There were plenty of positives for the Denver Broncos in their Week 6 comeback win at San Diego, and Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway hit on most of them in this week’s episode of Elway Access, hosted by Broncos TV’s Chris Hall.
Coming out of halftime facing a 24-0 deficit, the Broncos marched 85 yards down the field in eight plays, as quarterback Peyton Manning finished the drive with a 29-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.
That drive, followed by cornerback Tony Carter’s 65-yard scoop-and-score off a fumble, were the two biggest factors in shifting the momentum in Denver’s favor, according to Elway.
“The first series in that second half was so important to get us on the board and make it 24-7,” Elway said. “And what really switched everything for us was when Tony Carter picked up the fumble and returned it for a touchdown. So then it’s a 24-14 game and you know we’re right back in it. We were able to play well from there.”
Elway added that the team has talked all year about the importance of turnovers, and the five second-half takeaways from the defense were what led the team to a 35-point explosion.
He also called the offensive line “the unsung heroes” of the game, providing a nice pocket of protection for Manning, who wasn’t sacked on the night.
In the center of that offensive line was Dan Koppen, one of several veteran offseason signings that have played significant roles for the Broncos. Elway spoke highly of the importance that those players have had and will continue to have throughout the season.
“The thing is, any time you have veteran guys like these guys, they are very smart and know football very well,” Elway said of Koppen, linebacker Keith Brooking and safety Jim Leonhard. “They are all very, very smart players and do a tremendous job of playing the game of football and have been a tremendous help for us so far.”
Another topic of discussion during the 30-minute weekly podcast was the high level of performance that Manning has displayed in recent weeks. Elway believes Manning is showing greater accuracy and arm strength with each game, as well as a confidence that is “transcending throughout the whole offense.”
On Sunday night, Manning will go up against another great quarterback in the Saints’ Drew Brees.
“They are both very intellectual about the game and the way they read the coverages,” Elway said. “They’re both pocket passers that stay in there and have a great knack of getting the ball to the right place, reading defenses and throwing the ball with accuracy. They’re both champions. They both won a Super Bowl. It’s a great matchup and it will be a great game for our fans to go see on Sunday night.”
Elway hopes the fans will be a factor in the nationally televised tilt, as the team has placed an added importance on winning at home.
“We have to win our home games,” he said. “We have a great home field advantage here in Denver. When we’re playing at home, we can’t exhale. We have to put the pedal to the metal and realize these are the games we have to come out and play well against a team that is so explosive on offense like the Saints. This is a big game for us because we go on the road for two after this. We know we have our hands full with the Saints.”