Poll a thousand people across Denver this week in the wake of Sunday night's Broncos' victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers and ask them who was the MVP of the game. I think the results of that poll would be pretty predictable and include only a few names. Peyton Manning. Tracy Porter. Vonn Miller. For me, it's an unlikely hero. I'm picking offensive lineman Zane Beadles.
Beadles is the starting left guard on the offensive line, and a critical protector of Peyton Manning. Despite a bevy of different blitzes and intense pressure on that entire offensive line by the Steelers, Manning was only sacked twice. Both occurred in the first quarter as the Broncos were just getting Manning back in the swing of things. Once they moved to a no-huddle offense, the Steelers never hit Manning again. I give every offensive lineman credit for that.
What made Beadles stand out to me in Sunday night's game was his all-important block on the Peyton Manning to Demaryius Thomas 71-yard touchdown pass. I have mentioned this incredible show of hustle to many local Broncos fans, but I seem to be the only one who saw it. Beadles needs his props for this, and I am bound and determined to bring this to the attention of Broncos nation.
Let's go back and reconstruct what happened. It was 2nd and 1 with 5:30 remaining in the 3rd quarter when Manning threw a little swing pass out to Thomas on the left side. Manning said after the game that he expected an mild gain (eight or nine yards, I believe), but that the blocking and Thomas' speed turned that into a touchdown. Left tackle Ryan Clady was the first man out to help Thomas. Although his diving block didn't actually touch anyone, it did force Steelers safety Troy Polamalu to the inside, allowing Thomas to skate paste him untouched.
At that point, the only two Steelers players who could have tackled Thomas were free safety Ryan Mundy (No. 29) and left cornerback Keenan Lewis (No. 23). Mundy had a much better chance, as he was out in front of Thomas. Lewis would have had to catch Thomas from behind (not likely, but still a nice effort from Broncos wide receiver Matthew Willis to keep him occupied).
If you watch the replay, (which I have done numerous times), you will see a very large man in orange running as fast as he can down the field to try and get the block on Mundy. I could not believe at the time that it was an offensive lineman, but a man his size is highly unlikely to be a wide receiver or even a tight end. Beadles runs 20 yards before he makes the initial contact with Mundy and pushes him aside enough to let Thomas sprint past at the same moment. That incredible effort by Beadles was the thing that launched me out of my seat during that play before Thomas had even crossed the goal line.
So, Zane Beadles, you are my Denver Broncos player of the week. You may not get much credit for your hustle on that play, but it could easily have been the one play that won the Broncos the game. I salute you, and hope that you continue to play every game with that much effort and drive.
Julie is a featured NFL Contributor who writes about the Denver Broncos for the Yahoo Contributor Network. She started following the Broncos upon moving to Colorado in 2001.
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Peyton Manning
- Zane Beadles
- Demaryius Thomas