At Last, A Signature Road Win for the Denver Broncos!


Nov 30, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson (22) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs inside linebacker Josh Mauga (90) defends during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday night, in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football, the Denver Broncos went into Arrowhead Stadium, one of the two toughest places in the NFL to play and played their most complete road game, against quality competition, of the season. In a 29-16 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Broncos ran the ball in a way that is necessary for and leads to playoff success (or as Tom Jackson calls it, portable). What made it more encouraging for us members of Broncos Country is that they stayed committed to the run game most of the night. The Broncos produced 237 more yards and held the ball 17:34 longer than did the Chiefs; running 88 plays to K.C.’s 40. Denver also won the turnover battle (+2), were pretty good on special teams, and shut down the Kansas City offense.

If I told you that Broncos’ quarterback, Peyton Manning was going to go 17 for 34, 179 yds, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions, you would have said that there was no way Denver could win. However, empowered by a stellar rushing performance in week 12 against Miami, the orange and blue pounded the rock at the Chiefs to the tune of  228 yards on 4.8 yards per carry. C.J. Anderson spearheaded the attack with 32 carries for 168 yards. Anderson also caught 2 passes for 17 yards and a touchdown.

The good news is, offensive coordinator, Adam Gase has successfully drawn up a balanced attack over the past two weeks. The better news is that the final four weeks of the season will see the return of Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, and Julius Thomas. In fact, reported today that Thomas’ return appears imminent. So with the return of these weapons to PFM’s arsenal, that’s only going to make this offense even more difficult to defense. Thomas said that this injury was no where near as severe as the ankle injury that limited him to 9 games combined in 2011 and 2012.

On defense, Kansas City was completely stymied by an aggressive Broncos’ defense. Chiefs’ running back, Jamaal Charles is one of the game’s best (807 yds, 5.0 yards per carry, 8 TDs) and the Broncos defense held him to only 35 yards on 10 carries. As K.C. fell further behind, they had to rely more on Alex Smith and the passing game…which had the Broncos’ front-seven salivating. Smith, under pressure all night long was sacked five times. Frankly, I don’t think he knew where the pressure was coming from one play to the next as the only player who sacked Smith more than once was Von Miller with 1.5. T.J. Ward, Brandon Marshall, Quinton Carter, and DeMarcus Ware all had a hand in the five sacks. Ware also grabbed a pass deflected by “Pot Roast” himself, Terrence Knighton for an interception halfway through the 3rd quarter.

Then there was the exploits of one Connor Barth. Yes, the kicker. Barth was brought in last week after the less-than-effective Brandon McManus could not be counted on to provide consistent production and was subsequently cut. So how did the former Buccaneer respond to his new gig? He only tied Jason Elam‘s club record by kicking five field goals (22, 24, 30, 33, & 37 yards). While none of these FGs were very long in distance, there was a swirling wind and temperatures were in the low 20’s; making the ball the mass equivalent of a brick. Another plus for going 5 for 5 is the psyche of the kicker…and we know that once a kicker’s confidence is shaken, they are pretty much done. Not to mention the confidence that the coaching staff are sure to have in Barth that they didn’t in Brandon McShanksalot.

Other special teams standouts: Isiah Burse had the longest kick return (22 yards) of his short career and Omar Bolden was effective on punt coverage, recovering a fumble on a quirky bounce off of a Chiefs’ player’s knee. Then we saw something that we haven’t seen often during the John Fox regime; trickeration. After a penalty nullified a great tackle on a punt by Bolden that would have left K.C. starting the possession at their own 9-yard line,  Chiefs coach Andy Reid decided to make Denver re-kick to try to improve field position. It was then that Fox and special teams coordinator, Jeff Rodgers decided to play the part of the river boat gamblers. A direct snap to special teams captain, David Bruton was carried off left tackle for 13 yards on 4th and 9 to give the Broncos a new set of downs. That led to one of Barth’s five FGs.

While this was the most complete road game the Broncos have played this year, it was not without criticism. Manning was off target more than we are used to seeing and that, along with some dropped passes contributed to his anemic 50% completion performance. The kick coverage team was torched for 199 yards on 8 kick returns. Lastly, Denver’s inability to finish off drives with TDs and having to settle for FGs is cause for concern. Now a win is a win, and Denver did score on 7 possessions, but if finishing theses drives with FGs instead of TDs becomes a pattern, plan on making other plans for February 1st, 2015.

The win effectively eliminates the Chiefs from the division title race since Denver has a 2 game lead and owns the tiebreaker with only four games remaining. The only obstacle left in the division is a very game San Diego Chargers team who did the improbable. They went into Baltimore and beat the Ravens. Needless to say, I really was hoping the Ravens would maintain their home dominance. But as the saying goes, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. So two weeks hence, we’ll have to travel to “The Murph” (I know, it’s Qualcomm Stadium now) and do just that. If the Broncos come away with the win there, that will certainly constitute a quality road win. Wouldn’t you agree?

Next Sunday sees a very defensively gifted Buffalo Bills team, along with our old friend, Kyle Orton travel to the 5280 to provide our newly revamped offense with yet another litmus test. I guess we’ll see if only winners truly eat (Buffalo) wings.