By KELTON BROOKS (@BrooksWeekly)
Forty-three to Eight. That’s, 43-8.
One of the most lopsided and embarrassing defeats in Super Bowl history sent the Denver Broncos on a free agent frenzy, for better and for worse after complete domination by the Seattle Seahawks. The baffling score laid out the blueprints for what was to come for the Broncos offseason.
The Seahawks’ 43 points ironically showed Denver that points on offense isn’t enough, even after the Broncos scored a record 606 points in the regular season, and Manning setting a single-season mark for passing yardage with 5,477 and 55 touchdowns on the year. In the grand scheme of things, 17 points scored on defense and special teams was one of the deciding factors that lead to a still unfathomable victory. The other, was Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson throwing a near perfect game going 18-of-25 206 yards and two touchdowns with a total QBR of 88.1 and a quarterback rating of 123.1.
For Wilson, who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round (140th pick overall) of the 2010 MLB Draft and acquired from the Rockies by the Texas Rangers in the Triple-A phase on Dec. 12 2013, it was pitch and catch for the 25-year-old Super Bowl Champion.
And the Broncos’ 8 points? Again, brings up the old adage, “defense wins championships.”
Those factors forced Denver’s hand to make significant moves to bolster the team, but they also set a clock on the window of opportunity for Peyton’s Broncos.
Signing former Dallas Cowboy LB/DE DeMarcus Ware to 3-years, $30 Million will sure up the pass rush after losing Shaun Phillips and his 10 sacks, and the enigma that is Von Miller, who hopes to rebound after serving a six-game suspension violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and tearing his ACL in 2013.
But at 31-years-old, how much does Ware have left in the tank? His sack total has declined drastically. Ware was a half a sack away for tying his career high in 2011 with 19.5 sacks, but he dipped in 2012 to 11.5 sacks, and missed three games due to injury last season only taking down the quarterback six times. Not to mention in recent years, he has gain a reputation of disappearing late in games.
After giving up 4,070 yards in the air (27th), the Broncos signed former Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward to 4-years, $23 million, and nabbed cornerback Aqib Talib from their nemesis, New England Patriots, to 6-years, $57 million. A safety was needed for Denver ever since Hail Flacco. But according to Pro Football Focus, Ward is best suited against the run as he accumulated 91 tackles ( third-most for safeties), and while he did miss 13 tackles, his +8.1 rating against the run was tops among all safeties. This is the same team that gave up 506 yards and 5 touchdowns to Tony Romo.
With Talib, the Broncos have acquired a shut down corner, but he just can’t seem to stay healthy. Over his seven year NFL career, he has missed 35 games and never played a full 16 game season. Availability is just as important as ability. And how about this: which is more memorable, Manning setting a Super Bowl record with 34 completions to go with Demaryius Thomas‘ record 13 receptions or Eric Decker targeted five times to gain a whopping six yards and one catch?
43-8 trumps both of those numbers. But for the sake of the question, it was Decker’s disappearance. The Broncos knew Decker was an average No. 2 receiver who was made by Manning. Re-signing wide receiver Andre Caldwell and signing former Pittsburgh Steeler, Emmanuel Sanders, is a major upgrade over Decker.
These moves have unquestionably raised the talent on the roster, but at what cost? Truthfully, no matter the length of the contracts, the Broncos have a two year window at best. Peyton is no longer a spring chicken at age 38 and he was “fully cleared” to play football in 2014 after a neck exam in early March. But a 38-year-old quarterback who is susceptible to punishment by defenders, can’t possibly continue to beat father time.
And as of April 4, Denver extended the contract of head coach John Fox for three more years. Yes, this is the same head coach who took the Carolina Panther to the Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme at quarterback and went to the playoffs with Tim Tebow as his quarterback, not to mention braving through midseason heart surgery to lead the Broncos to their third consecutive AFC West title and their first conference championship since 1999.
But Fox isn’t the reason why the Broncos have showered in recent success, Manning is the reason. But with the talented yet “win now” signings, and the very second No. 18 decides to hang up the cleats, the franchise will retreat back to its days of mediocrity as they went 44-52 from 2006-10. Well, unless Brock Osweiler or Zac Dysert is the next Andrew Luck.