Heading into Denver's week four matchup with Chicago, much was said about the game's potential to determine which team would wind up with the first overall draft pick. Many fans in Broncos Country hoped for a loss so that Denver would remain ahead in the Caleb Williams sweepstakes. Instead, the Broncos overcame a 28-7 hole and secured its first win of 2023. Some may feel this was a pointless win over a bad team that will do nothing but hurt Denver's draft position, but to me, winning will always feel better than a potential draft spot, no matter who it's against.
The first three weeks of the season were a nightmare. Weeks one and two were replicas of the painfully close losses of 2022, and week three was among the most humiliating defeats in NFL history. With talks of tanking for draft position heating up before week four, the Broncos were dangerously close to adopting the single most debilitating trait a football team can possess: a loser's mentality.
A team with a loser's mentality would have folded after falling behind 28-7 in the third quarter, they would have gone through the motions and accepted defeat. The Broncos instead banded together and chipped away at the deficit play-by-play. Russell Wilson led the offense on three straight scoring drives in the second half, and the much-maligned Denver defense came up big with game-changing plays like Jonathon Cooper's scoop-and-score touchdown. With its back against the wall and every reason to quit, the team put forth its best effort all season. For all the issues the Broncos have, they at least proved something vital, they care.
The Broncos are still not a very good football team, they had to come back from down 21 against an equally bad Bears team. The secondary allowed Justin Fields -- one of the league's worst statistical passers -- to throw for 334 yards and four touchdowns. The defensive front struggled as well, allowing running back Khalil Herbert to rush for 103 yards on over five yards per carry. Denver is likely to finish 2023 near the bottom of the standings, but this win made a lot of progress toward establishing proper standards.
Head coach Sean Payton promised a culture change upon his arrival in Denver. The Broncos have grown so accustomed to losing over the last several years, that it has become the expectation. On Sunday, in a game where many fans would have gladly accepted a loss, Sean Payton and his team refused to accept one. The Broncos aren't tanking for the future or resting on moral victories, they are playing and competing to win games like a real team should.
If the Broncos narrowly miss out on the first pick, this game will not be looked back on fondly, but it is too early to worry about next year's draft, right now, we should take the positives. The team grabbed its first win of the Sean Payton era, and Russell Wilson is playing extremely well. Going for the win on Sunday set the right precedent for the team moving forward. They must continue to build on it.