The Denver Broncos have had a magnificent season, supporting a 13-3 record in the AFC while clinching the number one seed in the playoffs. Their quarterback Peyton Manning and the four horsemen Julius Thomas, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker have helped reach those goals. They would set records for most points scored in a season with 606, surpassing the record held by the New England Patriots held back in 2007 with 589. Manning would also surpass Drew Brees‘s single-season record of passing yards with 5,477; one more yard than Brees had. Manning would also break Tom Brady‘s NFL record with his 51st touchdown pass as he finished the regular season with 55. Even Matt Prater got into the spirit of breaking records as the kicker booted a 64-yard field goal in Week 14 against the Tennessee Titans. But the Denver Broncos however would have to overcome adversity to help make the Super Bowl a reality.
It all started in the offseason as director of player personnel Matt Russell was arrested on July 6th for suspicion of drunken driving and would be later disciplined by the Broncos. Then just a month later, Tom Heckert who was recently hired as director of pro personnel was also arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. He would be disciplined by getting a one-month suspension without pay, putting a black cloud over the Denver Broncos organization heading into the preseason.
Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller would begin the 2013 regular season serving a six-game suspension after violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The Broncos knew that losing Miller for basically the first half of the season would reduce the number of sacks they would accumulate, but they did fare well without him as the free-agent signing of Shaun Phillips paid-off for the team:
Week 1 vs. Baltimore Ravens: 4 sacks. 2.5 sacks from Shaun Phillips.
Week 2: @ New York Giants: 1 sack from Danny Trevathan
Week 3: vs. Oakland Raiders: 3 sacks. 2.0 sacks from Robert Ayers.
Week 4: vs. Philadelphia Eagles: 3 sacks. 1.0 sacks each from Derek Wolfe and Shaun Phillips
Week 5: @ Dallas Cowboys 4 sacks. 2.0 sacks from Shaun Phillips
Week 6: vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: 2 sacks both coming from Malik Jackson
Von Miller would return to the line-up in Week 7 against the Indianapolis Colts as Denver went 6-0 without Miller and he didn’t look game ready quite yet. The all-pro linebacker would pick up his game as he finished the season with 5.0 sacks and 34 tackles but would receive bad news on his second defensive series in week 16 against the Houston Texans. He would put on the team’s injured-reserve list and had surgery to repair his torn ACL two weeks ago on January 8th.
In Week 2 against the New York Giants, All-Pro left-tackle Ryan Clady would injure his foot in the closing minutes of a blowout win. Clady would get his left rolled up by Giants defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins. Clady would need to be helped off the field as he was later ruled out for the remainder of the season, putting the tackle on injured-reserve with Lisfranc injury. This injury would force Chris Clark to take the starting reigns at left tackle as the Broncos were unsure what they would get out of him, so they went ahead and signed free-agent tackle Winston Justice as a back-up policy. Clark would not disappoint and neither would the Broncos offensive line. The offensive line of the Denver Broncos gave up just 20 sacks in the regular season which was the fewest in the National Football League. Offseason free-agent signing Louis Vasquez would be a big pick-up for the San Diego Chargers as he earned a Pro-Bowl berth. The line also including Zane Beadles, Manny Ramirez, and Orlando Franklin would be a key part in the rejuvenation of half back Knowshon Moreno. Knowshon would record a career-high in rushing yards in his fifth-season by rushing for 1,038 yards on 241 attempts while rookie Montee Ball collected 559 yards on just 120 attempts.
All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey would deal with an injury similar to that of Ryan Clady’s but it wasn’t as severe. Bailey, 35 would sit out the first four games before giving it a go in the game at Dallas in week 5. Bailey was rusty and it showed but he would go down yet again as he re-aggravated his foot in that very game. Champ Bailey was used later on in the ending of the regular season in nickel packages to protect him from getting overused. Free-agent signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris stepped up big time in Champ’s absence as DRC rejuvenated his career. Bailey would return to his every down ways against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game and played extremely well.
The Denver Broncos head coach John Fox would go through a difficult time in his life as he suffered a heart-attack in November as the coach would need to undergo aortic valve replacement surgery. Denver would decide to name defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio as the interm head coach and he did a good job preparing the team. He would lead the team to a 3-1 record including 2 wins over the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs, but would lose to the New England Patriots in overtime on a botched punt-return. John Fox would return to the team in week 14 against the Tennessee Titans as Denver came away with the 51-28 blowout win.
On November 18th following a big win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Broncos would get disappointing news on safety Rahim Moore. Moore would injure his leg and later be diagnosed with lateral compartment syndrome, which could have potentially resulted in amputation; ending his NFL career. Moore has been cleared for activities of late but hasn’t been placed on the Broncos active roster as Mike Adams has done a good job in replacing Moore in the line-up. The 32-year-old Mike Adams would record a total of 64 tackles in the regular season, including one interception.
The very next game for the Denver Broncos, they would receive another key injury to their defense. Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson would leave the game against the New England Patriots with a hip injury. The team would later find out that Vickerson suffered a dislocated hip as Denver placed him on injured-reserve. The injury would bring about more playing time for rookie first-round pick Sylvester Williams. Williams played well in his limited time at defensive tackle, recording 19 tackles and 2.0 sacks during the regular season. Free-agent pick-up Terrance Knighton would be a key signing on the defensive line as “pot roast” clogs the hole and prevents the opposing team from running up the middle.
Denver would deal with yet another injury on the defensive line as Derek Wolfe would get sick on the team bus on November 29th as they were en route to take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. Wolfe would be diagnosed with seizure-like symptoms and returned to practice on Christmas day. Wolfe would miss Denver’s next practice after that with the flu and was held out by doctors as they tried to trace the origins of the symptoms. Denver recently placed Wolfe on the injured-reserve prior to Sunday AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots.
In the Divisional Round Game against the San Diego Chargers, Chris Harris left the game with a 17-0 lead and the news wasn’t good about the rising corner. Harris would be diagnosed with a torn ACL and would miss the remainder of the post season for the Denver Broncos. The news going into the AFC Championship Game wasn’t good as they were about to face Tom Brady, but Champ Bailey and Tony Carter stepped up in his absence as Denver came away with the win.
John Fox’s motto of “next man up” was a hit this season with Broncos fans but the head coach was right. It was literally the next man up and the Denver Broncos have done a good job in coping with injuries. Denver will head to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey to take on the NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks on February 2nd and battle it out for the rights to be named the Super Bowl Champions.