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How Unique is Denver Broncos’ 2022 Season?

So many have wasted many hours trying to make sense of the Denver Broncos’ 2022 season using “historical data”. The problem is, there is no data that matches this squad.

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I had a convo on Sunday before the Denver Broncos game against the Chiefs. And I was thrown the argument that the aggregate record of the three best defenses that had a bottom-3 offense in history existed in a number that the sample size mattered.

They also stated that their records were going to be astronomically better than the 2022 Denver Broncos because the Broncos have the worst offense ever. How the Broncos can have the worst offense ever when they don’t have the worst offense of 2022 is an idiotic take on it’s own but I degrees.

Below are the worst offenses by total yards per ESPN.com:

Let’s see if his argument that those teams were far and away more successful without a doubt and no research was needed to prove him right is true. I said it was ridiculous to make such a claim without research and his “historical data” (which he was unable to cite or give specifics on just “if you look at the historical data”) was irrelevant. Let us see if he had a single leg to stand on: (All stats and records are per Pro-Football-Reference.com)

Top-3 Defense/Bottom-3 Offense Aggregate Team Record from 2010-2021:

2021: n/a

2020: n/a

2019: n/a

2018: n/a

2017: n/a

2016: n/a

2015: n/a

2014: n/a

2013: n/a

2012: n/a

2011: n/a

2010: n/a

I’m stopping here. My point is two-fold. Never make blanket statements with zero research. Secondly, people need to stop trying to use “historical data” to explain this 2022 Broncos squad. Due to the injuries, mass changes, etc. this team is a true outlier.

Historical data means nothing more than trying to create a context for current events. You must learn from the past, but past success means almost nothing when it comes to future success. Historical data is useful, but it means nothing when it comes to what should happen, it only tells you what could happen. If you believe otherwise you have already lost every argument you will ever be involved in.

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Causation and correlation are not always synonymous. Just because you shave down the edges of the square peg to shove it in a round hole doesn’t change the fact that you shoved a square peg in a round hole. You didn’t solve the problem, you cheated your way to a false positive.

There always comes a time in historical data that a first comes around. It’s a novel concept I know but stick with me. No offense this bad has had a defense this good and vice versa. This 2022 Broncos squad is a first in many ways, but one above all others. How does a team become this lopsided? Simple, injuries. I know that’s not very exciting and is more boring than “Team X scored 35 points in 3.5 seconds while the Broncos haven’t scored that many in 35 blood moons.”

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I’m obviously being facetious but the premise remains, historical data means what you could have, not what you are entitled to. People can keep banging their head against a wall of irrelevant stats to try and justify their narrative. But the simple fact remains that this team is way to injured to be effective.

How do you run a complicated offense and dive deep in a playbook when four-out-of-five lineman have no more than 3 starts this season? How do you run a complex blocking scheme that requires after snap identification of the man you are blocking while running full speed sideways that requires you knowing exactly what the guy next to you is going to do on every single snap and against every single defensive front you will face each week? Not to mention 7 different running backs have taken double digit carries in a game. So no excuse why they might not know who is going where right?

You can’t do any of that, periodt. There is absolutely no way you can expect guys that only have between a few weeks to as little as a few days on a team to know an entire playbook. If you do, you are a disengenous and insufferable human being.

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How any human, let alone so many that can’t throw a football with fully intact shoulder ligaments can say Russel Wilson’s shoulder injury doesn’t matter is befuddling to say the least. Let alone all the injuries around him to be “excuses”? Calling broken bones and torn ligaments “excuses” is one of the most asinine statements I have ever heard a human utter. The best any team in the table below can call themselves any better than mediocre. And they all have something in common.

Below is the “top”-5 most injured squads in the 2022 NFL season per Spotrac.com:

How can you see those numbers and the teams around the Denver Broncos and say that doesn’t matter? That it has to be deeper? I get pundits and experts have to find daily talking points and it seems most in this business are very bad at finding their own as they copy cat off each other. This is not an assumption, it’s a fact. I have had multiple professors teach me to literally rip off places like USA Today and The Athletic for talking points because it’s easier. They stated it didn’t matter if it was an original idea as long as it got “clicks” and “views” and you put the story in your own words. This is the problem with media today, it’s all about what’s sensational, not so much truthful or accurate.

The 2022 Denver Broncos have an easily discernible problem, it’s not the moronic claim that Russell Wilson is washed. It’s not even the more viable but overstated low hanging fruit of an inept Nathaniel Hackett offense. Three touchdowns by Russ and 4 total by Hackett and Co against the Kansas City Chiefs begs to differ on the latter though. Yes they lost the game, but if Russ finishes that game, I have every belief the Broncos leave Empower Field a Mile High.

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So you can be the ones that bloviate about this irrelevant number or that one from NFL seasons past to try and cope with your fee-fees about this team not doing what you want them to do. Or you can accept the fact this season is lost to injuries and has been since the first month. I told you all exactly 31 days before this was published this o-line would not allow the Broncos to be successful.

I don’t do hindsight, I tell you how things will happen beforehand. This is what we do at The Answer is 42, and why you Don’t Question the Blue!

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Denver Broncos Lose 6th Straight to Raiders

Holding a three-point lead with less than two minutes left in the game, the Denver Broncos’ defense falters. Broncos lost 22-16 in OT to hated rival Las Vegas Raiders.

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For the third year in a row, and most importantly for Broncos Country, the first time under Josh McDaniels. The Las Vegas Raiders have swept the Denver Broncos. There are three observations that actually make it worse:

  1. Raiders defense holds its first offense faced in 2022 to less than 20 points.
  2. The Broncos’ defense has allowed more than 19 points to one team, the Raiders, now twice.
  3. Derek Carr is the only QB to throw for 300+ yards against the 2022 Broncos’ defense.

I have said ad nauseam on Breakin’ Broncos Podcast that game one in Las Vegas was inexplicable. How this defense can’t seem to defend the Carr/Adams/Jacobs trio is truly mind boggling. This one has me even more appalled. At least in the first game, it was more about the offense being bad, which we have come to expect. This time, the offense was what we expected(bad) but the defense cratered when it mattered most. Unlike when they were able to clinch a victory against San Francisco and Jacksonville. They weren’t able to clinch the dub with a 16-13 lead and less than two minutes remaining.

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Just as infuriating as it has been writing this to this point, it actually can get worse. There is only two running backs in 2022 that have rushed for at least 100 yards against this Denver Broncos defense. They are Travis Etienne of the Jaguars, and Josh Jacobs of the Raiders, who has done it twice. Somehow the Raiders have become the kryptonite for this Broncos super defense. Some may claim it’s a defense tired and left out to dry by a bad offense. Below you will see the Broncos are actually middle of pack averaging 30:00 minutes time of possession per game. Look who sits 4 spots behind them.

Per teamrankings.com:

Denver is only two minutes behind the leader in TOP, the Washington Commanders. Contrary to popular belief, this defense is not “hung out to dry” more so than any other team in the league, and actually are better off than half of them. Where things differ is the Denver offense can’t seem to get past the 16 point mark. This really comes down to one thing, offensive line play. Only one QB has been hit more (sacks + knockdowns) than Russell Wilson (69), and that is Kirk Cousins (74). Cousins has an entire game on Russ to get that 5 hit “lead”.

You can see the top-3 most hit QB’s below per fantasypros.com:

These three QB’s lead offenses that scored a total of 35 points across 12 quarters of professional football in week 11. The only one with a winning record scored 3 of those points (Vikings). As I stated in the Breakin’ Broncos episode linked above, no QB can sustain the onslaught Russell Wilson is facing on a weekly basis. He is trusting his health to the likes of veteran journey-man/depth pieces Calvin Anderson and Cam Fleming at the tackles. That is there 2nd string left tackle and 3rd-string right tackle. And a 5th-round rookie 3rd-string center is the only player besides Russ that handles the ball on every snap. They have had 8 different o-line combinations in 10 games. The only player I can see sticking to this roster for 2023 is first-year starter Quinn Meinerz at right guard.

I will go deeper into whether major changes are needed right now in another article later this week. But gut reaction is no, this is not Indy and Jeff Saturday who walked into the best interim HC position possible. This initial “no” also has nothing to do with anything I said here. I stand by my optimism in that article. The Colts have a top-notch o-line, a superstar running back (Jonathan Taylor), budding star WR (Michael Pittman Jr.) and healthy veteran QB who has been to the Super Bowl (Matt Ryan) with a top-notch defense. The Denver Broncos have only 3 of those, QB, WR, and defense. It doesn’t matter how good the play call/design, QB, and WR are if the o-line can’t block. It doesn’t matter who you bring in as an interim coach, it could be Sean Payton or Mike Shanahan, it will not make a difference.

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How will an offense that struggles with communication get better by changing the lingo completely? You can’t install a new offense over half way through the season. These things are not the same and people need to stop trying to equate them. There is no magic wand to fix this Broncos offense. It will take time and patience to get through this season and offseason where the focus needs to be in the trenches. I say trenches, because as I stated earlier, this is not just on the offense. The defensive line deserves as much scrutiny after giving up 100+ rushing yards to Josh Jacobs for the second time this year and 4th time in the last 2 season.

D.J. Jones was a solid signing that lost effectiveness after a concussion against the 49ers in week 3 and some nagging injuries to his shoulder and knee. Dre’Mont Jones has been a revelation in his 3rd-year as a starter and is looking like a pro bowler through 10 games. Outside of that, there really isn’t much that stands out for what was supposed to be a strength of the defense. As good as this defense is, there are cracks that can be exploited. They are 14th in rushing yards against per game (115.3), 14th in sacks (26), and 25th in turnovers forced (10). I hate to jump on the one bright spot this season for the Denver Broncos, but this is a game the offense gave them a chance to win and Ejiro Evero’s squad failed spectacularly. Russell Wilson and Co. played a solid if unspectacular game. Outside of yet another Melvin Gordon fumble, his fifth of the season (one lost), the offense didn’t screw it up as they had outside of their three wins.

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Say what you will about the final play by the Broncos offense that saw them throw the ball and stop the clock for a Raiders squad that was out of timeouts and on the wrong side of the two minute warning. They handed the reigns to the best part of the roster with an 88% chance of winning at the Raiders 22-yard line against the 16th ranked scoring offense. This was Derek Carr not Pat Mahomes. There is no excuse to have Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams being lost in the wash in the two most critical moments of the game. those are literally the only two weapons McDaniels could deploy. And twice this vaunted defense failed.

Call me crazy, but give me another week of Klint Kubiak calling plays, a running back room minus Melvin Gordon, and an o-line with another week to gel as the only second time this season the same five men are expected to start for consecutive weeks against a bad Carolina Panthers squad. Speaking of Panthers and Broncos fans wanting a change. Look at the Panthers season, not the Colts. Once you do that, come back and let me know if you still think a change is necessary.

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Denver Broncos Lay Egg vs LV Raiders

The Denver Broncos had every reason to believe they would leave Empower Field with a win on Sunday. The Raiders had another idea.

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The Denver Broncos came into a virtual must-win game against a team in turmoil and simply didn’t show up at home. The Raiders were embroiled in the Jon Gruden controversy that lead to his resignation mid-week. Defensive End Carl Nassib (the only openly gay NFL player) had to take a personal day to process what his coach had said in private. They elevated their Special Teams coach Rich Bisaccia into the Interim Head Coaching role. The Raiders were down multiple defensive backs. Both Raiders starting defensive tackles were out. Yet they still were able to slap the Broncos around in their house. But as I warned in my preview of the game here, they should not have been taken lightly.

For the second week in a row, Teddy and the Broncos Offense lights up a prevent defense in garbage time. And for the 4th week in a row, the Teddy Stans were out in full throat making excuses for why he was failing. It’s the coaching staff, it’s the defense, it’s everything but Teddy. They will say he brought the Broncos back again, despite the fact they lost. They point to the 330+ yards and 3 touchdowns without mentioning the 4 turnovers. Or if they do mention them, there are a million excuses why they weren’t his fault.

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Some have claimed that Drew got all the same excuses, but not a single tweet, post, or any other medium has been produced. Yes, some have made the observation that caveats are needed for a young QB that was thrust in the middle of COVID, bad coaching, and so many other factors outside of his control. I have never seen anyone try to excuse away 4 turnovers that were all blatantly on the Lock in any forum. The defense being bad has nothing to do with Teddy under/overthrowing receivers or putting the ball on the deck.

Teddy Trolls on the other hand have literally said things like “Drew ain’t the guy, he had 55 net yards before the final drive against the Ravens.” And never mention that was over less than 2 quarters against one of the best teams in the league. Or they will try the trope of “one player can’t lose a TEAM sport” like that’s some type of trump card. Or “where was YOUR guy?! That’s right, he’s on the bench!”. Kurt Warner and Warren Moon were run out of the league before they could start initially, Peyton Manning was benched, John Elway was benched. Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson won an MVP and Super Bowl after 30.

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Now I’m not saying drew is Warner, Moon, Manning, or Elway. But he damn sure could be a Rich Gannon or Brad Johnson. Drew is still only 24 while dripping with raw talent, but somehow he has less potential than a physically limited journeyman that has a losing career record over 4 teams? This is where my consternation comes from. How do you say that with a straight face, let alone mean it with your entire soul?

Here is a side by side look of Drew Lock and those two QB’s courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com:

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Drew outpaces both in almost every category even with their best years included. This is why I believe the statement “The NFL kills more QB careers than they develop” is 100% correct. But here the Broncos are with a QB that has 6 turnovers in his last 5 quarters. The only thing that changed was the level of competition. A starting QB is supposed to raise all boats. This QB is doing nothing but sinking them for 3 weeks straight. As I stated on the Breakin’ Broncos podcast, the only reason teddy has some decent end-of-game stats is that he threw the ball 49 times. Derek Carr had more yards on half the attempts. Derek had a great game, Teddy was abysmal.

People will also claim the o-line is the problem. I will point out that he has the 5th longest average Time To Throw after the snap of all qualifying QB’s. That is not an o-line problem, that’s a QB problem. Teddy has been regressing since the end of the Jacksonville game. Which is a team that has given up career games to just about every QB they have faced over the last 2 years. This is also the only game where you can’t really nitpick Teddy’s performance. But the only QB’s to not get at least 300 yards against this year’s Jags D are Tyrod Taylor (291) and Ryan Tannehill (195). Tannehill didn’t need to, Derrick Henry had 130 yards rushing and 3 TDs. The Titans fell just short of 200 yards rushing.

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But that’s enough about QB’s let’s talk about that Broncos defense because the Teddy Stans are right about one thing. This defense has stunk the last two weeks. They allowed 2 of the 5 worst run offenses in Pittsburgh and Las Vegas to outpace their season averages by at least 40 yards. The highest-paid secondary in the league was also torched by Carr as mentioned for 341 yards on 18/27 throwing with 2 touchdowns. I will never understand how this defense regressed so much so quickly.

This was supposed to be the strength of this squad and now it’s becoming a liability. I believe a short week against the Browns who will have Case Keenum starting at QB instead of Baker Mayfield. Where neither team have the time to install an extensive game plan and will be running a basic scheme should help this unit to regroup and get back the confidence they seemed to have lost over the last 3 losses. It reminds me a lot of how the defense would lose confidence and essentially give up, allowing the opponent to run up and down the field as they seemed to believe the moment they fell behind the game was over. 2020 seems to be repeating itself, just with fans in the stands this time to boo the team as they head to the locker room.

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Up Next:

vs Cleveland Browns Thursday, October 21 @ 6:20 PM MST

Where to Watch:

National: NFLN/FOX

Local: KDVRD

Stream Locally: Denver Broncos App

Stream Nationally: Amazon Prime

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Denver Broncos Take on LV Raiders in Week 6

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Denver Broncos look to bounce back from their second consecutive loss. They get a reeling Raiders squad, that had their head coach resign mid-week, at home.

The Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders entered their respective week 4 matchups with undefeated records and a share of first place in the AFC West. Since then, both teams are 0-4 and share 2nd place in the division 2-games back of the L.A. Chargers. The Raiders had their season upended further this week as the Gruden e-mails were leaked by the league. Causing Jon Gruden to resign on Tuesday of this week. That was the truest real-life version of the fight scene from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. That escalated quickly.

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But the Broncos can’t count on a team with no will to show up at Empower Field. Much has been made about coaches “wanting out” and “calling for that next opportunity”. But this coaching staff is veteran and has head coaching experience in DC Gus Bradley. They know how to run a team, this is not a captainless ship. They just have a new hierarchy. I actually like the move of promoting the special team’s coordinator and leaving the offensive and defensive play-callers in their respective roles. This will help keep some normalcy and continuity in the building.

I would normally be happy to see the Raiders in such turmoil, but the facts around the story are just too horrible to glean any satisfaction from. If you would like further details on the Gruden situation you can listen to our Breakin’ Broncos Podcast here. And this article from The Athletic is a great resource as well.

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The Broncos coaching staff has been thoroughly outcoached the last 2 weeks. This is not debatable. As I stated in my Steelers game review here. Shurmur just can’t get out of his own way. He wants to run old-school blocking and running schemes, with new-age pass concepts despite whether or not he has the personnel to do so. For the second week in a row, despite constant pressure refused to go into 2 and 3-TE sets. He abandoned the run in the 2nd quarter despite average north of 6 YPC. And he used 3 wide sets with a return specialist, and practice squad players taking up the majority of the WR room.

Teddy had a third straight sub-par game against the steelers and a stout pass rush. The front 7 of the raiders is legit, their biggest weakness lies in the inconsistent back end. Casey Heyward is a bit underrated, but the rest are suspect at best. But Max Crosby and Co. make their lives much easier and will be going up against a suspect Bronco’s O-line that can’t even tout an “elite” Garrett Bolles anymore. Teddy has shown he tends to panic against misread blitzes pre-snap. He has shown all the tendencies, including backbreaking INTs in the 4th quarter that got Drew Lock benched. But again, somehow, Teddy gets a pass.

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If the Raiders come in and get anywhere near their offensive average of 399.6 total yards, it will be a long day for Broncos Country. If the Broncos can re-find their defensive efficiency from the first 3 weeks and hold the 29th ranked rushing offense in check while Von Miller and Co. get to Carr, Denver will be alright. Problem is, they just gave up almost 200 yards to the 32nd ranked rushing offense in the Steelers. And over 320 passing yards to a bottom 5 passing game the week before. The one area of this team that was supposed to be elite has been absolutely outclassed the last 2 weeks, in different ways. The game plans have been misguided at best, and absolutely horrible most of the time.

At least Teddy has been practicing with the team all week and he’s at home. So we should at least not see the embarrassing mistake of a delay of game on the first offensive play of the game. Think about that, you have a play you know was going to be called since Tuesday/Wednesday install. And you still can’t get the snap off. That is proof positive of bad coaching.

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Now, I do believe we will suffer the embarrassment of losing to a Raiders squad still licking their wounds created by their head coach. Denver will see heads roll, and a new QB on Monday. I won’t even call it Drew, it may be Brett Rypien. But changes will be made and the season will most likely fall off the rails over the next few weeks. I hope I’m wrong, but I cannot feel confident in this team, even this week, after the last two.

Final Prediction:

LV Raiders 24-Broncos 20

Denver Broncos Lose Again vs Free Falling Pittsburgh

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The Denver Broncos came off their worst performance of the year against the Ravens. Then laid an even bigger egg in week 4 until Pittsburgh went to prevent in the 4th quarter of a 27-19 loss.

That final score does not tell the story of just how inept and out-coached this Denver Broncos squad was Sunday morning. The Pittsburgh Steelers were coming off 3 consecutive losses and Big Ben had more INTs than TDs. All of that changed over the course of 60 minutes on Heinz Field. The Broncos would go down by 7 after an early dime from Big Ben to Diontae Johnson for 50 yards and a TD put them up 7-0 at the 12:09 mark in the first quarter. The Denver Broncos would never threaten that lead, never getting to within more than 4 points the rest of the game.

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The Broncos were so inept on offense they didn’t score their first TD until the 10:19 mark in the 4th quarter. Even that would take a bigger screw-up by the Steelers D (blowing over-the-top coverage) and an absolutely ridiculous catch by Sutton to bail out his quarterback than anything the Broncos did right. Before the 3 final drives for the Broncos, Teddy Bridgewater had less than 60 net yards and only 83 passing. Look at this tweet I put out about it:

Every Teddy Troll has tried to grill Drew Lock for his 55 net yards in 1+ quarters against the 4-game win streak Ravens who stayed blitzing against a weakened O-line. But want to give a pass to Teddy who had just as low a net yard total through 3+ quarters against a much worse Pittsburgh defense that had lost 3 in a row.

The only mistake Drew made in his half of play was a meaningless INT with 3 ticks on the clock. Teddy throws a pick in the same place in the end zone, to the same player, with the same throw, but it actually lost the game as the Broncos had a chance to tie the game with a TD and 2-point conversion. I keep hearing that “he brought them all the way back”. But he didn’t, unless they resumed the game after the INT that even the NFL record keepers missed, the Broncos are still listed at 3-2, not 4-1.

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It’s amazing to me that Teddy can lose and be called a “winner”. But Drew does better in a worse situation, and he’s a definitive bust? This is what Robert Downey Jr.’s character in Tropical Thunder meant by “you never go full retard.” I need to know why the double standard? I obviously need to be clear because people have trouble with words. I do not sit in the camp that Drew Lock is the second coming of John Elway. What I am saying is nobody knows, nobody. Eighteen, that’s the total number of starts Lock has in his career, is barely enough to fill the weeks in this year’s entire schedule. But somehow people that have never so much as seen Drew practice somehow just know he is not the man because he is sitting on the bench.

Have we all forgotten Rich Gannon and Brad Johnson? Where when they finally got into the right system (one we will not mention) they went on MVP tears or won a Super Bowl. Drew Lock is more talented than both of those men by leaps and bounds. Yet you “experts” sit here and say that Teddy had a “great game” and Drew is a scrub. Give me a break. I don’t want this to be a pure Teddy bashing session, I really have no ill will towards the player. But his fans are insufferable and idiotic.

Let’s move on from the QB position though as it was not completely Teddy’s fault. This vaunted Broncos defense has looked more like a doormat the last 2 weeks. After giving up Lamar Jackson’s 2nd ever 300-yard game last week. Big Ben found a fountain of youth and after 5 INTs in the first 4 games, gave up nothing but a lost fumble that lead to an FG by Brandon McManus in the 2nd quarter. He ended the day 15/25 for 253 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs. I know that’s not a flashy stat line. But when you allow the 32nd ranked running game (55 YPG) to go off for 147 yards. Najee Harris had 122 all by himself, the first 100-yard game for the rookie. After that, Big Ben doesn’t need to light it up, just not screw it up.

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I still don’t understand why the best pass rusher on the team was covering Chase Claypool from the slot instead of, you know, pass-rushing, is beyond me. Justin Strnad’s hesitancy in coverage and attacking the LOS during run-plays is concerning as well. If Mike Purcell misses anytime or is limited due to a back injury he suffered trying to make an insane interception in the first half. This run-D will fall off a cliff. The depth behind Purcell is light, figuratively obviously. The Denver Broncos front-7 was manhandled by a Pittsburgh O-line that was ranked dead-last in the NFL during the pre-season and has done nothing to change that before Sunday.

The Broncos have a little reprieve with the reeling Raiders coming into Denver this Sunday after the insanity that is the Jon Gruden scandal. If you would like to hear our takes on that, as well as how we feel about Javonte Williams and this Broncos rushing offense. You can listen to the Breakin’ Broncos podcast here.

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So for the second week in a row, we saw Shurmur sabotage himself by abondoning from the running game with just a 4-point deficit despite his running backs averaging more than 6 yards per carry. You saw the Pittsburgh Steelers put. on a clinic of the use of 2 and 3 TE sets. It’s amazing to see a coach look across the sidelines and say “see what you could do” and the coach on the receiving end going “but I don’t wanna!”

The Steelers have far inferior talent at the TE position when compared to the Broncos, yet their use in Denver is like a giant squid. We know they’re out there somewhere, we just don’t know exactly where. Also, can someone explain how Javonte Wiliams has 0 rushes inside the 5? This offense with Teddy looks absolutely identical to 2020 with Lock who had no offseason to prepare. Teddy has had a full offseason with the team and looked just OK when playing inferior teams.

As I have said since week 1 in this article and everywhere since. Teddy would give a lot of fools gold through the first month, then Broncos Country will claim the sky is falling by the time they played the Raiders. It didn’t even take that long. And here we stand, right where scared money gets you, desperation and people under the bus. Things will get much worse in Dove Valley before they get better.

Denver Broncos vs Pittsburgh Steelers Preview

What looked like the first start of the year for Drew Lock got a lot murkier on Friday as Teddy Bridgwater has cleared concussion protocol.

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After a tough week against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens that saw the Denver Broncos drop from 1st in Pass/Rush-D, Total D, Points Against, and Time of Possession, drop anywhere from 2nd-5th in their respective categories. The Broncos manhandled the Jaguars, Giants, and Jets through the first 3 weeks. Then hit the brick wall that was the Ravens who exploited warts across Denver’s roster the less talent-laden teams they faced beforehand simply couldn’t. I believe the latter is where the Steelers lie, and I will break down just how a Teddy or Drew lead team can escape Heinz Field with a victory.

Heinz Field is a notoriously hard place for visitors to play, regardless of the Steelers’ talent on the field. The Steelers are 400-238-9 (including playoffs), a ridiculous .625 winning percentage. But it’s not like they are blowing every opponent out, the average margin of victory is less than 4 points. Pittsburgh also holds the all-time record for winning percentage (.713) and wins (309) against visiting AFC opponents. The Denver Broncos is second on that list in wins (288) and 3rd in win% (.679). There were second in win% before the loss to the Ravens on Sunday, which put Baltimore in the 2nd spot. You may ask, how is he going to spin this into a positive for the Broncos? I’m glad you asked.

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As I stated, despite the dominance the Steelers’ all-time home record eludes too, don’t forget that small margin of victory. The Broncos all-time on the road have scored the 3rd most average points (20.2) 1.4 points behind the Patriots. That brings the average margin of victory down to 1.3 points. An easily beatable margin in a game with an oblong spheroid that tends to bounce in funny ways.

The Broncos are only 1 of 2 teams in the AFC with multiple road victories. Yes, they came against the Giants and Jags, but winning on the road in the NFL is incredibly hard. As the team with the most road victories in the AFC all-time is this Steelers franchise as well (both wins and win%) with the only winning record of 214-207-2. The Cowboys are the only other team with a winning record on the road in its own conference. All the records/stats so far are courtesy of StatMuse.

That 20.1 road points average aligns well with the Denver Broncos Offense so far in 2021 which has averaged 20.8 PPG. That’s only 21st in the league, but they face the 3rd worst offense in the league as far as PPG at 16.8 in the Steelers. The Steelers look like they may be getting back 2 of their top 3 targets in Chase Claypool and Juju Smith-Schuster. But the Steelers have the worst rushing offense (55.5 YPG/32nd), which looks at a one-dimensional game as Denver D is 5th against the run at 70 YPG. The Broncos D is also 6th against the pass even after Lamar torched them for 300+ last week. The Steelers O is 19th in passing at 258.3 YPG. All the stats in this paragraph are courtesy of Yahoo! Sports.

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The biggest thing going for Denver Offense is the Steelers Defense. The Steelers D is ranked 16th overall giving up 357.75 YPG and only has 1 INT and 5 total sacks through 4 games. That with what I said in this article, that whoever starts at QB will get guards Dalton Risner and Graham Glasnow back to improve their protection against a one-dimensional pass rush. Outside of T.J. Watt, no one really scares you. This should mean a relatively clean pocket for a QB to work out of, especially if Shurmur gets out his own way and utilizes the 2/3-TE sets that were so successful in their 3-0 start to the season.

I also do not see the Denver Broncos carrying over a misguided Cover-Zero game plan they used defensively last week. I see Denver getting back to the suffocating defense they played the first 3 weeks against another bad offense with a statue at QB. Von Miller and Co. should feast in this game. As well as the Denver running game that should be leaned on heavily regardless of the QB under center.

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Speaking of QB’s, up until Friday afternoon, this looked like Drew Lock’s first start of the year. But after Teddy practiced fully Friday after being cleared by an independent specialist earlier in the day. This worries me not as a person that wants to see Lock play. But schematically, as Drew has taken all the reps with the 1’s this week. I know Teddy was in the building and viewed practices.

But that is not the same as actually taking the reps. Then after no practice reps with the starters while at home is a stretch. Going into a hostile environment like Heinz Field is a completely different animal. This is the edge a team in desperation like the Steelers needs. This was also a serious concussion that caused Teddy to have involuntary body movements. No concussion is “small” or “little”, but this one looked nasty. Coming back in 6 days doesn’t sound like you are putting player safety first Vic.

So in summary, regardless of the QB, if the Broncos can run the rock, expand the 2/3-TE sets, and go back to the defense that dominated the first three weeks, they can win. But if they play a less than 100% Teddy, run the offense out of 3 wide sets, and continue the communication issues on the defensive back end from last week, they will lose. This is one of the closest matchups on paper in the NFL this week. But I do believe the Broncos defense will be the deciding factor in a hard fought game.

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Final Prediction:

Denver 20-Pittsburgh 13

Denver Broncos Get Rolled at Home by Ravens #BALvsDEN

The Denver Broncos came into week 4 3-0 and tied for first in the AFC West. They left with that tie, but at 3-1 after being rolled at home by Lamar Jackson’s arm and Ravens D.

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The Denver Broncos were on top of the world and AFC West after a 3-0 start. They had a 2-game lead on Kansas City and were one of 3 undefeated teams with the Raiders and Arizona Cardinals. They were tied with the Raiders for the division lead. By the end of the day, Arizona was the lone undefeated team in the league and the Broncos and Raiders had to make room for the Chargers at the top of the division where all three are tied at 3-1.

So how exactly was Lamar Jackson and company able to dismantle the top-ranked pass-D in the league to the tune of 316 yards on 22/37 passing with 1 TD and 0 INT’s? Blown coverages and a game plan that left the Broncos’ defense vulnerable. Vic Fangio was determined to not let Lamar beat them with his legs. And he accomplished this as Lamar only had 28 yards rushing on 7 attempts. And outside of a controversial last play would have snapped the Raven’s record streak of at least 100 yards rushing, 43 straight games now, tying the 70’s era Steel Curtain Steelers. But as mentioned above, Lamar was able to beat the Cover Zero that Fangio ran almost the entire game. He got only his second 300-yard passing game of his entire career in the process.

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That Cover Zero was a serious miscalculation, it is not what Fangio’s defense is built for. He runs a “match-zone”, which essentially means his D begins as a zone, but once an offensive player crosses into the defender’s “zone” they “match-up” or go to man coverage on that player, until they leave their “zone”. That player is then passed off to the next defender and their “zone”. This is why communication and a top-tier coverage linebacker are much more necessary in Fangio’s scheme than other zone concepts.

This means he runs a lot of Cover 2, or Tampa 2 as many know it. That means two safeties play deep to essentially remove the deep-ball from the equation. Well, now you have defenders playing a scheme they don’t practice outside of a few plays here and there. And no help over the top if someone misses their man-to-man assignment, that again, they don’t practice. This killed the Broncos on 5 huge plays. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown’s insane 49-yard full-layout TD. James Proche’s 32-yarder with no defender within 20-yards that ended up getting them a field goal. Mark Andrews’ 24-yard rumble across the middle of the field that precursed a Latavius Murray 11-yard TD jaunt. And Devin Duvernay’s 17-yard catch that led to the field goal that put the Ravens up by 13 in the early 4th-quarter.

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Now it wasn’t all bad for the defense, like I said, they stuffed the run all game and sacked Lamar 3 times, including 2 by breakout rookie Caden Sterns. Those are the first 2 sacks of Sterns’ career again, who was all over the field. He also had 3 solo tackles and 1 pass defense that he turned himself into a missile, covered 15-yards and jarred the ball out of Sammy Watkins’ hands before he could secure a prayer thrown by Lamar Jackson. This play saved an almost 30+ yard miracle catch and lead to the Ravens punting instead of at least another 3-points from Justin Tucker.

We would also be remiss if we didn’t mention Von Miller continuing his season-beginning sack streak with a half-sack of Lamar late. He also added 5 total tackles and 1 TFL to go with that half-sack. Showing yet again, he is back, healthy, and hungry. There is only one award Miller hasn’t won, Defensive Player of the Year, he continues like this, it could be his year. That is if the Broncos can continue to win.

The Bronco’s chances took a big hit, literally and figuratively, just before the half. When Teddy Bridgewater was knocked so senseless he lost feeling in his hands. This is not something that has been confirmed, but go back and watch Teddy’s hands on the final drive before the half. Those are not normal hand movements by a human that is totally “there” mentally. They look almost involuntary and a bit scary. You can see the hit at the very beginning of this video. We can debate “helmet to helmet” non-calls all you want. Doesn’t change anything.

The Broncos ended the day down 8 starters on both sides of the ball. So in one game, Denver got all of 2020 smacked right across their forehead. Quarterback injuries/turmoil, WR injuries (down 3 receivers now), O-line inconsistency with pass blocking, and a flash of pre-2020 Garrett Bolles with his first holding penalty of the year wiping out a crucial 3rd down Drew Lock had converted on an insane scramble drill.

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Speaking of Drew Lock, yes, he got his first action in over a month when he played the final preseason game against the L.A. Rams. After a month of pretending to be other QB’s with the practice squad, he was thrust into an impossible situation. After averaging over 6.5 YPC in the first quarter, Pat Shurmur completely abandoned the run despite it being a one-score game until the final play of the first half.

Then when his young backup QB, that spent the week pretending to be Lamar Jackson, called 4 run plays, and 21 pass plays in the second half. Again, it was only a 10-point game until the 4th-quarter. I got a lot of hate on Twitter and was accused of being a Drew Lock Stan by Teddy Stans on Twitter. But as I said there, here, and everywhere. Check my receipts, I do not know if Drew Lock is “the guy”, but I stand pat, and feel vindicated, in this stance after Sunday. That Drew’s upside is much greater than Teddy’s.

This shows with how the Ravens’ D changed after Drew’s first 3rd-down conversion where he put a frozen rope on Noah Fant in a window Teddy hasn’t been able to hit since college. The Ravens immediately backed up and went from their own Cover Zero due to no fear of Teddy’s arm, too much more Cover 2 to make sure they took away the deep part of the field. The mere presence of Lock on the field forced a defense to change their game plan mid-drive. Here are a few Tweets I put out to counteract the narratives so many want to be true to vindicate their takes all off-season that Teddy is the better option. Not the scared money pick we here at the #TAI42Fam believe it was and is.

Here is a bit of info to combat the “Teddy is so much more accurate!” trope:

And this one explains itself:

If not for a late and meaningless interception in the end zone with 3 seconds left on the clock and 3rd-1 from the 3 where Courtland Sutton gave almost no effort to go up and fight for. Drew would have destroyed Teddy’s first-half line as you can see them below courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

And again, this was with Drew getting zero snaps with the 1’s since Teddy was named the starter before the Broncos’ final preseason game. Many jumped on his “inaccuracies” without mentioning he had a better comp% than Teddy by over double-digit points. Or that he almost doubled him up in yardage hitting throws Teddy just simply can’t make.

They also want to talk about his interception like it wasn’t essentially the last play of the game. And he gave his best red-zone threat a chance in one-on-one coverage to high-point it, but instead Courtland Sutton back-pedaled and allowed Anthony Averett to prove he wanted it more. As he jumped in front of Court and hauled in the meaningless interception with 3 seconds left on the clock. And if he didn’t, none of you would have the “coaches feud” none of you knew you wanted. I also would like to point out I called this happening in my first article of the year.

Now that we are on to better vibes, let’s talk about this run:

Video courtesy of the Denver Broncos Social Media Team:

That. Was. INSANE! Pookie said you owe HIM! Javonte Williams needs a new nickname because he does not care these men have families! Maybe “The Reaper”? He’s straight snatching souls out there. That was a Deebo move! Poor Marlon Humphrey was drug 19 yards like he was Javonte’s backpack. What chain? And no “Lil’ Pinball” is NOT good enough.

There is nothing “Lil” about the 5’10” 220 lb. Javonte Williams. He is full-grown. And I approve this message:

I know that Melvin Gordon looks like his 2018 self again, on a contract year. But Javonte has proven through 3 weeks, despite a goal-line fumble last week, he is the future of the Denver Broncos rushing attack. And what a one it will be, if Shurmur gets out of its way. The Broncos’ run-blocking was outstanding with rookie Quinn Meinerz and 2nd-year guard Netane Muti playing instead of starters Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow who were out with injury. The pass-blocking was abysmal, as Muti and Meinerz got bullied by the Ravens’ interior pass-rush. Giving up 5 sacks on the game (Ravens had 5 sacks in the first 3 games combined).

This coupled with Shurmur deciding the success in their 2 and 3-TE sets the first 3 weeks meant nothing. Since he went 3-wide for the vast majority of the offensive snaps. Despite the fact 2 of his top-3, and 3 of his top-5 WR’s were injured by half-time. And the Broncos had three viable TE targets. Not only do 2 and 3-TE sets match your personnel, but they can also be added to the blocking scheme. Especially Eric Saubert, who can ostensibly be a 6th O-lineman. Or using Andrew Beck as the FB-TE hybrid he’s supposed to be on the roster for. Instead, he had Return Specialist Diontae Spencer running routes over the middle of the field. And Kendall Hinton running routes meant for KJ Hamler and Jerry Jeudy.

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Between Shurmur hampering the offense by indefensible play-calling and Denver’s Special Teams coverage units continuing to be absolutely abysmal. I continue to doubt the post-season viability of this Broncos squad. I don’t see Fangio straying so far away from his norms again, Lamar is a unique player, and caused a unique challenge Vic over-compensated for. And I see this being an anomaly as long as Surtain doesn’t miss significant time and Darby can return in the next week or 2. So I won’t spend time breaking that down any further. The improved run-D was encouraging, so they can build on that and correct the communication miscues that lead to the 5 broken coverages we discussed earlier.

This week the Broncos will be getting a matchup against another beat-up team in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Who are licking their wounds after three straight losses to the Raiders, Bengals, and Packers. And with Teddy still not practicing as of Wednesday. We will see Drew Lock’s iteration of the 2020 Denver Broncos. The Broncos and Steelers have an extensive injury list. But it looks like Lock will have those starting guards back, who despite their warts, are much better than their respective backups are currently.

So I will most likely be the first and only one to say I believe Lock will surprise and have a strong showing against a reeling Pittsburgh squad who hasn’t won since a stellar opening week win over the surging Buffalo Bills. This is a perfect bounce-back opportunity for not only the Broncos but Lock against a very beatable Steelers team. This is by no means a “lock”, but the most likely outcome. I would love to see Lock against the strong upcoming Broncos schedule. This Sunday, not last, will give a true idea of the improvements Lock made this offseason.

Broncos Get First September Win Under Fangio

Broncos were 0-7 under head coach Vic Fangio coming into the 2021 season opener against the New York Giants. After sound performances on both offense and defense, they sit 1-0.

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As has been reiterated ad nauseam since the pre-season started. The Denver Broncos after 2 years under Fangio had yet to notch a single win in September, going 0-7. Well, the narrative is officially broken after a 27-13 drubbing of the home team New York Giants in the Meadowlands. This building has been a place of horrors for Denver since the 1998 squad ended their attempt at a perfect season on an Amani Toomer 37-yard TD catch with mere seconds left on the clock. The Denver Broncos were 1-2 in games played in New Jersey, regardless of the stadium or name. Also regardless of if the team opposite of them was any good. The sole win had come under the guidance of Peyton Manning and his record-breaking 2013 offense. The ’98 Giants team ended 6-10, 2005 was 11-5. The Denver Broncos had only won a singular other game as the visitor to the Meadowlands since 1972, a 14-9 hard-hitting win with the last iteration of the Orange Crush defense, and pre Elway-era. So Teddy Bridgewater did something even the Duke of Denver couldn’t do, beat the Giants on the road.

Teddy actually has as many total wins (1) as Elway had against the Giants regardless of the venue in his entire 16-year career. I have not been shy about my preference for Drew Lock to be the starting quarterback of this year’s Broncos. But Teddy helped to ally some fears, such as the fumbling issues that have plagued him since his rookie campaign. He came out of the game with barely a smudge on his jersey, and even when he faced pressure he showed he knew how to keep two hands on the ball. This was his biggest flaw outside of the lack of arm strength. That second flaw showed itself on multiple throws. Not the least of which is this should-be touchdown for some reason everyone blames K.J. Hamler for. Watch the highlight linked titled “KJ HAMLER DROPS A WIDE-OPEN TD FROM BRIDGEWATER”. And you will see how Hamler pretty much had to come to a complete stop, turn around, and jump for the off-target duck of a throw. I know Peyton Manning said, “I had a lot of wobbly balls go for TDs”. Teddy is not Peyton, not by any stretch when it comes to accuracy and ball placement. But one thing he does emulate is the General alter ego of Peyton.

This video of an interaction between Von Miller and Teddy Bridgewater I believe encapsulates why Teddy was the choice over Drew Lock courtesy of the Denver Broncos Social Media Team:

However, I do not back down from my statements that Teddy and his lack of arm strength will ultimately be the Broncos’ undoing. He got lucky on multiple plays where, against better defenses, the ball will end up in the opponents’ hands instead of the ground or some highlight-reel catch his receiver bailed him out on. Watch this highlight reel at the 2:50 mark. A better defense with more speed, and that floater is an interception. Also what you won’t see in any highlight reel are the 8 incompletions he had where they were grossly underthrown, either hitting the dirt or the back of a defender before getting to his target. You will also notice in the highlight reel, not a single throw more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage become a completion. I understand Peyton and Tom Brady won this way for years. But again, Peyton or Brady Bridgewater is not. The first test that will truly tell us how far Teddy can take this team comes in week 3 vs Baltimore in Denver. While Teddy deserves some praise for his debut line of this:

PassingCompAttYdsTDIntQBRat
Teddy Bridgewater283626420115.7
Numbers Courtesy of Yahoo! Sports

But as with all players, I give a no-nonsense take on what I see. And what I saw was a limited QB with a ton of talent around him that could cover up for his shortcomings. I love the leadership and veteran moxy Bridgewater brings, but those traits only help you so much on the field. He plays in an outdoor stadium in a northern city known for its horrible winter weather. He struggled to push the ball downfield on a sunny day in the windless Meadowlands. What do you think happens in November in Philly, or December in Denver, or Kansas City? There is plenty of time between then and now for Drew to regain the starting role, but as long as Teddy keeps playing like this, that won’t happen. So we are most likely to find out.

That’s enough about the QB, not like they don’t get enough talking space right? The next 2 things that stuck out to me were the pass defense and the rushing offense. I do not get how the same people that qualified Drew Lock’s 80-yarder in the pre-season as a way to discount his numbers against Minnesota, are saying the opposite of the 70-yard run by Melvin Gordon. Without that 70-yard run, he has 31 yards on 10 carries, a 3.1 yard-per-carry average. Javonte Williams actually led the team in carries with 14 for 45 yards, a 3.2 YPC. The Denver Defense was lights out with 3 4th-down stops in the Giants Redzone to allow Denver to keep a commitment to the run game. If they are playing an offense like Kansas City, I doubt they get that luxury to get to that 70-yard romp.

Here is that 70-yarder courtesy of the Denver Broncos Social Media Team:

Next up is the pass defense, which allowed Daniel Jones to almost match Teddy throw for throw. They allowed Sterling Shepherd to go for 113 yards and 7 catches. Shepherd along with Darius Slayton and Kenny Golladay averaged at least 16 yards per catch. The pass defense was supposed to be the strength of this D, and on a day where they did everything else right, this sticks out like a sore thumb. Jones didn’t have his best-receiving option in Evan Engram due to injury, yet he was still able to put up this line with the only blemish being a fumble caused by Josey Jewel. Without that fumble, his and Teddy’s QB rating would be almost identical.

PassingCompAttYdsTDIntQBRat
Daniel Jones22372671090.7
Stats courtesy of Yahoo! Sports

I don’t care how many people try to convince me otherwise, Daniel Jones is not an elite QB. He looks a lot like a top-notch backup that can come in and win you about as many as he will lose. His ball security issues are well known, yet the defense only forced 2 turnovers and no interceptions. No one gets to use the excuse of “well Denver had a big lead and it forced New York to throw a bunch”, look at the QB stats in this article. Jones only had one more attempt than Teddy. The positive of this wart is it’s correctable. A miscommunication of who had Slayton when passed by the corner was what led to his 42-yarder. That play and the 32-yard catch by Shepherd were almost a third of Daniel Jones’ total yardage passing. So I can’t worry that this will be a long-term issue, Fangio will have this secondary ready for the New York Jets. The communication should get smoother as this back-end gels, and the tackling, which was good, will get even better.

Now that we are in a good space, now for some more good feels from Sunday afternoon.

Von Miller is BACK! Videos courtesy of the Denver Broncos Social Media Team:

Von ended his day with 3 tackles (3 solos), all for a loss, and the Broncos’ only 2 sacks on the day. When he wasn’t dragging down Jones and company in the backfield, he was making Daniel believe he was actually in a pit of lions. Miller lived in the backfield during this game, blowing up any play sent his way. He and the d-line of Shelby Harris, Dre’mont Jones, and Mike Purcell gave Saquon Barkly a rude homecoming present in the form of 26 yards on 10 carries with 0 TDs. Daniel Jones was the Giants leading rusher with 27 yards on 6 carries with the Giants lone rushing TD that came with :00’s on the game clock.

This was a feel-good win for #BroncosCountry, and they should enjoy it with the dearth of celebration in recent September’s. But the talk of a Super Bowl destined roster is premature, to say the least, those talks shouldn’t start before December. We have plenty to talk about and cheer about between then and now. So party Denver, this feeling may not be as common as we all hope.

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