The ones that did play sure did well.
About two dozen players on the Broncos’ 53-man roster put up their best statistical seasons in 2012. Others had the best performances in years.
“I’d say on both sides of the balls and special teams, there’s guys that have been playing some of their best football,” Decker said. “Offensively, as skill players, having Peyton Manning has helped tremendously, helped the line tremendously, and defensively, with the scheme they’re doing and how they’re doing, it helps everybody.”
Not all of this ripple effect is intangible. Miller and Elvis Dumervil combined for 29½ sacks in large part because of the leads Manning’s offense provided, allowing the pair of pass-rushers to, as the saying goes, pin their ears back and get after the quarterback.
“He puts everybody in the best position to show off your skill-set even if you’re a grunt guy in the middle taking on double teams,” said defensive tackle Mitch Unrein, who posted a career high in tackles and even caught one of Manning’s 37 touchdown passes when he lined up as a fullback.
While Elway, the Broncos’ Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-executive, scaled the mountaintop to land Manning, he also climbed the league’s scrap heap to find the likes of veteran castaways Keith Brooking, Trindon Holliday, Jimmy Leonhard, Jacob Hester and Dan Koppen, all of whom have, like Manning, revived their careers in Denver.
Manning, who’s the best quarterback the NFL has ever known when it comes to decoding defenses, was especially helpful for Denver’s secondary.
“DBs, we’re known as the cocky bunch anyway. But we’re definitely confident going out their having gone against Peyton Manning every day in practice,” safety David Bruton said. “I don’t feel like there’s a quarterback we’ll face that will do anything on the field that we haven’t seen in practice.”