Dec 14, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; ********** during the fourth quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Think back to the kind of football team the Denver Broncos were at the beginning of the season.
They weren’t that much different than last year’s version, despite some new pieces here and there. The offense still leaned on the arm of Peyton Manning and while their defense looked to have somewhat improved, they weren’t even coming close to meeting the relatively fair standards that many had for the supposedly “revamped” unit.
This story had seemingly already been told before. “We’re going to rely on Manning and if that doesn’t work, well…”
It was a cold, harsh reality that Broncos Country had to deal with. Denver’s coaches simply weren’t taking advantage of what they had.
A fast, athletic defense that wanted to rough up opposing teams and get after quarterbacks.
An offense that was silently pleading with offensive coordinator Adam Gase to pound the rock.
After the 22-7 thumping the Broncos took at the hands of the then 3-6 St. Louis Rams in Week 11, much of the hope that Broncos Country had for a promising season dwindled away.
It seemed like it was just another repeat of last season with a worse end result, as the Super Bowl seemed more and more out of reach for the boys in orange and blue.
Then came the game against the Miami Dolphins, and everything changed. Specifically in the second half, it all came together.
An unrelenting offensive ground attack and an opportunistic, physically imposing defense worked hand in hand to bury the Dolphins to secure a 39-36 gusty comeback victory in Mile High.
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That kind of play carried over into their prime time showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs and again in their afternoon dismantling of the Buffalo Bills about a week ago.
Both games were physical, nasty, and were won at the line of scrimmage.
The Broncos have absolutely thrived at playing that brand of football since the final two quarters versus Miami.
Last Sunday, on the road facing another tough divisional opponent in the San Diego Chargers, they cemented their new identity.
They blasted the Chargers 22-10. Denver’s defense held Philip Rivers in-check all game long, collecting two game-sealing interceptions along the way.
On the other side of the ball, the offense continued to grind it out on the ground. While emerging running back C.J. Anderson didn’t have a stellar day, averaging just 2.9 yards on 29 carries, the offense stuck to their guns and kept pounding the rock. Again, the Broncos were incredibly content on offense as they settled for five Connor Barth field goals, increasing his total to 11 on the season. Barth has yet to miss a field goal in his first three games with the Broncos.
The style of football that Denver is playing pays off in dividends in January and February. It’s pure, uncut, playoff football. On offense, as well as defense, it’s a style that most teams in the league are not capable of efficiently playing.
At home or on the road, rain or shine, whether it be in Foxborough or in the comforts of Mile High, the Broncos are proving that they can win anywhere, anytime, against anybody.
Star defensive tackle and fan favorite Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton let everyone know exactly what his as well as what his team’s expectations are for this season.
"“It doesn’t matter what happens. At the end of the year, we’re hoisting that trophy,” Knighton said. “I don’t care if New England doesn’t lose again. I don’t care where we have to play. I don’t care who our opponent is. We’re not going to be satisfied until we hoist that trophy. So if we’ve got to go to New England (in the playoffs) and win somewhere we’re not used to winning, we’re going to make it happen.”"
Dec 7, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (98) on the sidelines in the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
With the style of football the Broncos are playing, they’re extremely difficult to beat.
In regards to their victory over the Chargers, the only real blemishes on the day were the injuries that the Broncos sustained. Linebackers Brandon Marshall and a thought-to-be healthy Danny Trevathan, and left tackle Ryan Clady, all came away banged up.
Clady seems to be fine, but it’s Marshall and Trevathan that have raised some cause for concern. Marshall suffered a mid-foot sprain and will be sidelined for roughly 1-2 weeks. While foot/ankle injuries can be tricky, Marshall should return to the lineup fairly soon. It’s Trevathan’s injury that is somewhat of a crushing blow to the Broncos.
His season is officially over as Trevathan sustained a hyper-extended knee injury. Trevathan simply wasn’t able to stay healthy this season and only played in three games. His absence gave rise to Marshall’s success and many were eager to see the two take the field together. It was ultimately not to be and now the Broncos will turn to rookies Todd Davis, Lamin Barrow, and Corey Nelson, along with third-year pro Steven Johnson, to pick up the slack.
With only two games left on the season for Denver, they seem to have another grind-it-out matchup with the playoff hopeful Cincinnati Bengals this Monday.
The Bengals have had an up and down season but are righting the ship a little bit after shutting out their in-state rival, the Cleveland Browns, 30-0. On Monday night in the blistery southern Ohio conditions, another tough test awaits the Broncos.
They’ll get a final tune-up before the playoffs when they host the Oakland Raiders in Week 17, so no problem there.
Regardless, Denver is flying low under the radar. All of the attention is being heaped on Tom Brady and the Patriots, and that’s just how the Broncos want it.
They’re hiding in plain sight. Just as you expect Manning and the offense to start bombing away, while their defense plays the soft “bend don’t break” method… BAM… you’re suddenly being pounded by a physical rushing attack and broken by a defense that’s imposing their will in the process.
The Broncos are the danger.