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Mason's Mailbag: Manning's increased velocity not a reason for drops

It's the Week 2 forage into the mailbag, written while listening to a playlist that included Wilbert Harrison's "Kansas City," and a production music tune called "Bright Industry" that appeared in multiple Super Bowl highlights of the 1970's from NFL Films. You can just picture Terry Bradshaw getting strip-sacked by Mike Hegman and Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson.

And one of the responses that follows is a complete fabrication; I'll leave it to you to guess which one.

Demaryius Thomas noted in June that Manning's passes had more zip on them, and Manning told NBC's Bob Costas in an interview that aired before last Sunday's game that it's the receivers whose feedback lets him know whether his velocity has increased.

"I like having that feedback," Manning said in June. "I can learn a lot off of that. I do the same thing for receivers. I tell receivers, 'Wow, you're really coming out of the stance. I'm having to throw the ball a lot sooner to keep you from outrunning.'"

It does not, however, offer an excuse for dropped pass Practice has offered plenty of chances to hone timing with a pass that arrives just a bit faster than it did last year. Thomas chalked up his three drops against the Colts to wanting to run before he had possession of the football -- a reason cited by receivers since time immemorial.

First off -- how do you define a goal-line stand? I've always believed that you need to have the ball inside of the location where two-point conversions are snapped at some point. So by that definition, the Broncos fall just short of multiple goal-line stands against the Colts, as on the second goal-to-go series of the third quarter, the Colts advanced no closer than the 4-yard-line.

(Yes, I know that's splitting hairs.)

But there have been some similar games in Broncos history. A few that come to mind, just off the top of my head, include:

BRONCOS 14, CHIEFS 7; NOV. 20, 1977: The Broncos held the Chiefs scoreless in two goal-to-go situations. On the first, in the second quarter, Lyle Alzado forced and recovered a fumble at the Denver 8-yard-line. The second stand preserved the win inside the last two minutes; the Broncos stopped the Chiefs on three plays from the 1-yard-line -- the last of which was a 6-yard-loss -- and forced a Mike Livingston incompletion with 25 seconds left on fourth-and-goal.

BRONCOS 17, PACKERS 14; OCT. 15, 1984: This game is known more for the consecutive fumble returns for touchdowns on the first two plays from scrimmage by Steve Foley and Louis Wright. This game didn't have a goal-line stand per se, but saw the Broncos allow the Packers just seven points on six red-zone trips. Turnovers and two short misfires by Packers kicker Eddie Garcia -- who never kicked in the NFL again -- were Green Bay's undoing in a loss that, by season's end, cost the Pack a playoff spot.

BRONCOS 34, SAINTS 13; NOV. 21, 2004: A second-quarter goal-to-go series for the Saints got to the 1 before an illegal substitution penalty and an Aaron Brooks incompletion knocked the Saints backward. Later, the Saints got to the Denver 7-yard-line, from which point Champ Bailey snagged a Brooks pass into the end zone, getting his feet down just before falling out of bounds.

There were some tough calls to make in forming the practice squad, and he was among them. But he was never announced as a practice-squad signing -- not by the team, at least, which is the only announcement that carries weight in that situation.

If you had asked me in the offseason, I would have recommended Sunday. You've got the Ring of Fame induction of three Broncos greats; that ceremony is always a treat. You've got the weather, which is usually spectacular and temperate, and should be again this weekend, despite the wintry mix that falls outside my office window as I write this.

If you're up for a prime-time game, I suggest the 49ers or Chargers games next month. With either opponent, you have a proven contender that was in last year's postseason. The Chargers elicit understandable passion and vitriol; that happens when a team comes into Denver and leaves victorious in six of its last nine trips. The 49ers only visit once every eight years for the regular season. But if you have to see the Broncos in orange, the Chargers game is the better choice.

Always, always, always, take the high road.

Although I am not a religious person, I believe in karma. And in my experience, I believe there's some Great Scorekeeper who slaps me down every now and then when I get a bit overconfident about one of my teams doing well. (Either that, or we are all, in fact, in the Matrix, and whoever controls my battery simply likes messing with my perceived reality.) There'll be no arrogance about the team I cover in this space; it wasn't that long ago that the Broncos went five years without a winning season.

I think back to when I was 10 years old, when I was in Richmond, Va. and lost a schoolyard bet over a Washington-New York Giants game with a Giants fan, because future Hall of Fame linebacker and Waterboy supporting actor Lawrence Taylor treated Washington left tackle Joe Jacoby like his "own personal hand puppet," in the parlance of the diner manager on Seinfeld. I have never made even a friendly wager on the result of an NFL game since.

It's a mild annoyance. I can live with it as long as it's not done when the offense is on the field. Personally, I'd like to see special "third uniforms" in camouflage banned first (except for the San Diego Padres) -- and a limit of three uniforms for any team over any season in any sport.

And before I go into full get-off-my-lawn mode --

I have a herd of goats that visit my backyard every third Saturday.

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