4:05 PM ET, December 7, 2014
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Then again, the success of that defense seems based almost entirely on the offense it faces, so Peyton Manning and the Broncos' receivers could still do some major damage Sunday in Denver.
The Broncos (9-3), who lead the AFC West by a game over San Diego, have set season highs in rushing yards in consecutive weeks with a 214-yard effort in last Sunday's 29-16 win in Kansas City following a 201-yard total on Nov. 23 against Miami.
"I like it," Manning said. "We kept the defense on their heels."
They've won the last 11 games in which they've topped 100 yards. In their three losses this season, they've averaged 35.7 rushing yards.
C.J. Anderson, the latest starting running back after Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman went down with injuries, has been instrumental with 335 yards and a 5.68 per carry average the last two weeks. Excluding Anderson, the team's other 225 attempts have yielded a 3.46 average.
"He has been special," said Manning, who threw for a season-low 179 yards and two touchdowns on 17-of-34 passing against the Chiefs.
Buffalo (7-5), in the thick of the wild-card race, started the season with an intimidating rush defense that limited teams to an average of 67.5 yards and 2.79 per carry in six games. In six since, the Bills are allowing 125.2 and 4.85.
They've limited opponents to a league-low 15.2 points since the start of Week 7, but that 4-2 stretch -- featuring the New York Jets twice along with Minnesota, Kansas City, Miami and Cleveland -- is a bit deceptive. Only the Dolphins (25.1 points per game) and Chiefs (23.1) -- the two teams that beat the Bills -- rank in the top of half of the league in scoring.
Buffalo ranks fifth for the season (216.1 yards per game) against the pass and has limited those last six opponents to 163.0, but those five teams have combined for five 300-yard passing efforts this season. The Broncos have five on their own and average 304.4 per game, though that's not diminishing the growing confidence of the Bills' secondary.
"In the beginning of the year, we had a couple new fresh faces in the secondary that we had to work with. So we had to get used to working with each other," safety Da'Norris Searcy told the team's official website. "And now that we've been together for 12 games, we know how each other plays so now we just feed off each other. We know where each other is going to be so it makes it easier on the back end. Everybody is holding each other accountable and we're all out here getting the job done."
Searcy had two interceptions in Sunday's 26-10 home win over Cleveland, but the heightened task of facing Manning and two of the league's leading receivers looms. Demaryius Thomas (1,255 yards) ranks second while Emmanuel Sanders is fourth (1,152).
Whether standout red-zone tight end Julius Thomas returns from a two-game absence due to an ankle injury remains unknown. He's considered day to day and still leads the league with 12 TDs on just 54 targets.
The Bills' latest win gave them their best start since opening 7-5 in 2000, and they haven't won eight games in a season since going 9-7 in 2004. But with a remaining schedule of Denver, Green Bay, Oakland and New England, there's little guarantee they'll pass that.
Much of the success has come with former Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton starting. The 32-year-old has led them to five wins in eight starts and will be returning to Denver for the second time. He threw for 180 yards as Kansas City beat the Tim Tebow-led Broncos 7-3 on Jan. 1, 2012.
Pressure to put up points figures to be a bit higher this time around. Orton has been about as advertised this season with 13 TDs against five INTs, just two of which have come in the last five games. His 92.0 rating is 16th in the league, but the Buffalo offense ranks 24th with 319.9 yards per game.
The combination of the Bills' 24th-ranked rushing marks of 98.2 yards per game and 3.84 yards per carry and the Broncos' second-ranked run defense (72.7, 3.38) figures to add pressure to Orton.
The problem is Denver has been as adept against the pass, ranking second in yards per attempt (6.16) with a pass rush consisting of Von Miller (11.5 sacks) and DeMarcus Ware (10), two of nine players with double-digit sacks. That defense could be without cornerback Aqib Talib, who missed the Kansas City game with a hamstring injury.
The Bills have won the last two meetings, the last coming in December 2011.
More from ESPN.com
Broncos hire Phillips as defensive coordinator
The Denver Broncos have hired Wade Phillips to be their defensive coordinator, league sources told ESPN's Ed Werder on Wednesday.
Why Canton is bad at judging HOF-worthy WRs
In ESPN Music Issue,
Recent Blog Posts
|Avg Points Allowed||1.8||1.3|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||BUF|
|Rush Yds Allowed||BUF|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Denver leads 4-2|
|Dec 24, 2011||BUF 40, DEN 14|
|Dec 21, 2008||BUF 30, @DEN 23|
|Sep 9, 2007||BUF 14, DEN 15|
|Dec 17, 2005||BUF 17, DEN 28|
|Sep 22, 2002||BUF 23, @DEN 28|
The Bills have the best defensive efficiency in the NFL (4.5 expected points added per game), along with the most sacks (48) this season. That defense will face three 9-3 teams, all ranked among the top 4 in offensive efficiency in the last 4 weeks.[+]
Bills Remaining Schedule
Peyton Manning is 7-4 in his career against the Bills but they've given him trouble passing. He has just 13 pass TD and 10 interceptions in 11 career games against the Bills.[+]
Peyton Manning Career vs Bills
Peyton Manning is facing a Bills defense in Week 14 that's allowing a Total QBR of 39.6 this season, the second lowest in the NFL (Dolphins - 38.0). This will be the fourth time in the last two seasons that Manning is facing a defense allowing a Total QBR less than 40 entering the game, and he is 3-0 with a QBR of 89.8 in those games.[+]
Peyton Manning vs Teams Allowing QBR Less Than 40 - Entering Game Last 2 Seasons
Kyle Orton went 12-21 (.364) as the starting QB for the Broncos. Denver was the only stop in Orton's career with multiple starts and a losing record (went 0-1 with Cowboys). This will be Orton's 2nd career start against the Broncos and his 2nd since losing the starting QB job to Tim Tebow in 2011. Orton beat the Broncos 7-3 in Week 17 of 2011.
The Bills defense has been one of the most disruptive this season, leading the NFL in sacks (48) and posting the 2nd best opponent Total QBR (39.6).[+]
Bills Defensive Ranks This Season
The Bills have 3 players ranked in the top 10 in sacks this season. The only other team with multiple players in the top 10 are the Broncos.[+]
Peyton Manning has thrown at least 3 pass TD in all 6 home games this season. He's thrown at least 3 pass TD in only 2 of his 6 road games. Manning has thrown at least 3 pass TD in 17 of his 22 home starts with the Broncos. Only Drew Brees (21) and Aaron Rodgers (18) have as many 3+ TD games OVERALL in that time.[+]
Peyton Manning Home/Road Splits This Season
The Bills entered Week 14 allowing the 2nd-lowest Total QBR in the NFL (39.6). They held Peyton Manning to his 2nd-lowest QBR of the year (51.8).
Kyle Orton was 38-of-57 Sunday, tying Joe Ferguson in Week 6 of 1983 for the Bills franchise record for pass attempts. Orton attempted 35 passes 5 yards downfield or shorter, the most of any quarterback in a game since Jason Campbell in Week 11 of 2013. Bills receivers had 195 yards after catch Sunday, the most Buffalo's recorded in a game in the last 8 seasons.
- The Broncos rushed for 10 1st downs Sunday, tied for a season high and the 3rd week in a row Denver's rushed for at least 9 1st downs. Denver rushed for 9 1st downs once in its 1st 10 games. - Denver converted 1st downs on 4-of-5 3rd-down rushes, their most in a game this season and a season high percentage in games with multiple 3rd-down rushes. - Denver converted a season-high 8 1st downs on 11 rushes with 5 yards to go or fewer.
Peyton Manning was 14-of-20 for 173 yards and 2 Int Sunday, his first game without a TD pass since Week 10 of 2010. Manning's passing game was not up to Denver's usual standard: - Tight end Julius Thomas was active but was not targeted. With Thomas in Weeks 1-11, Manning targeted tight ends 7.5 times per game, throwing 14 TD and 2 Int. Thomas has essentially missed the last 3 games, a stretch in which Manning was 4-5 for 23 yards and today's Jacob Tamme fumble targeting TEs. - Manning was 3-of-8 for 96 yards and 2 Int on throws deeper than 10 yards downfield. Manning had a 52.3 completion percentage on those throws entering Sunday with 15 TD and 5 Int. - Manning was 2-for-5 for 11 yards and an interception targeting Demaryius Thomas, his lowest receiving yardage total in a game since Manning joined the Broncos before 2012. - Manning was 4-for-6 for 56 yards and an interception targeting Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders' 6 targets tied for his 2nd-lowest in a game this season.
ESPN Stats & Information