DETROIT — **After allowing seven sacks in the first two games of the season, the Broncos offense looked to the pistol to come out guns a'blazing in the 24-12 win over the Lions on Sunday night.
Keeping Manning upright is obviously a key objective, and with the shotgun-like single-back and single-tight end formation, the offensive line was able to keep him relatively clean.
The Denver Broncos hold on against the Lions in the second half.
"It was something the coaches came up with during the week," Manning said of the formation's use. "Green Bay did it last year against them late in the season and had pretty good success with it. It's something we've repped throughout training camp but something we wanted to do this week and I'd imagine it'd be part of the arsenal throughout the season. But whether we use it next week or two weeks from now, I don't know."
Manning was sacked just once by the Lions' defense, though it should be noted that they were without linebacker DeAndre Levy. Regardless, Manning was able to stand in the pocket to complete 31 of 42 passes and help put together four scoring drives.
"It gave us some help in protection," Manning said. "I thought the line did a really good job. We threw it I think  times. I thought they really did a good job all night. We had good communication all night, as well -- two games in a row dealing with the crowd noise, five guys playing together for the first time. I thought we were on the same page from a communication standpoint—those are two real positives."
Another positive that stood out--in part because of the improvement in protection--was the ability to create long plays. In the season opener, the Broncos' longest play was an 18-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders, and in Week 2, it was a 22-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas.
Against the Lions Sunday night, the Broncos eclipsed those plays three times, the biggest of which was a 45-yard bomb to Demaryius Thomas on fourth-and-1 with 13 seconds remaining in the first half. With time running down, a field goal would have been sufficient, but Manning saw a greater opportunity with the coverage the Lions assigned to Demaryius Thomas.
"We called a play expecting blitz and ended up getting a blitz, a zone blitz," Manning said. "I tried to hit Emmanuel on the option route there and they kind of covered him in zone blitz and he roped in kind of where the guys were dropping out.
"Obviously I knew we had to take a chance and I caught the corner [Darius Slay] squatting a little bit, which is what that blitz and that coverage, what the corner is required to do is to squat a little bit, and DT was able to get behind him. But I was looking to Emmanuel first so I was kind of late going to DT because I wanted just to get the first down and DT made a great play and was able to get into the end zone."
A week after clawing their way to a comeback victory on the road against a divisional rival, the Broncos jumped out to an early lead and managed to keep the Lions at a deficit throughout the game. But it wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that the Broncos were able to gain a comfortable two-possession lead, as an interception by David Bruton Jr. turned into seven points on a touchdown to Owen Daniels five plays later.
The defense's outstanding ability to generate turnovers has consistently fueled the offense at crucial times, and Manning understands how much work goes into their success.
"Those guys are getting their hands on the ball," Manning said. "I think if it's tipped balls or whatever it is, when you get your hands on the ball, it's not an accident. It's effort. It's believing you're going to get your hands on the ball and our defense is doing that right now, and giving us some good opportunities and giving us some good field position."
One phase fed another yet again, and the Broncos succeeded to get another victory by way of that symbiotic football. The Broncos are 3-0 as they head back home and as they continue to make progress, Manning couldn't overlook the magnitude of beating a Lions team that he views as better than their record.
"We knew we were playing a team who was going to come out with everything they had tonight. They were 0-2 coming into tonight [and] easily could've been 2-0. They had two games they could've won. [They are] a team that had the No. 2 ranked defense last year and playing at home for the first time. So for us to come in here and get a win, you cannot discount that."