In the best game the Denver Broncos have played under head coach Vic Fangio, the road team dominated the Cowboys in Dallas to win 30-16.
For Fangio’s Broncos, it was a complete contest from the first whistle to the end. It wasn’t a perfect game — the nearly automatic Brandon McManus missed three kicks and Denver had a punt blocked — but it was the best all-around performance by the team over the last three seasons, period.
To wit: Fangio’s Broncos came into today’s game as the second-best scoring unit in the NFL, but many doubters argued the team hadn’t played much for competition. Of course, those numbers — a mere 17 points per game allowed — were bolstered by playing the lowly Jaguars, Jets and Giants to start the season. But this phenomenal performance was against the No. 3 scoring offense in the league in the Cowboys (32.1 PPG).
Dallas was held to a mere 78 yards on the ground — only the third time this year under 100 — with only 14 first downs and went 5-14 on third downs.
Even though Kareem Jackson led the team in tackles (7), it was more a matter of the backups carrying the defense. Forced into action due to a huge number of devastating injuries, Jonathan Cooper led the team with two sacks while Caden Sterns picked off Dak Prescott in the game-clinching drive.
Offensively, Teddy Bridgewater was on fire for most of the contest, spreading the ball around well to Tim Patrick, Jerry Jeudy, and Kendall Hinton on a huge pass as well as four more players too. Patrick led the team with 85 yards and touchdown, while Jeudy’s rejoining the offense has added another key element of explosiveness.
But the Broncos weren’t just pass-heavy, they ran the ball well too. In fact, the 191 yards on the ground were the most of the year for Denver in a single game. And, it’s tied for most-ever in a single game during the Fangio era.
Rookie Javonte Williams cracked the century mark for the first time in his career, with 111 total yards and a wild 6.5 yard per carry average. Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon ran for 80 yards of his own, along with a score.
The often-anemic offense under Fangio also enjoyed 23 first downs, went 9-17 on 3rd and 4th downs and they didn’t turn the ball over a single time.
Denver scored first, led throughout and even scored in every quarter today. They looked like the exact opposite of the floundering team they were during the four-game losing streak, which seems like a far cry from today’s great group effort and win.
What made today’s win all the more impressive was the fact that the Broncos could have rolled over and died from the beginning.
We’ve seen many teams in recent years — under Fangio, as well as Vance Joseph — come out completely flat, completely disinterested. And even after last week’s win over the Washington Football Team, these Broncos were a long shot not only to beat Dallas, but to keep momentum going.
Hell, Denver traded away superstar Von Miller last week, and with all of their injuries on both sides of the ball, it seemed crystal clear the Broncos were done competing for the year.
Instead, these Broncos came out like a team possessed, and at least part of that has to be attributed to Vic Fangio and his coaching staff for preparing the young team to go out and shock the world today.
“For us to come in and do that, it’s just kudos to the players,” Fangio said, with class. “They had the right mindset. They bought into what we needed to do to get it done. And we did more than get it done.”
Fangio was hired for his defensive smarts, his 30 years of defensive experience in the NFL and everyone’s been waiting for his scheme to work wonders in the Mile High City. This year, even with Bradley Chubb injured, and both starting inside linebackers — Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson — out, even with a four-game losing streak, Fangio’s defense has bounced back over and over again.
Before the season started and new General Manager George Paton signed Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby, and also drafted Patrick Surtain (and Sterns), the Broncos were projected to be a top-5 defense.
Now, with Miller traded away, Fuller disappointing, and a ton of other starters out for the season; Fangio’s Broncos have their biggest and most important win of his three-year tenure. And they are, arguably, a top-5 defense.
That’s almost inconceivable. It’s incredible.
And the way Fangio had his team ready to fight today, he deserves the credit.
As much as fans have criticized Fangio in the past for his awful timeout decisions. For all of his boneheaded 2-minute drive choices. And for his challenges which often seem like he’s just hoping it will succeed instead of picking the smart play to challenge.
Those same fans should be championing the way Fangio’s team absolutely crushed the Cowboys, when even those fans expected the Broncos to be beaten on Sunday.