Brock Osweiler can keep Denver in playoff race
It didn’t take long after tuning in to the Denver-Chicago broadcast to hear the first two references to “6-foot-8 Brock Osweiler,” as though the Broncos quarterback has his height permanently installed as a prefix to his full name, but after leading a win over the Bears, at least now he has a victory to hang his hat on, rather than just his stature.
While the talk of Osweiler playing well meaning that Peyton Manning might not get his starting job back seems premature, we have at least seen that Denver can let Manning focus on getting healthy – even if his absence becomes a longer-term thing – and hand the reins over to Osweiler without the fear of winning zero games before they wheel Manning back out again.
I was not high on Osweiler coming into this game from the tape I had seen of him previously, and though his performance against Chicago wasn’t nearly as impressive as the base statistics suggest, it was still a marked uptick on what I was expecting.
He had a passer rating of 146.9 when he was kept clean in this game, completing 18 of 20 passes from a perfect pocket and notching 11.3 yards per attempt. When he did feel the heat, his numbers tumbled, and he had a passer rating of just 42.0.
I’m certainly not trying to paint a performance in which Osweiler completed 20 of 26 attempts for 250 yards and two scores as “bad,” but context is important here. 168 of those yards came after the catch, with Demaryius Thomas in particular turning one of those passes from nothing into a score with some impressive work of his own that owed little to his quarterback.
What we saw was a quarterback who could get enough done to secure a team win, which is all Denver needs right now.
The key part of his performance is that it was the kind of efficient game-managing display that Denver has been wanting all season. This Broncos defense is good enough to take even an average quarterback to the postseason, and for much of the year has been winning in spite of Manning as much as because of him. For Denver right now, the season has become about surviving until the lights come on in January. This is a team that is built to win now, and with Manning entering what seems likely to be his final season, it is a side whose window may not stay open for long.
In Osweiler the Broncos have a young quarterback who has the chance to audition for his role as Manning’s successor and help the team to reach the playoffs and play at home in their first game. But expecting him to provide a path to Super Bowl glory seems like a stretch. If Denver’s season is to end with a Lombardi Trophy, they need Manning to lead the team there. What Osweiler has shown them in this game, however, is that they may not need to throw Manning back out there just to put them in position to even play come January. Osweiler played well enough Sunday to keep this team in the playoff mix.