Editor’s Note: This Q&A story ran in the Sept. 9 Gameday program, when the Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19 in the season opener.
Why was the 80-yard game-winning touchdown pass against the Steelers last year in the playoffs successful?
“It was interesting because the personnel we had in the game were heavy run-oriented. But we kept running this particular play and they kept bringing the safeties up, playing what we call, ‘cover zero.’ So (Offensive Coordinator) Coach (Mike) McCoy actually saw it and we made the adjustment on the sideline to run the same play, but do a play-action pass, and we thought it would be a big play for us. Mike McCoy said it just might score on the first play. He said those words. Sure enough, when we lined up and we motioned Eddie Royal down to block the safety as they thought we were going to do, the safeties came up. They were thinking, ‘Surely, it’s a run.’ Play-action fake, hit D.T.
“Earlier in the game, if you can recall, he caught a pass and kept cutting back to the sideline. I said, ‘D.T, don’t cut back again. You have a lot of speed. Trust your speed.’ So when he ran that particular route and caught the ball, he said he kept hearing in his head ‘Don’t cut back! Don’t cut back!’ It was a very exciting game. Very exciting for the fans and the team. It was a really good victory. We were able to stay out there and celebrate with all the fans and that was really special as well.”
Did you think that play could end the game?
“When he made the catch and got that one stiff arm on Ike Taylor, I thought it had chance to go all the way because I knew how fast he was.”
What did you learn about Thomas on that play?
“Ike Taylor is a guy who can really run. I coached him in college so I knew how fast he was. So for him to stiff arm Ike Taylor and run away from him, it showed everybody how fast D.T. really is too.”
How does the chemistry between Thomas and wide receiver
“It’s good. To be honest, the whole wide receiver room is pretty close. But more specifically with DT and Decker, they have a really good relationship on the field, a really good relationship off the field. They joke with each other a lot. They’re really good with one another and our receiver room. That makes the whole room more comfortable.”
Do the receivers embrace playing for a quarterback like
“The good thing about Peyton, and all the receivers know, is Peyton’s going to go through his progressions and take what the defense gives him. And take the best look. It’s not necessarily this receiver or that receiver. He’s going to throw it to the guy in his mind who he thinks should be the guy he should throw it to versus any particular coverage. Going through his progressions, all the receivers know that when they’re on the field with him, they have a chance to get the ball, no matter what the coverage is, because we’ll let Peyton figure out he who he needs to go to, based on the different coverages he faces.”
Does having a quarterback like Manning make practice more competitive for the receivers?
“Absolutely. Guys practice hard anyway, but now with Peyton out there, from a wide receivers standpoint, they’re running even the clear-out routes full speed. Because some people sometimes will drop coverage on the clear-out route and Peyton will launch it deep.”
How have the receivers adjusted to Peyton’s pre-snap calls?
“It’s still a work in progress because what we’re doing is, Peyton will get to the line of scrimmage. He’ll call the plays in the huddle first of all. When he gets to the line of scrimmage, he may change the play or change the protection or whatever, so you have to be on it. When he tells you, ‘We changed it to this play or that play,’ or we have two plays called in the huddle, alert from one to the other, you just have to be on it. We have different code words that we use. It’s just a lot of things that go into being a wide receiver, especially with Peyton Manning being the quarterback.”
What does the no-huddle offense do to opposing defenses?
“No-huddle for us is really good because we can go at the pace we want. A lot of people think no-huddle is like two-minute offense. And it’s really not. No-huddle is just giving the appearance that it could be two-minute offense, but we’re going at our own pace. So you get up to the line of scrimmage and if it was a 40-second clock at the end of a play and it’s going down, it could be 25 seconds, we can get in formation, call a play and say ‘hut-hut,’ not snap the ball, look at the defense, let them adjust, and then call another play or whatever. Or you can actually do it like two-minute. You can go up there and snap the ball with 25 seconds to go on the clock still. So the defense is always is on their heels as far as what we’re going to do – are we going to snap it now? Are we going to do a fake-cadence and snap it later? There are different ways we can do no-huddle. But yeah, the receivers like it because Peyton actually gets to see the defense either show its hand and go to a play, or we can catch them by surprise and hit them with run or pass.”