The Broncos closed the first quarter with a 7-3 lead on the Seattle Seahawks with a Willis McGahee one yard touchdown run. John Fox made good on his promise by allowing Peyton Manning to play the entire first quarter, and eventually the entire first half itself. In the first quarter we got a good view of where Manning is on his road back from neck surgery, saw Manning turn it over once in the first quarter, saw David Bruton make a great special teams play, and saw the first-team defense hold up pretty well against the likes of Matt Flynn, and especially Terrell Owens.
First off, the positives. Manning – for the second straight week – looked efficient and accurate, outside of his one interception throw in the first quarter. He moved the Broncos down the field and had no problem making progression reads and remaining calm in the pocket when his first read was covered. Manning went 6/7 for 69 yards, with his one blemish being the interception that he threw when his pass deflected at the line of scrimmage, only to be picked off K.J. Wright. Manning's pass was too low, and it's clear the cobwebs are being cleared in preseason game action after a year and a half of being away from football.
There has been a lot of mixed reaction over Manning's play in the first two preseason games – especially considering the fact he would eventually throw another interception in the second quarter on a badly overthrown ball – having said that, even though the negatives will be somewhat glorified, and interceptions are huge negatives, the fact of the matter is that Manning looks like the quarterback that he was in Indianapolis for so many years. He remains calm in the pocket when his first read is covered, he is able to manuever around the pocket to create extra time for himself and his offensive line, he remains upright in the pocket and he still throws the ball as accurate as anybody in the league.
The problem with Manning right now is simply rust. When you look at his stat lines from the Chicago game and the Seahawks game, you will see that he's accurate. In the first quarter alone vs. the Seahawks, he had only one incompletion. That, of course being the interception. This is simply shaking off the amount of time that he's missed, that will eventually be cleared up the more and more he plays. Am I saying that by the time the regular season starts, we'll see the Manning of 2010? Not necessarily.
However, as the season progresses, Manning will get better. With each passing week he'll look more and more like the quarterback that we saw in Indianapolis. It's just going to take time.
As far as the rest of the team, McGahee ran the ball effectively on short yardage situations. He pounded it in from one yard out on third-and-goal. The Broncos gave him the ball eight times – all in the first quarter – for 28 total yards. McGahee ran it effectively in short yardage situations, but overall, it was a mediocre effort, largely because the offensive line allowed Seattle's defensive line to easily penetrate and tackle McGahee behind the line of scrimmage.
The defense held up well, as the Seahawks drove for 39 yards, before eventually settling for a field goal. The Seahawks targeted Terrelly Owens twice, but were unable to connect with him. Elvis Dumervil got a good amount of pressure on Matt Flynn, forcing Flynn's final incompletion, intended for Terrell Owens on Seattle's last offensive play of the first quarter.
Overall, the Broncos played an effective first quarter. Obviously, as the game progressed and the backups came in, the Broncos were outscored 21-0. It was a solid effort from the first teamers, but obviously there is a lot to be improved upon as we enter the third preseason game vs. San Francisco.
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