The Denver Broncos are a runaway train. Their latest opponent went the exact same way as the 9 before them: battered, bruised and with a solid beat down. Denver put away the Cleveland Browns by a final score of 34-12, but this one was out of reach early thanks to dominating performances on both sides of the ball.
The Broncos have won an astonishing 10 straight contests after opening the season at 2-3. Even more impressive is that all of those wins were by 7 or more points. They remain in control of the 2 seed in the AFC which would guarantee a home game in the playoffs. One more victory to end the regular season and Denver will have their first 13-win campaign since 2005 and their longest winning streak since 1998. Both of those seasons ended with deep playoff runs, and it looks like this team could wreak havoc in the playoffs as well.
Here are some thoughts on the Denver Broncos victory over the Cleveland Browns:
- Aside from an interception near the end of the first half Peyton Manning may have played his best game of the season. He finished with a season-high 339 yards and it was the 72nd game of his career where he threw for at least 3 touchdowns. That puts him in a tie with Brett Favre for the most ever in NFL history. Odds are pretty good he will own that record by himself very soon.
- Von Miller recorded 1.5 sacks and now owns the Denver single-season record with 17.5. It just so happened that the guy who previously owned the record was on the field to see it. Elvis Dumervil responded to losing his sack record by getting 2 of his own. Miller and Dumervil, or Von Doom as the tandem has come to be known, now have combined for 28.5 sacks on the year. If Denver is to make a deep playoff run there is no doubt that these 2 will need to continue hammering opposing quarterbacks.
- There were a lot of impressive stats yesterday, especially if you are a Broncos fan, but probably the most important was Denver’s 9 of 15 rate on third-down conversions. NFL quarterbacks earn their money on third downs and Manning is an artist in those situations. Two of his touchdown passes came on third downs, the first on the opening drive to Demaryius Thomas and the second to Eric Decker early in the second quarter.
- It’s hard to be critical of a team that has won 10 straight games and continue to win with ease, but the one area of concern is the special teams. In particular they need to figure out their fumble issue on punt returns. Trindon Holliday and Jim Leonhard each fumbled a return against the Browns. Denver was lucky enough to recover both of them, but it’s worrisome that Holliday’s fumble issues seem to have spread to the “fair catch guy”. A turnover after a defensive stop can be bad enough, but to do so deep in your own territory can change the outcome of a game. The Broncos may have been able to avoid such a play against the Browns but they might not get as lucky in the playoffs.
- Next up is the regular season finale at home against the sad Kansas City Chiefs. If Denver takes care of business they will end the season on a ridiculous 11-game winning streak and lock up at least the #2 seed in the AFC playoffs. Go Broncos!
- Last thought: I hope you all have a safe and joyous holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!