In his second straight start in place of the injured Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler led the Denver Broncos to their second win in as many weeks. The latter was more impressive, however, because it was against the defending Super Bowl champion, the New England Patriots — sitting undefeated on the season and led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Osweiler demonstrated poise and control over the offense as the Broncos overcame a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter to gut out a 30-24 win in overtime.
The Patriots held the lead throughout the game, but the 25-year-old was never discouraged as he led three consecutive scoring drives in the fourth quarter, helping his team to a 24-21 advantage with just over a minute left. Although the Patriots were able to send the game to overtime, Osweiler intuitively changed the play at the line of scrimmage, an audible that allowed for C.J. Anderson to seal the win with a 48-yard touchdown run.
Osweiler’s performance against an elite team like the Patriots emphasizes the fact that now, more than ever before, it’s time for the Broncos to move on from Manning and give the offensive reigns to Osweiler, the former second-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. He brought stability to the quarterback position during the last two weeks, leading his team to two straight victories over quality opponents in the Chicago Bears and Patriots, as well as throwing for at least 250 yards in each game.
Additionally, under Osweiler, Denver’s running game posted back-to-back games of at least 170 rushing yards. The combination of Ronnie Hillman and the reemergence of Anderson gives the Broncos offense the balance it lacked with Manning this season. With the 39-year-old going through the worst season in his career, the Broncos allowed for opposing teams to hone in on their rushing attack, which ranked near the bottom of the league.
This demonstrates further that Denver must acknowledge that the team is in better hands with Osweiler as their starting quarterback — for the rest of this season and beyond. Sure, the past two games are a small sample size, and no one’s doubting Manning’s legacy and contribution to the sport. But in 2015, Manning demonstrates that his status as a viable starter is slipping — a fact that was on full display in his last start against the Kansas City Chiefs when he threw for just 35 yards. This included having one more completed pass (five) than interceptions (four) before being benched at halftime in the eventual loss.
If that isn’t enough evidence, Manning has thrown 17 interceptions to just nine touchdowns this season. He has also posted a passer rating below 80 in five of his nine starts, thrown at least one interception in each game, and recorded one touchdown or less six times. What’s also apparent is that he’s making significantly less throws down the field, ranking 27th in the league with 6.77 yards per completion. Teams are forcing him to make plays down the field, and the results have been disastrous.
Yes, it may be extremely difficult to move on from one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, but he’s no longer the player that he once was. In many ways, Manning has become a shadow of himself and more of a name on the field than the productive force he once was. At the same time, all is not lost for the Broncos as it appears that they have a player in Osweiler who can not only be the starting quarterback of the future but also give them a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl this season.
This situation has played out before in the NFL, with several other Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and it is also comparable to Manning’s time with the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts felt that it was time to go with Andrew Luck as the new face of the franchise, which worked out great for them prior to this season. The Green Bay Packers experienced this with Brett Favre in his final year with the team, as they elected to go with Aaron Rodgers. The Packers have had a great level of success with Rodgers, winning a Super Bowl and two NFL MVP awards under his belt.
In both cases, each team realized that it was time to move forward in another direction — good examples for the Broncos as it’s clear that Osweiler under center is what’s best for the team’s future.