Peyton Manning did what he needed to do in order for the Denver Broncos to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. That does not mean he was good and looked like his old self, but he was enough for Denver to move on in the playoffs. The question is whether or not that will be enough to beat the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game this coming weekend. With Manning's health still in question, head coach Gary Kubiak is still committed to the veteran.
Manning returned against Pittsburgh after suffering from a partially torn plantar fasica. There is still a question about whether or not Manning is really healthy, but when asked if there was a chance Brock Osweiler would start against the Patriots, head coach Gary Kubiak quickly said no. According to Kubiak, Manning is healthy and will start against New England, something not up for debate. Osweiler was 5-2 when Manning was hurt and some might believe he is the better option to put under center. Manning did not exactly light it up against the Steelers, but Kubiak believed that if the receivers did a better job of catching the ball then the quarterback's numbers would have been more impressive.
"I think he would have had a really big game if we would have made some of those plays in the first half. He missed a post route I know he'd like to have back to [Demaryius Thomas] that could have been a big play early in the game," Kubiak said, via ESPN.com. "I think the ability to have that type of game is there. We were struggling because we didn't catch the ball. We would have had a really big first half. I think we had five or six drops."
Kubiak is right to place some blame on the drops. Denver officially dropped six passes in the first half while recording seven drops overall. The Broncos left about 80 yards of offense on the field as a result. Thomas was quick to say that weather did play a factor as the wind hit highs during the game. That could be much of the same in the Sunday's game as the Broncos have home-field advantage. Thomas said weather cannot be used as an excuse.
"A couple of those (Sunday) were the wind, but as a receiver we should have still made those plays,'' Thomas said, via ESPN.com. "He was putting the ball in the right spot so we could make plays. It is no excuse for us dropping those balls. ... We can't do that against our next opponent."
The biggest x-factor for the Broncos will continue to be CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman. Over the past few games, their improvement has made the difference for Denver. If both running backs can continue on their hot streak, the Broncos could be the ones punching their tickets for the Super Bowl.