For as much scoring as the Broncos did in the fourth quarter, this game proved one thing:
Their defense is only getting better.
The Broncos bumped, pushed, and otherwise beat the hell out of Robert Griffin on their way to a 45-21 victory. Sacks don’t tell the story, although they did get to Griffin three times.
Jack Del Rio’s strategy of shadowing Griffin with Von Miller turned out to be just the right strategy. Griffin couldn’t put his strength—running out of the pocket—on display. And when he tried, there were orange jerseys waiting for him.
Now comes the bye week. The defense not only gets better, they get healthier too. And that should scare the rest of the league.
Denver started the game by forcing Washington into a quick three-and-out, and then drove 77 yards in nine plays, with Wes Welker scoring from six yards out for his ninth touchdown of the season. For Welker, that ties his career single-season high, only halfway through the year.
From there, the rest of the half was characterized by some textbook Foxball. First came another replay challenge that ignored the leverage of a situation (in this case, again, low). Later on, there was a punt on 4th-and-3 from the plus-43, even with a quarterback having perhaps the greatest season in history.
Inactives: Denver - Ronnie Hillman, Champ Bailey, Sylvester Williams, Zac Dysert, Tony Carter, John Moffitt, and Chris Kuper (Orlando Franklin will start at right tackle, with Louis Vasquez back at right guard)
Washington - Reed Doughty, Rex Grossman, Chris Thompson, Brandon Jenkins, Josh LeRibeus, Fred Davis, Chris Neild
The Broncos weren’t who we thought they were.
Instead of passing, they ran; instead of keeping the ball, they gave it away; instead of being aggressive, they were passive-aggressive—heavy on the passive coaching, heavy on the aggressive personal fouls.
The Colts' game plan was simple and recognizable, because it’s the same game plan the Jaguars used last week: press the Broncos at the line of scrimmage, play Cover 2 behind it, and force the Broncos into short passing gains. The Broncos took the bait. How many times did we see Manning float the ball tonight in the hopes of good things just happening downfield?
As often seems to happen in big games, both offenses were a bit slow out of the gate, with a pair of three-and-outs and a four-and-out between them.
But Denver's second possession started in prime position at their 44-yard line, and it took them only two plays to take the lead. Manning hit Eric Decker for 39 and 17 yards, and the Broncos were up 7-0 halfway through the first quarter.
Inactives: Denver - Wesley Woodyard, Orlando Franklin, Tony Carter, Quentin Jammer, C.J. Anderson, Zac Dysert, and John Moffitt
Indianapolis - Dominique Jones, Khaled Holmes, Xavier Nixon, David Reed, Bjoern Werner, Montori Hughes, and Josh Chapman
The Broncos delivered an easy victory, 35-19. They held their opponent scoreless in the first and fourth quarters. They allowed fewer than a hundred rushing yards yet again.
Oh, did I mention they are 6-0?
Then why does this win feel like a loss?
I guess that’s what happens when expectations are set as high as the Rocky Mountains, when your team is setting scoring records, and finally, when fans want the sun, moon, and the Super Bowl.
We should probably get used to it.
Jacksonville started off as advertised, with a quick three-and-out on offense. Oddly, they went for a fake punt on fourth down, and gave Denver the ball on the 27-yard line (if you want to go for it, just go for it).
The Broncos overcame a bit of early sloppiness to go up 7-0 on a three-yard pass from Peyton Manning to Julius Thomas, who now has seven touchdowns on the season. Thanks to a holding penalty on Chris Clark, Knowshon Moreno gained 34 yards on three touches on the 27-yard drive, including a 28-yard catch-and-run to convert a 3rd-and-20.
Inactives: Broncos - Wesley Woodyard (Paris Lenon is starting in his place), Robert Ayers, Tony Carter (Champ Bailey will start, and Chris Harris and Quentin Jammer are active), Winston Justice, John Moffitt, C.J. Anderson, and Zac Dysert
Jaguars - Blaine Gabbert, Stephen Burton, Dwayne Gratz, McClendon, Demarcus Love, Marcedes Lewis, and Jeremy Mincey
Come on, now. You didn’t expect them to walk through every game, did you?
Today’s 51-48 win was just what the Broncos needed.
They were tested, but remained undefeated. Peyton Manning stayed on pace for the record books. And the Broncos remembered they’ve got to play at least a little defense to win.
What should we remember? A team scored 48 points and they still couldn't beat your Denver Broncos.