Manning replaced Brock Osweiler during the third quarter of Sunday's 27-20 win over the Chargers and helped the Broncos clinch homefield advantage in the AFC. Manning would appear to be the likely starter for the playoffs, but coach Gary Kubiak refused to make any promises Sunday.
"We'll sit down," Kubiak said after the game. "We'll make a decision that's best for the football team and we'll be counting on everybody to continue to do their part."
Kubiak said he had a "gut feeling" that the team was looking for leadership and a spark against the Chargers Sunday. He said that Osweiler didn't do anything necessarily wrong, a point we mostly agree with.
Osweiler averaged more than 10 yards-per-throw. He was benched after a teammate fumbled. While he had three turnovers in the game, Osweiler's two interceptions came off a dropped pass and a play where he was hit as he threw. Osweiler also lost a fumble when he was sacked from behind on a blind side blitz. Denver's pass protection was a bigger issue than Osweiler.
"I really don't think Brock was having any trouble. He was making good throws," Manning said. "When I was in there we ran the ball better, we held on to the ball better, and we caught the ball better. "
That's all true too. Manning only completed 5-of-9 throws for 69 yards, but the Broncos scored 20 points in the second half of the game. He made some good audibles where he changed a running play to the side away from a blitz. That's what you are going to get with Manning, even if he lacks the downfield throws.
There was a concern that Manning would finish out his career this season without ever taking another snap. Instead, he's suddenly in position to start for the AFC's No. 1 seed. It's hard to imagine Kubiak would deprive us of all the drama of letting Manning try to go out a champion. (If he's going out at all.)