John Fox may have more grey hair now than any ex-U.S. President, but the Denver Broncos pulled off a thrilling 45-21 win over the Washington Redskins to put them at 7-1 heading into the bye.
In Mike Shanahan’s return to the Mile High, he stood on the sun facing sideline for the first time, but his face turned even more red once the sun went down in the second half.
That’s because the Broncos stepped on the gas after scoring just seven first half points.
The Broncos’ offense took a page out of the U.S. Government’s book, and completely shutdown early on. Peyton Manning had a fumble and then threw a pick-six on consecutive drives, which allowed the Redskins to jump out to a 21-7 lead.
That’s when the Broncos took it out of first gear. Sure, fourth-down conversions are great for continuing drives, but they help a team mentally as well.
“It’s do or die and we have to pick up this yard (or two)!”
That’s obviously the kind of motivation that the Broncos need this year.
Down two scores, Knowshon Moreno picked up 5 yards on a 4th-and-2. The drive ended three plays later with rookie Montee Ball punching his first NFL touchdown in from 4 yards out with some big time help from the pushing offensive line.
The next big fourth down conversion came from the one-yard line when Manning connected with Joel Dreessen, who was filling in for an injured Julius Thomas (ankle).
A tied ball game was the equivalent to blood in salty waters. Manning threw a screen pass to Moreno who followed his blockers for 35 yards to get into the end zone. The Broncos were off to the races.
A Matt Prater field goal, and a 35-yard Demaryius Thomas touchdown sealed the Redskins’ fate, but Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made it publicly known with his pick-six on Kirk Cousins.
It was a full on turnover fest with both teams combining for nine total. Manning may have gone 30-for-44 for 354 yards with four touchdowns, but he threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
Robert Griffin III went 15-for-30 for 132 yards with one touchdown and two picks before he left the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury. Then Cousins came in threw two picks of his own with the game already out of reach.
The Broncos’ defense clearly had their main man back. No, not Von Miller, although we’ll get to him in a second. The team had Wesley Woodyard back directing this defense and it was clearly evident. RG III spent the majority of the day on the ground. The team hit him 13 times and sacked him three times. Overall, the Redskins were held to just 266 yards total.
Miller was more of a presence in his second week back with five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a tackle for a loss. Suck back all the oxygen you need on the sideline there, Von.
The Broncos only dressed four cornerbacks, but the team had four interceptions on the day (Chris Harris, Rahim Moore, DRC, Shaun Phillips) with plenty more opportunities that were dropped.
Even though the Broncos were 6-1 heading into the game, this one was a must-win for the team. After the bye week, they have the Chargers, the 8-0 Chiefs twice in three weeks, and a game in New England. Rest can indeed be urgent.
The goals for the Broncos heading into the rest week are to get healthy, stay healthy, stay out of trouble, and set priorities for the second half of the season. It’s the only thing that matters from here on out.