Broncos vs. Cowboys: 8 Takeaways from Denver's 51-48 Victory
The Broncos continued their winning ways, moving to 5-0 on the season, and increasing their regular-season winning streak to 16 games and counting.
It was the second-highest scoring game since the NFL-AFL merger took place in 1970.
Peyton Manning threw four touchdowns and ran for another, as he continued his scorched start to the season. Before throwing an interception in the second half, the four-time NFL MVP threw for 19 touchdowns without throwing an interception to start the NFL season.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo went toe-to-toe with Manning for most of the game, before succumbing to a late-game interception thrown to Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan. Trevathan's interception with two minutes remaining in the game led to Matt Prater's game-winning field goal as time expired.
There were plenty of highlights in this shootout. What are a few takeaways from the Broncos' 16th straight regular-season victory?
Peyton Manning Is Unbelievable
What is there to say about Peyton Manning?
He threw 19 touchdown passes to begin the season before finally throwing an interception in the fourth quarter. He broke the record by four touchdowns.
He now owns the record for most passing touchdowns through the first five games of the season with 19, breaking Daunte Culpepper's 2004 mark of 18 touchdowns.
He led the Broncos to 51 points, as Denver broke the 50-point barrier for the second straight week. The Broncos are now the highest-scoring team in NFL history through five weeks, as they've averaged 46 points per game thus far.
In a game that featured two quarterbacks matching each other with scoring drives for all 60 minutes, Manning came out the victor over Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
The Broncos were behind 14-0 early on in the game before the Broncos went on a 28-3 run to take a commanding 28-17 lead late in the second quarter.
During that run, Manning responded with four total touchdowns.
After Manning's first interception of the season which led to a Cowboys touchdown that brought Denver into a three-point deficit, Peyton responded by leading the Broncos to three more scoring drives to win the game.
At this point in time, it's hard envisioning Manning not winning his fifth MVP award in 2013.
The Broncos Were Decimated by Injuries and Still Won
Coming into this game, the Broncos were without two of their top defensive stars, Champ Bailey and Von Miller.
As the game came to a close, the Broncos had lost Robert Ayers, Wesley Woodyard and Chris Harris Jr. due to injuries.
And in spite of it all, the Broncos defense still did enough to lead the team to victory. It wasn't a pretty performance—in fact, it was one of Denver's worst defensive performances of all time.
Regardless, the Broncos won, and they did it in spite of injuries to five of their 11 defensive starters.
That's what you call resiliency.
Montee Ball Is No Longer in Denver's Game Plan
Knowshon Moreno continued his run of good games as he carried the football 19 times for 93 yards and a touchdown, while chiming in with 57 receiving yards.
Ronnie Hillman also touched the ball 11 times, carrying the ball seven times while making four grabs for 42 yards.
Montee Ball had one touch in the game.
Although it has become obvious with each passing week that Ball is becoming less of a focal part of Denver's offense, this game iced that assumption.
With Moreno and Hillman forming a nice one-two punch, the rookie has fallen out of favor in Denver.
The Broncos Defense Is Good Enough to Win Games
The Broncos defense entered Week 5 ranked 30th in passing yards allowed.
After allowing Romo to throw for a career-high 506 passing yards in Week 5, they may very well rank last entering Week 6.
Having said that, the Broncos defense is good enough to win games.
They wouldn't be 5-0 if that weren't the case.
The offense is so good, and the defense forces enough turnovers to offset the amount of passing yards the defense allows.
In today's NFL, a defense's job is to not allow too many touchdowns while forcing enough game-changing turnovers.
The Broncos defense may not have perfected this rule in the victory over the Cowboys, but it's done it for the most part this season.
No Deficit Is Too Large to Overcome
As mentioned earlier, the Broncos began the game in a 14-0 hole.
The Cowboys were running on all cylinders as Romo shredded Denver's pass defense—even before the injuries—and Broncos receiver Eric Decker even fumbled on the Broncos' second drive leading to Dallas' second touchdown of the game.
In spite of that, the Broncos rebounded by scoring four touchdowns before the end of the first half.
In just 22 games with this team, the Manning-led Broncos have seen it all. And for the most part, they've ended up on the winning end.
It's hard not to get excited about the potential greatness of the 2013 Broncos.
The Lack of a Pass Rush Affected the Defense
When you look at the stat sheet, the Broncos had four sacks on Romo.
By all accounts, that's a great team effort when it pertains to rushing the passer.
However, if you actually watched, you'd see that the Broncos struggled to generate a pass rush for the majority of the game. That's not good.
As bad as Denver's defensive backs were, and as badly affected as the defense was by the number of injuries to key players, the lack of a pass rush topped it all off.
There Romo was, running circles around the Broncos' front four, extending plays with his legs and finishing off those same plays with his arm.
In the first half, the Broncos used very little variety in blitz packages, as it was mainly the Broncos' four defensive linemen going after the quarterback.
Obviously, that plan failed, and the Broncos adjusted in the second half to force a little more pressure on the veteran quarterback.
The defensive backs will get criticism for this performance, but it was the lack of a pass rush that played a hand in Romo's 506-yard passing effort.
Chris Clark Makes You Forget About Ryan Clady
Prior to the 2013 season, Ryan Clady had never missed a start in his NFL career. In fact, he was a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time first-team All-Pro.
After Week 2's victory over the New York Giants, it was announced that the franchise left tackle would miss the remainder of the season.
None other than Chris Clark.
And yet, for the third straight week, Clark played excellently while protecting Manning's blind side.
The Broncos offensive line did not give up a single sack, and Clark made Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware a nonfactor in Sunday's game.
If you can make people forget about the loss of a player of Clady's caliber, then you deserve some props.
Peyton Manning Makes Everyone Around Him Better
What more is there to say about Manning?
He makes everyone around him better.
You don't have the two top players on defense to start the season?
No problem. Manning will just lead the offense to 46 points per game to compensate.
You just lost your franchise left tackle for the season?
Not an issue. Compensate for it with a quicker release.
Over Manning's 22-game tenure with the Broncos, he has helped create stars in Decker, Demaryius Thomas and, now, Julius Thomas.
He has made Moreno into a viable part of the offense, while having negated the loss of Clady by leading the Broncos to two consecutive 50-plus point outings in his absence.
There is no better quarterback in the NFL at maximizing the talent around him than Peyton.