The Denver Broncos’ season may have ended in disappointment, but that doesn’t mean the season as a whole wasn’t a success. Let’s take one last look at their 2012 campaign.
Excitement was high in Denver when the season began, thanks in large part to the signing of Peyton Manning in the summer. The addition of Manning opened a small window for the Broncos to become legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Denver started the season slow, going 2-3 over the first five weeks of the season, but soon found their stride.
After overcoming a 24-0 deficit to beat the Chargers in Week 6, the Broncos rattled off 11 wins in a row on their way to becoming the top seed in the AFC playoffs and arguably the most complete team in the NFL. That winning streak came to an unceremonious end in Denver’s first playoff game, a heart-breaking 38-35 double overtime loss to the Ravens.
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With Manning at the helm, the Broncos had one of the best and most balanced offenses in the NFL. Manning had an MVP-caliber season and helped elevate the performances of wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, who both had breakout seasons. The offensive line was one of the best in the league at both keeping Manning protected and unleashing the running game.
Willis McGahee was in the midst of a strong season when a knee injury put him on injured reserve; however, the Broncos got an unexpected surprise when Knowshon Moreno filled in at running back for the remainder of the season, and looked like a first round draft pick for the first time in his career. For much of Denver’s 11-game winning streak, it was the offense leading the way, as it appeared to be clicking on all cylinders.
Under the leadership of head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, the Broncos had an elite defense in 2012. Linebacker Von Miller was one of the top defensive players in the league, not only showing off his great pass rushing abilities, but being a factor in coverage and against the run as well. Miller and Elvis Dumbervil were once again one of the top pass-rushing duos in the league.
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In addition to veteran Champ Bailey at cornerback, the Denver secondary was filled with young up and coming stars like cornerback Chris Harris and safety Raheem Moore. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard had a breakout season as the team’s leading tackler, while playing in place of the suspended D.J. Williams. Even though the offense got a lot of the credit, the Denver defense played an equal role in the team’s 11-game winning streak and AFC regular season championship.
It won’t be easy for the Broncos to shake off the disappointment of losing in the playoffs when they did, or the manner in which they lost, but they’ll have to find a way. With Manning still in the fold and young, talented receivers around him, the window to be a dominant team and get to the Super Bowl is still very much open.
The same can be said for the defense. With young guys like Miller, Dumervil, Harris, and Moore forming the team’s nucleus on the defensive side of the ball, that unit should be strong again next year. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy will have to be replaced, but with the personnel on Denver’s roster, the Broncos will undoubtedly be one of the favorites in the AFC when the 2013 season begins.