As the 2016 NFL season is now complete, we begin to see things a little more clearly. The Denver Broncos took a step backward this year, as they lost a number of players and failed to qualify for the postseason.

The Orange Crush defense, while still dangerous, showed a vulnerability that wasn’t there a year ago. After allowing just 83 yards per game on the ground in 2015, the rush defense turned soft this season, giving up over 130 yards on average. The losses of defensive tackle Malik Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan proved to be far more detrimental than we had hoped.

Yet, the biggest loss from the Super Bowl winning team of one year ago, is proving to be a quarterback that had already lost a good part of his physical skills. If 2016 has proven anything, it is that Peyton Manning was doing a lot more than anyone was giving him credit for, at the time.

Playing behind an undermanned offensive line, Manning’s ability to read the defense allowed him to get rid of the football quick enough, to generate points when they were needed. Despite not having the strongest arm, he still put fear into opposing defenses, and allowed the Denver running game to compete. The Broncos could barely muster 92 yards per game this season, but last year under Manning, they somehow ground out over 107.

One of his greatest traits has always been turning unknown players into household names. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders still had 1,000 yard receiving seasons last year, but he also found a way to get 46 receptions from Owen Daniels, 22 catches for Jordan Norwood, and even backup tight end Vernon Davis caught 20 balls in just nine games with the team (granted, some of the passes were from Brock Osweiler). The third leading receiver for the Broncos in 2016? Rookie running back Devontae Booker, who caught 31 passes for just 265 yards.

Yet, the biggest way that Peyton Manning changed the 2015 squad was his leadership. Everyone on the team was pulling in the same direction, there were no divisions in the locker room, and he made those players around him play better.

Think back to the final game of the regular season against the San Diego Chargers, when the Broncos had turned the ball over five different times under Osweiler and trailed 13-7. The turnovers weren’t all necessarily Osweiler’s fault, but when Gary Kubiak inserted Manning into the game, everything changed. Players didn’t dare let a football slip through their hands with Peyton in the game, and as a result Denver reeled off 20 second half points to get the win, and clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs.

They would go on to beat both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots in the AFC playoffs. Those two teams that would play in the AFC Championship this year. The Broncos would then top the favored Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

Last season, fans looked at Manning’s eroding skills and became frustrated with the Broncos’ struggling offense. Looking back now at what Denver did last season, and what the Patriots just accomplished in winning their fifth Super Bowl, and you come away with an even greater appreciation for what Peyton Manning did in his final NFL season.