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01/23/2014 12:17 pm ET | Updated Mar 25, 2014

How Did Peyton Manning Have Such an Insane Season in 2013?

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Kyle Sum

Three reasons that stand out (besides the fact that, well, he's Peyton Manning, a living legend):

1. The Broncos have better pass catchers this year. Last season his top two WRs were Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. The rest of the depth chart? Jacob Tamme, Brandon Stokely, etc. (no disrespect to Stokley intended - he's one of the best slot WR's of the past decade). Thomas and Decker were/are good, but there was a definite drop off on the depth chart. The arrival of Wes Welker (a pro-bowl caliber receiver) and the emergence of Julius Thomas (who made the pro-bowl this year) this season has firmly established the Broncos' receiving core as the best in the NFL. It is very difficult to cover all these guys, and OC Adam Gase and Peyton place a heavy emphasis on generating and exploiting 1 on 1 matchups in the secondary. I'm a Broncos fan, so here's a bit more info just for kicks:
  • Demaryius Thomas is the consummate weapon. 6'3, 230 pounds and runs a 4.3 40 - similar build to Calvin Johnson (and they both came from Georgia Tech). He can turn a bubble screen into a 50 yard passing touchdown with his legs, and he can also gash a db with help over the top for deep gains. There's a reason why he's had consecutive seasons with ~1.4k receiving yards. I love him, so have some highlights to justify what I said above (sorry about the quality):




  • Eric Decker is the other guy who lines up out wide. Not as imposing as D. Thomas physically, but he has his days (e.g. 4 receiving touchdowns and 174 receiving yards against the Kansas City Chiefs' pretty good secondary). I don't think he's quite a household name yet, but he's loved by all Denver fans and has had consecutive ~1000 yard receiving seasons, which speak for themselves.

  • Wes Welker, the slot receiver. Pretty good hands, but an extremely intelligent receiver and great route runner. E.g. when he was on the Patriots, he had field days by simply reading blitzes and exploiting the open part of the field in his route - Tom Brady threw it "hot" to him all the time to pick up easy yards without even having to verbally communicate. They were perfectly in sync. I'd imagine Peyton has established a similar rhythm with him by now.
  • Julius Thomas, the tight end. He can't block at all, but he is very, very good at catching passes, similar to Jimmy Graham. He's too big for smaller db's to easily bring down, and he's too fast for linebackers in coverage. He's a young guy with a lot of promise, and he could very well be the best tight end Denver has had since Shannon Sharpe.
  • Andre Caldwell and Jacob Tamme are two others who come to mind, and while they're not as prolific as the guys above, they make their fair share of plays.
2. Denver finally got a ground game. Knowshon Moreno is finally showing why Josh McDaniels used a first round pick on him in 2009. Last year, Denver's leading rusher was Willis McGahee, who had fumbling issues (he coughed it up 5 times last season) and produced ~700 rushing yards on the season. This year? Moreno finally broke the 1000 yard barrier and has proven himself to be a viable pass catcher as a checkdown option (I think he has ~500 receiving yards). Having a legitimate ground game forces defenses to stay honest and respect the run without being able to sit in a Nickel or Dime all day, and it makes play action passes even more dangerous.

3. The Offensive Line has held up nicely through an injury plagued season. Ryan Clady, Denver's premier Left Tackle and elite pass blocker, went down with an ACL tear, and Dan Koppen, Denver's original starting Center, was also lost for the season to an ACL tear in the preseason. All credit to Elway for picking up Louis Vasquez, originally a free agent at the start of the season, who has proven himself to be a great replacement (voted as an all-pro this year). Manny Ramirez, the current starting center, has also been doing a fine job. I think Orlando Franklin is also pretty good. They completely shut down the Patriots' pass rush Sunday.

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