Unlike the last few seasons, Denver’s season finale this year was a much more joyous occasion.
First and foremost, the Broncos beat the rival Oakland Raiders 16-15 which was great because it also helped knock the Raiders out of the playoffs. Denver finished the season on a Rocky Mountain high, going 4-1 with Drew Lock under center in his first five games. And considering they began the year 0-4, a 7-9 finish for the Broncos is solid.
A huge reason why the Broncos won so many games to end this campaign has been due to the play of their young players.
Quarterback Drew Lock has been special, adding mobility and a fearless attitude to the team’s gun-slinger position. DaeSean Hamilton has really come on since Lock has taken over, including his 65-yard game with a touchdown last week. Hamilton tied that career-high 65 yards again on Sunday.
But the real stars have been Courtland Sutton and Phillip Lindsay.
Sutton has ascended to greatness like a rocket this season. It’s been his breakout year, during his sophomore campaign. Starting with his 120-yard game in Week 1, Sutton played consistently all season long before making some highlight reel plays.
His one-handed touchdown against the Cleveland Browns, from Lock, was sensational. An underrated incredible play. The next week, Sutton caught his fifth and sixth touchdowns of the year against the Los Angeles Chargers, including another insane one-handed catch.
In the season finale win for the Broncos over the rival Raiders, Sutton went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. That came early on in the game before he was hit hard in the head by a Raiders defender, and then seen for a concussion on the sideline.
Sutton, the second-round pick in 2018, wasn’t the only guy from that year to hit the 1,000-yard mark.
Phillip Lindsay, who was an undrafted player that same year, earned his 1,000-yard rushing season for the second straight year. It was the first time a Broncos back hit the 1,000-yard plateau in back-to-back seasons since Clinton Portis did so in 2002-03. And, it was the first time in NFL history an undrafted back accomplished the feat.
Lindsay was an instant superstar last year as a rookie, showing off his bold running style and speed on the way to 1,037 yards and nine touchdowns with a second-best in the NFL 5.4 yards per carry average. That happened in Week 16 last year thanks to the relentless speed at which Lindsay hit the hole before defenders could react.
While he was underutilized last season, he’s been used a bit more this year (13.75 carries per game) and it took Lindsay until the season finale to hit the mark. He finished the game with 18 carries for 52 yards and 1,010 yards on the season. His 4.5 yards per carry were a bit less than last year, but still a still very strong number.
With Lindsay, Sutton, Lock, Hamilton and many other youngsters on the Broncos, the future is bright in the Mile High City. Both on offense and defense.
Vic Fangio was able to turn this team around in a hurry and Denver’s defense ranks in the top-10 in nearly every important category out there, including 2nd in red zone defense.
2019 may have yet again ended in frustration, out of the postseason, but 2020 looks to bring many more bright spots.