Now they're implementing an up-tempo offense.
Can you say, offensive juggernaut?
The Broncos were already a top-tier offensive team in 2012, when operating mostly at a standard pace. Denver was second in the league in points per game (30.1), ranking fifth in the league in passing yards and third in the league in passing touchdowns.
Their 481 total points scored during the season was third-best in franchise history, just 20 points shy of the franchise mark of 501 set by the 1998 Denver Broncos.
That record may live to stand for only one more year.
With Manning fully recovered from his multiple neck surgeries, the return of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker as the top outside receivers, the possible emergence of tight end Julius Thomas and the implementation of the deadliest slot receiver in the game, Wes Welker, the Broncos are already stacked enough as it is.
Now they're implementing an up-tempo offense, in the vain of what Tom Brady's New England Patriots have done over the last few years and what Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks perfected in college over the past half-decade?
Per Mike Klis of The Denver Post:
"I love it," guard Zane Beadles said of the fast-break pace. "I think it could be a huge advantage for us. And it's a lot of fun."
The Broncos were second in the league in points per game. The one team ahead of them?
None other than the up-tempo, Tom Brady-led New England Patriots. The Patriots led the league in points per game, scoring 34.8 a game, totaling 557 points on the season.
That was with current Broncos receiver Wes Welker as the go-to-guy in the offense, and with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez struggling through various injuries to miss a combined 11 games.
It was the third-best scoring offense in NFL history, behind the 2011 Green Bay Packers, and none other than the 2007 New England Patriots, which also featured Wes Welker and the up-tempo offense that the Broncos look to utilize in 2013.
Why The Broncos Will Run an Up-Tempo Offense Well
Why wouldn't they?
They have a quarterback who may be the greatest passer in NFL history. He's widely considered to be the smartest quarterback in NFL history. The Broncos—as Manning had done in prior years—utilized the up-tempo offense throughout various points of the season in 2012, but never kept it as a mainstay of the offense.
The Broncos have a quarterback with experience in running an up-tempo offense, a receiver (Welker) who was one of the most prominent receivers for the past six years and now they're practicing at a faster pace than they did last year.
"I don't know where Peyton gets that gift from, but he's got a lot of stuff in his hip pocket, side pocket, whatever," Thomas said. "You just have to make sure you're on the same page."
"It's something different. There's no telling what we'll do. Teams will have one more thing to prepare for."
In order to run an offense of this caliber, you have to have a veteran quarterback who knows the game inside-and-out. A quarterback who is capable of having the rest of the offense on the same page in the short time frame that occurs from play one to play two.
The Broncos have that in Manning.
You also need the personnel to make an up-tempo offense work. The Broncos have an experienced vet in Welker who played in the offense for six years with a quarterback of a similar nature (Brady), and absolutely thrived under those conditions.
Welker averaged 112 catches from 2007-2012 in New England, and led the league in catches three different seasons.
Due to the fact that Denver used wrinkles of the up-tempo offense throughout 2012, and with a year of experience in playing alongside Manning in the books, outside receivers Thomas and Decker should have no problem acclimating themselves further to a faster pace.
Per Klis of The Denver Post:
"We're fooling with some of that," Fox said. "We fooled with some of it last year. You tinker this time of year."
How a Broncos Up-Tempo Offense Will Look
It's simple—expect the Broncos to run many three-wide formations (three wide receivers). The Broncos ran three-receiver sets on 64 percent of their plays, by far their most of any personnel group.
As Broncos featured columnist Jon Heath points out in his article about Wes Welker:
The Broncos used three-receiver sets on 64 percent of their snaps in 2012 (expect that number to increase this fall), continuing a trend that Manning set during his time with the Indianapolis Colts. Throughout his career, Manning has featured an X and Z receiver (think Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne) and one slot man (Brandon Stokley).
This won't change in an up-tempo offense. If anything—as Heath pointed out—with the addition of Welker to the offense, combined with the inclusion of a faster-paced offense, if will only give the Broncos even more incentive to run three-receiver formations.
After the disaster in Atlanta which saw Manning throw three interceptions in the first quarter alone, en route to a 27-21 loss, the Broncos quarterback went on a five-game tear in between Weeks 3-8, which saw him throw for 1,619 yards, 14 touchdowns and one interception, all while completing 68.5 percent of his passes.
What was one of the keys to this sensational run? As NFL.com's Bucky Brooks points out, it was the utilization of the no-huddle offense:
After attempting to utilize a conventional approach during the first few games of the season, the Broncos have exclusively featured the no-huddle offense in recent weeks. Part of the decision could be attributed to the fact that the Broncos faced significant deficits against the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers, but I believe the switch was intended to make Manning more comfortable as the leader of the offense. By operating at a quicker pace, the Broncos are able to limit defensive substitutions, resulting in fewer exotic schemes and pass-rush packages. This also causes the defensive line to fatigue quicker, putting a dent in the ferocity and effectiveness of the pass rush by the end of the game.
Brooks also goes on to point out how Manning's football IQ and experience, combined with his ability to adjust at the line of scrimmage, along with the no-huddle offense's negation of an opposing defense's blitzes all play a role in giving the offense a distinct advantage over the opposing defense.
A 'No-Huddle' Offense and a 'Hurry-Up' Offense
In Klis' article about the Broncos speeding up their offensive pace, he states the following:
There is an element to the machine-gun tempo, though, that appears to be counterintuitive to Manning's strength. Manning essentially changed the game by calling plays at the line of scrimmage, but a no-huddle offense should not be confused with a hurry-up offense.
When the Broncos utilize a 'hurry-up' offense, it wouldn't necessarily mean a 'no-huddle' approach, but considering the Broncos' utilization of the the 'hurry-up' offense in 2012 featured a 'no-huddle' approach, it's fair to assume that though the Broncos wouldn't be in a no-huddle approach at all times during their fast-pace look, they will be in the no-huddle aplenty, depending upon if the game situation calls for it.
The Broncos' offense was at its best when they utilized the 'no-huddle' and 'hurry-up' offensive approach, keeping opposing defenses off-balance with Manning's ability to call plays at the line of scrimmage, all while taking advantage of off-balance opposing defenses.
Per Klis of The Denver Post again:
"We're trying to give him as many tools as possible," said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. "You want to give him the ability where, 'Hey, we can wear them out if we go really fast.' Or, 'Hey, we need to tone it down, they're playing us pretty good. Let me see what they're doing.' "
More weapons at Manning's disposal will only make the Broncos even more of an offensive juggernaut in 2013.