There is something there.
Over the last several seasons, winning has become a novelty when the Denver Broncos take the field each Sunday. Time after time, the team has sputtered out of the gates, watched as teams jumped out to quick leads and then quickly faded away in the second half.
But not yesterday. Yesterday was different. It’s the second time in the span of three games that the Broncos have looked more like a complete football team than they have at any time since Gary Kubiak departed the sidelines as head coach.
They failed to score on the opening drive which didn’t come as a shock to anyone. But then something odd happened. A quality special teams play (you read that right) and a three-and-out series for the defense flipped the field. The Broncos took advantage and never looked back in 28-13 over the Los Angeles Chargers – a division opponent!
There were more positives to take away from the game than perhaps any other game played this season.
The running game was on point. The Broncos totaled 147 yards on 33 carries and found the end zone twice. Once from Javonte Williams and once from… Teddy Bridgewater? Heck, we’ll take it.
Bridgewater himself had to have a good game to help fans forget about Philadelphia. Business Decision Teddy was one of over 9,500 people who didn’t make their way to Empower Field at Mile High.
The defense was better than solid. The Broncos were consistently getting pressure without having to blitz which can make for a feeding fest. Patrick Surtain II took advantage and had the day game of his young career. A pick-six from a first-round pick is a shot in the arm for any franchise and while there are still people (rightfully) upset that the Broncos didn’t look at a quarterback in the first round of the draft, it’s nice to know the actual pick is not a bust.
As great as the win was, it wasn’t a flawless performance.
Drew Lock didn’t do himself any favors with his interception toward the end of the first half. That pick set up LA’s first touchdown and could’ve been the momentum shift that the Chargers needed. But it just never came to fruition.
I have very much been in the camp that Drew Lock was the better option at quarterback this season. He’s under contract next year and as a second-year player with no true offseason, his struggles last year should have been a surprise to no one. I thought (and still think) that he earned a legitimate investment from the team to be the guy now and for the future.
But it’s tough to still defend that after throwing such an egregious interception.
It’s also tough to watch Vic Fangio toss a challenge flag onto the field. Vic has become a parody of himself when it comes to questioning NFL officials. Not only is he rarely right, but he also tosses a challenge flag on calls that no one else in the stadium, the city of Denver or anywhere in the Rocky Mountain region thinks he has a chance of winning.
Between the poor challenge attempt on what he thought was a Justin Herbert fumble and the way the Broncos tried to “utilize” their timeouts at the end of the first half to try and get, what a 65-yard field goal attempt, Denver would be better served being issued zero timeouts and zero challenges each half.
Having them is supposed to help. In Fangio’s hands, they’re more than likely to hurt the Broncos.
Yesterday felt like a team that fans could really get behind. The potential is there, and Sunday’s win seemed to scratch that potential a little bit.
But the Broncos are still being held back. Bridgewater was tough in the way he shook off his shin injury and battled in the second half. But if the Chargers made the necessary adjustments and the game turned into a quarterback shootout, is anyone convinced that it’s Bridgewater getting the win and not Herbert?
And while several people will point out that in their first meeting Fangio outshined his protégé, Brandon Staley, I saw a classic result from the Broncos sideline. When the game starts under ideal circumstances, the coaching staff can drive the car on cruise control and not crash it. But the game must start well. And even if it happens, it doesn’t happen every week.
Fangio does not do well when his team has to battle from behind and they lay too many eggs against beatable teams like Philadelphia. That’s not a great measurement of the guy leading the team on the field.
The front office needs to tread lightly through the remainder of the regular season. The Broncos have officially improved on last season, but Sunday’s win is a great representation of where this team stands in terms of NFL relevance.
The potential is there. But the team can get its hands on a franchise quarterback and a better (and preferably offensive-minded) head coach, there could be playoff football for years to come in Denver.