Ian St. Clair from The Mile High Report joins us for his latest article onDenverBroncosUK.com, ahead of this week’s trip to Cincinnati for the Broncos.
Prior to this season, the biggest question was how the Denver Broncos respond to adversity. If events on the field go against them, does the team get derailed or take it and move on? The last two weeks indicate the Broncos have taken the “bend but don’t break” mantra of the defense to the whole team, and that’s huge. That gives Denver confidence it can and will win regardless of what happens. What’s crucial to point out is the Broncos are still 5-6 and have a lot of work left to make the playoff dream come to life. But the fact Denver is in the discussion after the last two weeks is definitely fun.
Bend (A lot) but don’t break
The Broncos defense has taken the bend but don’t break approach to the literal edge. Over the last two weeks, the unit has allowed over 1,000 yards of total offense, 846 via pass, and 51 first downs. If you just upchucked in your mouth a little bit, that’s understandable. But here’s some relief for you. In those two games, also wins, Denver was plus-six in turnovers and allowed 32 points (one of the touchdowns was on the fake field goal against the Pittsburgh Steelers). If the Broncos keep teams out of the endzone, it doesn’t matter how many yards they rack up. The most important defensive stat is points allowed, and that will never change.
Create your own luck
What also helps a defense and team is to get a little lucky, and the Broncos got that with the play of Will Parks. If that same play is run 100 times, 99 of them Xavier Grumble scores a touchdown. That doesn’t take anything away from Parks or the game-changing play he made. It shows why you never give up, and that a little luck is always helpful. As the old adage goes, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” While teams cannot rely on turnovers, they can continue to put players in situations to create them. What I think is even more important than the defense creating turnovers is the Broncos not committing them.
Over the last three games, Case Keenum hasn’t turned the ball over. If Denver doesn’t allow opponents to score and doesn’t give the ball away, that’s a path to continued to success. What should give fans added excitement about Keenum and the offense is it seems to be clicking. In other words, playing to its strengths. That means running the ball and letting Keenum use play action in the passing game. In the win over the Steelers, the Broncos started to use the speed of Emmanuel Sanders. This Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, test their defense with Courtland Sutton, which is an aspect we haven’t seen since Demaryius Thomas was traded. I would also like to see Phillip Lindsay get more touches in the passing game, not just running the ball. It’s evident he’s the playmaker for the Broncos offense, so get him the ball as much as possible.
Use the rookies
If Bill Musgrave tests the Cincy defense with Sutton and gives Lindsay more touches, that adds to the effectiveness of Royce Freeman. He and Lindsay have different running styles, so the mix will throw the Bengals and future defenses off … if utilized properly. I still have my doubts about whether Musgrave can do that, but that’s how Freeman can make an impact. Both Freeman and Lindsay have dynamic ability, so let the two feed off of each other. If you play to their strengths, and then add the threat of Sanders and Sutton in the passing game, the Broncos offense is a serious threat.
On to Cincinnati
Denver has to keep the chip on its shoulder to avoid the expected and typical letdown Sunday could bring. As Vance Joseph said earlier in the week, the Broncos haven’t accomplished anything yet. What stood out to me after the Pittsburgh win is how just about every player said Denver won by the approach it had during the week. That’s how the Broncos not only prevent the “trap” game, but build off of those two wins and get even better.
Despite the fact Jeff Driskel is the Bengals quarterback, they are actually still a dangerous team. A young quarterback who will be motivated to play a great game and lead his team to a win will inspire his teammates to play just a little bit harder. Also keep in mind Cincinnati has the same 5-6 record as the Broncos and is in the playoff discussion. The Bengals are also at home and underdogs. If Denver doesn’t approach Sunday the same way it has the last two weeks and lets up, it will lose.
Can we dream?
The dream of the playoffs came closer to reality after the Broncos beat Pittsburgh. Three weeks ago, that was beyond even far fetched. Beat Cincinnati on Sunday and the excitement over the playoff possibilities will grow. Just don’t screw it up.
There’s a risk in thinking Joseph and his team have turned the corner. But Denver seems to have that belief and confidence in itself that carries teams on runs. That no matter what happens on the field, good or bad, the Broncos will overcome it and win. Broncos 34-13.