Since I understand my Seven Surprises series hasn't caught fire just yet (that would have been a surprise in and of itself!) I will explain the premise again this week. This is a list of 7 pleasant (on rare occasions, unpleasant) surprises observed during the past week's Broncos game. Those surprises aren't the big major ones, like the D creating SIX turnovers (whooo-hooooo!) against the hapless Dolts, led by Mr. Cry-Me-A-Rivers, but I strive to offer less obvious surprises of plays or items I saw in the game. At the end of the post, feel free to add your own pleasant surprises from the last Broncos game! That makes the whole effort of putting together a post worthwhile!
On to the list!
1 - Cooking with Brooking - It was a pleasant surprise to see Brooking starting over Mays on the defensive side of the ball. Once again, our D played a strong game with Brooking calling the alignments and playing more disciplined in the middle. It's not a coincidence the Denver D has played its best pair of games when Brooking has manned the middle (or should I say when Mays HASN'T). Let's hope Fox/Rio keep that in mind for Week 8 and beyond.
2 - Hop, Skip and a Jump - I've been surprised a couple of times this year when Manning has actually scrambled for first downs this season and looked spry doing it. My surprise ratcheted higher when he ducked away from a defender and then jumped over another trying to get to his legs before completing a pass for positive yardage. He looked caught for a no-doubt sack, but proceeded to go all "Big Ben" and make something from nothing. Judging by the smile on his face the cameras caught after the play, I think he may have surprised himself!
3 - Decker the Wrecker - I imagine Jesse James' boyfriend will forever be leery of 40-yard-lines going forward, but I was pleasantly surprised to watch Decker go "beast mode" on his TD catch in the second half. I figured he was going to get pushed out of bounds or taken down at about the 2 yard line (I mean, if a blade of grass can tackle him, then about a half-dozen defenders should, right?), but you know he was trying to make up for that earlier blunder and would not... be... denied on that catch. Super effort that resulted in a great TD.
4 - Trevathan Makes an Appearance - Since watching the humble 6th-rounder play well in the preseason, it's been interesting to see when the Broncos would start rotating Danny Trevathan onto the field for some solid minutes. The announcers called his name at least several times over the course of the game, with none of those being the result of a botched play. I thought Carter and Harris were much more obvious surprises, so I didn't give them a separate post, but it's been a pleasant surprise to see our young guys turn into positive depth for the defense.
5 - Stokley Grows 12 inches on One Play!!! - Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Andre Johnson, Hakeem Nicks, etc. ... those big guys automatically come to mind when you think of successful fade routes to the edge of the end zone. But (channeling Jim Mora, here) "Stokley? Stokley? A fade route to Stokley?!!" That was a tremendous reception by the diminutive move-the-chains security blanket for Manning. Wow! How he made that catch, I still don't know, and I'll bet the defender still has no clue, either.
6 - Did I Spot a First Half Adjustment? - Yes, I think I did! Del Rio didn't wait until halftime to make some good adjustments, this time. After Adams was abused by Antonio Gates for a number of plays, Del Rio put Leonhard in to help cover the big guy, and the decision paid immediate dividends when the 5'8" Leonhard yanked the ball away away from Gates for a much-needed turnover in the first half. All right, Del Rio! Keep the adjustments flying all... game... long! (Speaking of Leonhard, I'll take his catch-the-punt-and-fall-forward style ANY DAY over the muff that occurred against the Chargers. Start a chant with me... "Catch the Ball and Fall!")
7 - The Broncos Are NEVER Out of a Game! - Down 24-0 at halftime is a perfect recipe for slumping your shoulders, shuffling off the field, finger pointing and pouting for the remainder of the game. But enough about Cutler... Seeing the resilience in past games this year that didn't turn into wins, it wasn't hard to imagine the Broncos would not be able to overcome THAT large of a deficit. What a pleasant surprise it was to see both sides of the ball come and out and take charge of the game. This win should inspire the Broncos to KNOW they are never out of a game, and should also serve to put some fear into every opponent left on their schedule. Confidence is a big deal. It creates better chemistry and a bigger ability to fight for wins that shouldn't be there. I'm looking through orange-colored glasses at the playoffs when I say that.
Those are my Seven Surprises... what are yours?