Broncos go forward at the quarterback position after today’s game in San Diego?
Brock Osweiler has played well enough to allow the team a chance to claim first place in the AFC and earn home field advantage throughout the playoffs during his stint as quarterback, but hasn’t persuaded fans, or convinced coaches, that he has what it takes to lead a team to an NFL championship in his first shot as a starting quarterback in the post season.
Peyton struggled mightily to start the season and had many questioning his ability to continue playing at the level fans have come to expect from the five-time league MVP. In his first nine starts, Manning completed just 59.9 percent of his passes and threw for 2,180 yards. More surprising was the fact that he led the league in interceptions with nearly twice as many (17) than he had touchdowns (9). But with more than a month to rest his ailments and time to observe the game from the sideline, many think it’d be foolish if Denver didn’t go with a “healthy” Peyton Manning as their starting quarterback going forward.
It’s crazy to think that a team sitting on home field advantage throughout the playoffs has found itself in a quarterback controversy. Luckily for the Broncos, they have a first round bye which allows them a week to decide which quarterback will lead the team in this season’s postseason.
[AP Photo/Jack Dempsey]