Broncos hope balanced attack pays off vs. Colts

Published Jan. 11, 2015

DENVER — When Colts owner Jim Irsay scans the field today in a division playoff game, he'll see in the Broncos the kind of team he couldn't surround quarterback Peyton Manning with nearly enough during their 14 years together in Indianapolis:

Equilibrium on offense, dominance on defense, a team that doesn't necessarily have to ride Superman's cape in its Super Bowl quest.

After the Broncos were demolished by the Seahawks in the Super Bowl last season, GM John Elway bolstered his defense by signing Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward to a guaranteed $60 million. He replaced wide receiver Eric Decker with Emmanuel Sanders and drafted cornerback Bradley Roby.

Following a loss at St. Louis at midseason, the Broncos pumped the brakes on their Lamborghini offense and watched fourth-string running back C.J. Anderson blossom behind a restructured line.

"It takes a team," is the new mantra in the locker room.

Almost all Manning's key numbers are down from 2013, but these less-flashy Broncos may have a better chance of winning it all, providing they can keep Colts QB Andrew Luck from winning his first road playoff game.

Interestingly, the Colts are relying more on Luck than they ever did on Manning. Granted, some of that is due to Luck's mobility. His 905 yards rushing in his three-year career are more than Manning accumulated in Indianapolis (722).

"Even when (the Colts are) one-dimensional, they're not one-dimensional because he'll take off and run it," Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said.

And throw it: Luck led the league with 40 TD throws. That was one more than Manning, who threw just three TD passes in December to go with six interceptions.

Game notes: The Broncos placed defensive end Quanterus Smith on injured reserve and promoted rookie linebacker Shaquil Barrett from their practice squad. Smith, who has played in all but one game this season, injured his surgically repaired left knee at practice Thursday.