The Denver Broncos have not had much to celebrate for many years, but there was a different feeling on Sunday night.
The Broncos have not been able to win big games in recent years and that is not to say that the Sunday Night Football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3 was a “big game”, but it had that feel.
The Broncos and 49ers played a tough, defensive and field-position battle in primetime and the Broncos, who once again looked sluggish offensively, were stuck on five points for much of the game.
But when the team had to have it, Russell Wilson made some key plays to get his team into the end zone and earn an 11-10 victory, just the second such final score in NFL history.
There were three key plays on the Broncos’ game-winning drive.
On 3rd-and-10 from their own 33-yard line, Wilson evaded pressure and hit Kendall Hinton for a gain of 27 yards. Moments later, Wilson converted a 3rd-and-6 into a 12-yard gain to the San Francisco 24-yard line.
On the very next play, Wilson noticed that Courtland Sutton had single coverage and he went in that direction, making a perfect back-shoulder throw down to the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Melvin Gordon ran it in from one yard out to give the Broncos their first and only lead of the night.
What was nice about the touchdown run was seeing the Broncos line up in an I-formation, not shotgun, and run it right up the gut at the Niners. That was what was missing from the team’s red-zone offense in the first two weeks.
The defense deserves a ton of credit for this victory.
In addition to holding San Francisco to just 10 points, the Broncos forced three turnovers and had four quarterback sacks. Two of those turnovers were forced on the 49ers’ last two possessions.
The defense also netted a safety, one of the key plays in this game, when Jimmy Garoppolo did his best Dan Orlovsky impression and stepped out of the back of the end zone.
This was a huge win for the Broncos, on national television, even if it wasn’t pretty. It was good to see the team be much better with time and play clock management. It was good to see Wilson being more like the quarterback Denver thought it was getting, though he was far from perfect.
It was a big win and one that could get the season going in the right direction. A loss would have been disastrous, especially with every other team in the AFC West losing on Sunday.
The Broncos improve to 2-1 on the season and will go on the road to face the Las Vegas Raiders next week.