*** update 1.18.2014 far bottom
To the untrained, cynical eye – the Broncos won tonight. Everything went ok.
You are wrong. We threw the game, violently. nay… HE threw the game. Peyton Manning made a full and overt effort to not succeed today. Season to date, Peyton and the Broncos have been the most successful team in the history of football. That isn’t hyperbole, that is statistical data. We had a formula, and we used it every time to great success. Even if you knew what we were going to do, we would do it anyway… and succeed greatly.
So why would the Broncos decide to stop that plan? Why did Peyton Manning refuse to score touchdowns after the first quarter today? Why would he not throw the ball. Why would he not do the thing that made him the greatest single season 5 – 0 quarterback in history? We would he let the worst team in the NFL, and possibly one of the worst teams in history, come close enough to beat us… repeatedly?
Why indeed. Either, he was badly hurt after the first quarter and could not throw the ball… OR this: Peyton threw this game for a bigger cause. The Broncos have a system for wild and offensive amounts of success. It does not involve running the ball. We have absolutely no interest in running the ball at all. Ever. There is almost no use for it in our offense, except to kill the clock in the fourth quarter to protect our obscene lead. There are ways to get across the Pacific ocean. You can take a Cessna and stop every 200 miles to fuel up. If you are using the Cessna, you also have a very predictable flight path. Our running game is the Cessna. Or, you can take the Concorde – a wide receiver. We have a LOT of Concorde super jets. What I struggled deeply with during the game is this; we are heading to London tonight. It’s urgent. We are at the airport, and we just drove past 4 private concords. With stewardesses. We are getting in the Cessna. Not only is it ugly and uncomfortable, but it only goes about 4 yards at a time… best case scenario.
To cover the Broncos defensively, you didn’t have to protect the run, until now. There is another aspect of this. All year, when Manning was in the shotgun (85% of all plays) he was going to pass it. Every time he took the ball under center, he handed it off for a run play. every time. Now, if I figured this out, so does everyone else. Tonight, Peyton handed off the ball in every way possible, and on every play possible. The game plan today was contrary to everything we have ever done. What’s weirder is it was contrary to everything that has made us this great.
So, that is why we did it. Peyton gambled that we were SO good, and they were SO bad, that we could beat them with a running game alone. He wagered that they would be SO worried about covering our receivers that they wouldn’t even bother watching the running back. It worked. Barely.
If you are a casual football fan, it looks like the Jaguars put up a good fight and almost won. If you look closely, the game was an insult. We are so good that Payton basically played with his eyes closed and his left arm and his shoelaces tied together… just to see if he could do it and still win. It worked. Barely.
So, in closing, we ‘threw’ the game. how is that possible if we won? Well, we could have won the way we usually do – destroy them with our receivers and run up 60 points. We didn’t, though. We didn’t even only a little. We went with the run game, even though it sucks. Why? To throw off todays opponent, and (most importantly) all future opponents. it gives them one more thing to worry about. it also caused me to violently lose both of my fantasy leagues today – hence the title above.
*** update 1.18.2014
It takes a big man to admit when he is wrong. At least, that is what they say. I wouldn’t know, because I am rarely wrong (hence the title. See, I only mostly generally write things I know about). Anyhow, I was wrong. With the value of hindsight, here is what I think happened. While everything above was true, I now understand the why behind it. Manning knew he had the greatest receiver corps in the history of football. He also knew for us to be truly great, and to properly confuse the defenses we play – we had to establish a running game. Even though we didn’t need one, we had to at least be able to pretend we had one to force their defense to also stay at the line and prepare for a run. So, he needed to either tap into our running talent, or create one. This is what he did on this day. He got up a couple of touchdowns and then worked exclusively on the running game.
So, what’s left? The timing of it. Why wait until this game, this team, this week? Well, because we were playing the worst team in the NFL. Perhaps one of the worst teams in the history of the NFL – certainly they were at that point. Since we didn’t have a running game of any kind to speak of, this is the time to risk it. Plus, this wasn’t a division game, or even a conference game. So, if we lost, it would have absolutely no real life consequences. The only games that really and truly matter are the intra-division games. Those count for everything. You could lose every game of the year, except the intra-division teams, and go to the playoffs. In the NFL, you do not even need a winning record to get to the playoffs. You only need to be the best in your division – which is four teams. 3, and then you. You could have a team who is 11-5 not make it to the playoffs in one division, and another team is 7-8 (7 wins, 8 losses) go straight to the playoffs. It really makes no difference at all how many games you win. It only matters what games you win against those 3 other teams.
So – to Peyton Manning – you were right and I was wrong.