Perhaps the Denver Broncos wanted badly to answer the question I posed in my last column.
I asked: Who are these Broncos?
After a darn good first three quarters against the Chargers, followed by one of the worst fourth quarters in recent memory, the Broncos’ identity was inconclusive. Just when we thought we had answers, the team gave us a bunch of questions to ponder.
Want the answer to that question now?
The Broncos are America’s Team.
Hey, why not? I guarantee that a lot of America was watching Sunday, when “America’s Team” was punched in the face by Denver’s team, the mighty, mighty Denver Broncos. This wasn’t just a win; it was a shellacking – a statement game.
I’ll admit it; I thought the Broncos would be staring up the standings at the Chiefs and Raiders when this one was all over. There was no way, I thought, that Denver’s run defense could keep Ezekiel Elliott in check. Finding out that ‘Zeke’ might not play against the Broncos a few weeks back was music to Denver’s ears. Finding out that he would was like letting air out of the balloon.
Well, Elliott was held to zero – yes, zero – yards until the clock showed 1:54 remaining in the third quarter (at which point, he gained one yard). Elliott, who averaged 108 rushing yards per game before his trip to Denver, was held to eight yards on nine carries. Ironically, the Broncos were the ones who ran like wild stallions all over the Cowboys. C.J. Anderson bullied his way to 118 yards on 25 carries. Jamaal Charles looked like his old self, juking and jiving for 5.1 yards per carry.
Still, even the No Fly Zone, I thought, would have trouble against Dez Bryant, who’s the most physical wideout in the league, and Dak Prescott, who simply doesn’t make mistakes and stands behind a line that resembles cows more than Cowboys.
Well, Bryant was held to seven catches and 59 of the hardest yards he’s ever earned. Prescott, who hadn’t thrown an interception since week 13 of last year, and who’d only thrown four total before yesterday, tossed two picks at Mile High Stadium. Aqib Talib returned one of them 103 yards for a touchdown.
And if beating America’s Team that badly somehow, some way, makes the Denver Broncos America’s new America’s Team, I supposed you’ve got to first and foremost look at the quarterback who engineered the big win, Trevor Siemian.
Siemian looks about as much like a superhero as Clark Kent or Peter Parker, but yesterday, his performance could be classified as something north of mere mortal and just south of Tom Brady (who, by the way, threw one less touchdown on the day). Siemian was 22-of-32 for 231 yards and four touchdowns. He had a rating of 116.0. His blemishes were a fumble and an interception. Maybe he wasn’t quite Brady, but he looked like he could have been selected well ahead of Prescott in last year’s draft; that’s for certain.
Back in 2014, according the Harris Poll, the Broncos were considered to be America’s Team. In 2015, the Cowboys regained the title (why, exactly, is pretty unclear). And last year, the poll was confusing at best, stating the Cowboys were still a favorite among fans 30-64 years old, while the Packers, Steelers, Patriots (does anyone west of Worcester like New England?) – and even the Panthers – somehow stake some claim to the moniker.
Seems like whenever “America’s Team” is on the line – basically whenever the Broncos have played the Cowboys – Denver has risen to the occasion. Since getting throttled in Super Bowl XII, back when Dallas truly was America’s Team, the Broncos are 8-2 against the ‘Boys. Sunday’s victory marked the sixth straight time Lil D has whooped up on Big D.
First-year head coach Vance Joseph coaching and seventh-rounder Trevor Siemian quarterbacking America’s Team? That’s right; pinch yourself.
Can Denver really be America’s Team in 2017?
Sure. But who am I to say? I’m just one of 326.9 billion votes.
But I can tell you this: Sunday was a statement game.
And the Broncos are considerably better than anyone thought they’d be.