Lest I should out-date any of you neophyte readers at Predominantly Orange, there was a time in the late 1980’s where the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns ruled the AFC and vied for conference supremacy, even meeting in the AFC Championship game three times in four seasons (1986, 1987 and 1989).
It is in the Broncos-Browns championship series where such staples of NFL lore as The Drive and The Fumble occurred, with the Broncos coming out victorious in either situation.
In fact, the Broncos lead the all-time series against the Browns 22-5 and have won 10 straight in the series with the last loss to Cleveland coming in 1990 when Jerry Kauric made a field goal in the closing seconds for a 30-29 Browns win on a Monday Night broadcast at the old Mile High Stadium.
In recent seasons, the Browns’ reincarnation in 1999 has not been able to capture the glory of the past but there is potential as signal-caller Josh McCown (who reportedly incurred a sprained ankle against Baltimore last Sunday) has thrown for 813 yards and 4 TD’s with no interceptions in wins over San Diego and the Ravens the past two weeks.
There are other strong skill position players in the lineup for head coach Mike Pettine in Cleveland as wideout Travis Benjamin has performed spectacularly at times (3 touchdowns in a 28-14 win over Tennessee earlier this season) as well as burgeoning star tailback Duke Johnson who reminds me of former Browns speedster Eric Metcalf.
The Broncos, meanwhile, continue to be a magnificent defensive squad as they are #2 in the NFL in scoring defense at 15.2 points surrendered per contest and #1 in net yards (278.0 per game) allowed, #5 in passing yards per game (192.8) given up and #5 in rushing defense (85.2 yards allowed per game).
As Broncos vice president of public relations Patrick Smyth tweeted out Monday morning, the Broncos are the first team since 1998 to have at least 22 sacks and 14 turnovers forced through the first five games of a season. Against the Raiders Sunday in the 16-7 victory, the Broncos forced three turnovers including a 75-yard interception return for a score by Chris Harris Jr. in the 4th Quarter to cement the victory.
Concerns persist about signal-caller Peyton Manning’s struggles in mastering the offense of head coach Gary Kubiak but as Broncos studio host on flagship radio station AM-850 KOA of Denver, Mike Rice stated, it is still only five games in with learning this new system.
If struggles ensue (Manning is completing only 63.5 percent of his passes, his lowest since 2001 when he completed only 62.7 percent, for 1,234 yards, 6 TD’s/7 INT’s) through mid-November, it may be reasonable to suggest the offense just isn’t that good.
For the time being, however, the Broncos are a team in transition but still at 5-0 and with the Raiders at 2-3, the Chiefs at 1-4 and the Chargers at 2-2 headed into their Monday night game against Pittsburgh, they are firmly in command in the AFC West so it could be worse.
In short, the Broncos are growing into the Kubiak offense and while there are growing pains, the defense absolves them spectacularly and there are no signs suggesting that it will falter down the stretch. Thus, there is still much to rejoice about in Broncos Country.
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