As crazy as it may sound, Sunday's blowout was not the end of the road for the Denver Broncos. I know optimism is not at an all-time high, but if you look at two special cases from recent history (last year), the Denver Broncos are far from out of AFC West contention.
The two cases we will refer to are those of the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans of 2009. Both teams started slow, and finished as probably two of the best teams in the conference, believe it or not. Could the Broncos follow a similar path?
We have said it now for how many straight weeks--the Broncos are at a crossroads. They have another "fight or flight" opportunity this week against the San Francisco 49ers, and they could have some extra help and get their season back on track on the mother of all non-holidays.
First, let's take a look at the San Diego Chargers. What was the key for them in turning the ship around?
Well, let's get something out of the way really fast here. The Chargers started off the season 2-3 last year, the third loss coming in a home defeat against the then 6-0 Denver Broncos. From that point on, they did not lose a single game. Something clicked for these guys.
The first thing that comes to mind is the play of Philip Rivers, who was absolutely lights out (no pun intented) last season for the Bolts. Rivers threw for over 4,200 yards and had 28 touchdowns compared to only nine interceptions. What do you notice when you see those numbers?
Rivers was putting the ball in the end zone more often than not, and was converting his stellar amount of yards into points. Denver Broncos, there is your first tip to getting the team back on track.
Put the ball in the end zone. The Broncos have thrown all over teams this season, and despite the fact that Orton has played like a below average quarterback the last couple of games, he is capable of great accuracy and has played well for the most part this year. The Broncos need to convert yards into touchdowns, and that starts with taking their first drive down the field for a touchdown on Sunday. No excuses.
The Chargers were also +8 in the turnover department, and had 16 more touchdowns than their opponents throughout the course of the season.
The Tennessee Titans started the 2009 season with Kerry Collins as their starting quarterback. Following a 13-3 season, the Titans probably figured they would be primed for a Super Bowl run with Collins at the helm. After the season they had the year before, it's hard to argue against their strategy.
After an 0-5 start, the Titans traveled to New England to take on the Patriots. To put it lightly, the Titans had the feel of a team that had simply given up. They got crushed by New England 59-0, and were the laughing stock of the NFL. They went into their bye week with a record of 0-6, and no hope.
Something had to change.
Jeff Fisher decided to go with former top pick Vince Young as his quarterback to try and give the team a spark. Needless to say, the team rallied around young. They ended up winning eight of their final ten games due large in part to the help of Chris Johnson's record breaking year, where he led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage.
Johnson was a ticking touchdown time bomb, Vince Young was playing smart, efficient football, and most importantly, the Titans' defense took the blowout to the Patriots to heart. They allowed 20 or more points in only four of their last ten games. Young finished the season with a 2:1 touchdown to turnover ratio and the Titans nearly scraped and clawed their way back into the playoff hunt.
The Denver Broncos do not have a player of the caliber of Chris Johnson, but Knowshon Moreno is one of only a handful of players in the league today who is averaging a touchdown every game he's played in. Kyle Orton is not similar to Vince Young other than both are capable of playing efficient football. The Broncos' defense is not as aggressive as the Titans, but they have shown this year that they are capable, holding some of the league's top backs to less than impressive games.
The Broncos are currently tied with the Chargers for last place in the division. They are 2.5 games out of first place. Last year, the Chargers were 3.5 games out of first place, and with their huge run, they dominated the division. The Titans started the season 0-6 but by the end of the season were one of the best teams in the AFC.
I am not going to guarantee anything, but if last year is any indication, all this team needs is a chip on its shoulder. They need efficiency offensively and someone needs to light a fire under that defense. We've seen what this team is capable of, now they need to smell blood.