Most of us not tuned into the NLCS were watching the astounding comeback by the Broncos from 24 down at halftime to beat the Chargers on MNF. Peyton Manning showed some of his "vintage" form in that comeback by orchestrating the no-huddle offense to perfection and making the Chargers defense look like one of the worst in football, as he often did when he was a Colt. Cue the "Broncos comeback, as does Peyton" columns all across the NFL world (this piece is one... sort of). But, Peyton was never really not himself, but the Broncos lack of talent made him look like he was way off his game. This is the kind of game that sets a team on a season long run, so for the Broncos, this will be a marker of future successes, so marking this as Peyton's true comeback game will be common, but a misjudgement.
On the talent front, Peyton Manning hasn't had this little talent on offense maybe since his rookie year. This is not a slight at Willis McGahee, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, or any other of the Broncos skill position players, but more a comparison to remind people of what Peyton worked with when the Colts were one of the class teams in football. Those great Colts teams had 2 top flight receivers in Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, an all-pro at running back in Edgerrin James, and Dallas Clark, to boot. Don't forget about the consistency of an offensive line staying together for years at a time. Compared to what Peyton has now, most every Colts team from 1999 to 2010 looks like it was better on paper. Put any of these receivers on Jacksonville right now, and they'd most likely be invisible on the stat sheet.
But, I hear some of you already chomping at the bit to say, "But what about the Falcons game earlier in the season?" Peyton, like every other quarterback in football, has those games, and there were some pretty egregious examples when he was a Colt (see the 2003 AFC Title Game). But even in that game, that was more a result of good defense by the Patriots than the Colts lack of talent. The 2010 Colts were one of the least talented teams to win a division title in a long time, 2008 Chargers notwithstanding, and that was on the lack of talent the Colts had. But even that team I believe could beat these 2012 Broncos in a game.
The Broncos might have started 2-3, which was Peyton Manning's worst start to a season since 2001 (the last time a team with Peyton as its opening day starter missed the postseason), but that can be chalked up to the caliber of opponent, and overall lack of players on offense that defensive coordinators must gameplan against. Peyton Manning is well used to compensating for a lackluster defense, but coming back from a 24 point deficit to win by double digits, which had never been done before until last night, is new. Whether it was mainly the Chargers choking or what, you need a QB to snatch the win for you, and there is no better at that than Peyton Manning.
All of the talk that Peyton Manning was a shell of his former self looks to be a bit unfounded now, doesn't it? He's just as good as he ever was as a Colt, even with less talent on offense than he maybe has ever had. The Broncos are AFC West favorites now because of that.
Peyton Manning isn't back, but that's because he was never done to begin with.