The headline atop the Denver Post’s sports section Thursday was tall enough to be mistaken for the nearby mountain range:
“MANNING ON MARQUEE”
The intermission of Cowboys-Giants the previous night on NBC featured a breathless airing of the network’s “exclusive one-on-one with Peyton Manning,” who earlier that day gave about two dozen of us what I suppose was an “exclusive one-on-24.”
Oh, yeah, it’s all Peyton.
He was my first topic upon landing here, too.
But I’ll predict he won’t be the topic come Sunday night, even as I’ll also predict that the Broncos will beat the Steelers.
(Ducks for cover.)
Manning will be blowtorching off 19 months of rusted rivets. The Steelers might not knock him out, but they’re experienced and still athletic enough on defense to limit his damage.
Who can say the same for the Steelers limiting the damage of Denver’s defensive front seven?
Make no mistake: Those are the guys — not Manning, not Tim Tebow before him, not Willis McGahee, not even the great Demaryius Thomas — who make this team go.
And to hear new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio after practice Thursday, it’s clear he will let them go.
“You’ve got to get people to Ben, then you’ve got to actually get him down,” Del Rio said. “It’s a challenge. It’s not easy.”
Not for everyone. But Del Rio brings impeccable defensive credentials from Jacksonville, and he’ll be able to script plays for two of the NFL’s best edge rushers in Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. They combined for 21 sacks in 2011 — 11 1⁄2 for Miller, 9 1⁄2 for Dumervil — and the team had 41, 10th in the league.
But even that doesn’t tell the tale: Dumervil was bugged by injuries early last season and had no sacks in the first two months. Miller had a badly sprained thumb that held him to one sack over the final five games and shrunk his presence in the playoff meeting.
In the four games they played together healthy last season, they combined for 10 sacks.
Now both are healthy.