Denver • Come on, Colorado winter.
Bring on the dropping temperatures and drop down the snow. The Broncos are ready for tough outdoor conditions, where the manliest of football men run the ball, the defense gets mean and Peyton Manning can save his arm.
On a day when former coach Mike Shanahan had thoughts of converting a nice tribute into a stunning upset, the Broncos overcame a two touchdown deficit and a rare error-filled game by Manning to defeat Washington, 45-21, on a warm late-October afternoon at Sports Authority Field.
It was the Broncos' running backs and a resurgent defense staples of cold-weather football that led the comeback.
"I finally feel like... like you can feel it now," said Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton.
In winning their first six games, the Broncos' skillfully picked opponents apart through the gorgeous precision of the Manning-directed passing game.
Can the Broncos transform from Peyton's pretty passing in the fall to a more rugged brand of play in winter? The comeback win Sunday the Broncos overcame a 21-7, early third quarter deficit thanks to a franchise-record, 31-point fourth quarter delivered promise.
Running back Knowshon Moreno had 133 total yards including a go-ahead 35-yard touchdown off a screen pass. Second-round rookie Montee Ball moved from the doghouse of lost fumbles to a pile-driving touchdown that set the comeback in gear. Undrafted rookie C.J. Anderson showed enough leg strength in his NFL debut to warrant more carries in the power running game as the weather turns in the second half of the season.
The Broncos, it seems, have found themselves a running back rotation.
"I don't know who's at running back until after the run and I'm trying to help them up off the ground," said Broncos left guard Zane Beadles. "But it was obviously effective. I don't think we had flashy numbers running the ball but it was effective."
The three Bronco running backs rushed 30 times for 110 yards. Not great. But a case can be made the there were no better runs in the NFL on Sunday than Ball's leg-churning 4-yard touchdown.
"I'm very proud of myself for keep pushing but it was collectively an entire unit of them blocking the big guys up front and me following right behind them," Ball said.
Stop worrying about the Broncos. They went through a lull where they won ugly against Jacksonville, lost to Indianapolis and fell behind 21-7 to struggling Washington. But they reached the season's halfway point with a bye week and a 7-1 record.
For the season's second half, the Broncos know Manning, at his worst, is still better than most any other NFL quarterback. He threw a season-most three interceptions, and lost a fumble that led to a score, yet he also passed for four touchdowns and 354 yards.
Can the Broncos transform from Peyton's pretty passing in the fall to a more rugged brand of play in winter? The comeback win Sunday the Broncos overcame a 21-7, early third-quarter deficit thanks to a franchise-record, 31-point fourth quarter delivered promise.
"This is a football team," Shanahan, the Washington coach said about his former Broncos, "that even if they make mistakes, they've got a good enough team to find a way to win."
It took a 14-point deficit for coach John Fox's gut to stir up some risk taking. This time, his Broncos were at the Washington 20, fourth-and-2. Rather than take a Matt Prater field goal there was more than 9 minutes left in the third quarter Fox went for it. Moreno picked up the first down and then his backup, Ball, finished off the possession with a tough-yardage touchdown.
It was 21-14. On the Broncos' next drive, they drove down until it was fourth-and-goal at the 1. Fox went for it and a flip from Manning to the no-longer-forgotten Joel Dreessen made it 21-21.
Monday night football
P Seattle at St. Louis6:40 p.m. TV • ESPN