The 2013 NFL season saw Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos' record-setting offense cruise to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl berth.
The in-form Manning threw for 5,477 yards, 55 TDs (both NFL regular season records) and only 10 INTs.
Back then, no one would have pondered the thought that, two years on, he would now sit at seven TDs coupled with 11 INTs in the first seven games of the regular season.
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Yes, the Denver Broncos thrashed the previously 6-0 Packers last Sunday and improved to a 7-0, but it wasn't thanks to Manning, even with his upturn in production.
The Broncos' defense has been the unsung hero this season, the stealth assassin of offenses. They currently rank first in the league in total yards allowed - first in passing and fourth in rushing. They managed to contain QB Aaron Rodgers to his worst ever NFL game, barring injury.
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Rodgers threw for 14-22 to manage just 77 yards in a game where the barrage of Bronco blitzing threw him off his feet. Rodgers, known to be a great scrambler, just could not find an answer to the new backbone of Denver's Super Bowl aspirations.
The AFC Championship game is once again setting up to be the New England Patriots vs the Denver Broncos.
The most storied QB rivalry in Tom Brady and Peyton Manning always steals the spotlight when the time comes. That, however, may have to take a back seat should the two teams faceoff for the much-coveted berth to the Super Bowl.
Manning has nowhere near lived up to his usual self in 2015. During his time with the Indianapolis Colts, he would lift his team up in spite of an average defense.
The Broncos, while still a level above Indy in the defensive category, was nowhere near as brutal and superb as the Seattle Seahawks defense that choke-slammed him to kingdom come in Super Bowl XLVIII - a major 43-8 beatdown.
And yet, Manning still manages his games effectively. Somehow, someway, the 39-year-old is still pulling through despite the most atrocious stats he's ever shown in his stellar NFL career.
Some people say this is Manning's last year, as his performances have shown a significant decline.
And still, his leadership skills are unquestioned, perhaps even unparalleled.
He and the Broncos are poised to continue to tear through the regular season schedule as long as no other team comes close to showing the aggressiveness in both offense and defense that Denver (yes, despite Manning's below-average performances) has shown so far.
A seven game win-streak is not achieved on offense alone.
BREAKING DOWN THE D
It's been the defense who's shown up every single game for the Denver Broncos.
The defense is reminiscent of those high-powered shutdown defenses we've seen in the past, such as the '85 Bears, the '00 Ravens and the '13 Seahawks.
Their stats so far through the season, though not unprecedented, show a tremendous dominance on defense.
They allow 261.1 yards per game (1st in the NFL), 171.9 passing yards per game (1st) and 89.3 rushing yards per game (4th). The Broncos also allow the least points in the league per game, with an average of 16.0.
Few other defenses have ever been so dominant in all aspects of the game.
The ultimate test will come week 12 when they host the New England Patriots on November 29. Only then will we get the true glimpse of whether the Broncos' defense is for real.
Until then, we shall witness more displays of shutdown football.
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