By S.C. Hunt
Coming out of what is easily the best all-around effort of the season for the Denver Broncos, one question begs to be answered: Who was that guy wearing Knowshon Moreno’s jersey on Sunday against the Chiefs, and can we keep that guy around a bit longer?
Moreno put up quality numbers on the ground for the first time this season—perhaps finally having some harmony on the offensive line is the reason—as the Broncos took it to Kansas City as if they were working off a month’s worth of frustration. And maybe they were.
Moreno, he of 106 yards on 22 carries, also contributed in the passing game in a contest that was over at halftime—the Chiefs put up some garbage-time stats (give me a “hallelujah” if you had Dwayne Bowe and/or Matt Cassel on your fantasy squad Sunday), but the Broncos won in every aspect of this game. Special teams were indeed special, the defense contributed a touchdown and the offense was clicking on all cylinders (how cool is it to have a running game, Josh McDaniels?).
While it’s likely too late to save a season (unless this is the start of a Tennessee-like run—the Titans lost their first eight in 2009, only to win their last eight), the Broncos at least proved they can be prepared for a quality opponent at home. Believe it or not, Sunday’s game was McDaniels’ first home win against a division opponent since he took the helm.
Fans at Invesco probably didn’t recognize the squad that took the field Sunday—the last time they laid eyes on the Broncos, they were getting absolutely molested by the Oakland Raiders. Sunday was different, with a quick offensive score and a 1998-esque first half that removed all hope Kansas City had of competing.
Now … can Denver build on this win and make this a relevant season, after all? We’ll find out next Monday night. The Broncos have a long week to get ready, but they’re facing a San Diego team that, like Denver today, has two weeks to get ready (the Chargers enjoyed a bye week this week). If they’re able to go into San Diego and get a road win, the Broncos can prove this week’s blowout against the Chiefs wasn’t just a flash of greatness, but a sign of things to come.
McDaniels, who finally cracked a grin during the post-game press conference, might also have quieted a few critics alongside Moreno (you’ll remember, I criticized the running back in a recent post for not being able to break a tackle—his TD reception in the first quarter happily proved me wrong). If nothing else, McDaniels can point to his players and tell them that, when they execute, they can win.
Nevertheless, the win backs up the notion that McDaniels and his coaching staff remain incredibly inconsistent when it comes to preparing their team for game day. Given the two weeks they had to dissect Kansas City, they had the Broncos thoroughly ready to play. In past weeks, we’ve seen the complete opposite. Putting a few solid efforts together is now Josh’s biggest challenge—if they go to San Diego next week and fail to show up, expect the critics (and, yes, I am a critic) to be right back at it, calling for the man-child to be reined in.
For now, us Bronco fans can bask in a great win against a division opponent at home (these are the wins we used to assume would be automatic). But, if you’re like me, you have that doubt still lingering in the back of your head. You watched in the second half as Moreno backslid a bit and danced to the hole, or you watched the defense allow Cassel and Bowe to hook up unmolested.
The Broncos, hopefully, got some confidence back on Sunday. As critical fans who’ve grown tired of lackluster efforts and a team that gets pushed around more than it pushes back, Sunday was a nice respite—a really nice respite. Let’s hope the Broncos can use this game as a springboard and keep the quality up and the mistakes down.
As fans, we’d love something to believe in right about now.
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