Date: Monday, November 19, 2007
Time: 6:30 p.m. MST
Teams: Tennessee Titans (6-3, Tied for 2nd in AFC South) at Denver Broncos (4-5, Tied for 2nd in AFC West)
Location: Invesco Field @ Mile High - Denver, CO
It goes without saying that this was a huge win for the Denver Broncos. Not only for 2007, but for 2008 and beyond as well. For the first time in a long time, especially at home, the Broncos physically beat up another football team. The Titans are an extremely physical bunch, and are very well-coached. The Broncos, who two-weeks ago decided they would let their pads do the talking, out-hit, out-played and out-executed a team that prides itself on doing the same. Alot will be said about the Titans missing Albert Haynesworth in the middle of the defense, and that might be true, but no one seems to care that the Broncos are without Tom Nalen, Ben Hamilton, Travis Henry and Javon Walker on offense so I think we're even.
The stat sheet in this one will point to an entirely different result -- The Titans had nearly double the first downs, 64 more total yards, and held the ball for over 10 more minutes that the Broncos(35:33 - 24:27). Of course, when you can score on special teams and force 3 turnovers those types of statistical anomalies can happen. See why I am not a big stats guy? The Broncos were ahead by 14 early in the first quarter and never looked back. Not one, but two different undrafted running backs ran the ball at and around the Titans defense, and the Broncos offense used a quick-strike approach to keep the Titans in comeback mode all night long.
The defense, for as much as they were on the field, did a solid job forcing Vince Young to be what we want him to be, and what he would prefer not to be, and that is a quarterback. I won't take anything away from Young. He played about as well as he can play. He ran and threw the ball effectively. A quarterback earns their pay, however, in the 4th quarter, and Vince Young had opportunities when the game was still in question to make plays and instead threw 2 interceptions. Again, the numbers may say young ran for 74 yards and threw for 305, but it was the plays Young didn't make, along with a weak, under-achieving receiving corps, that let the Titans down.
The Broncos defense made every yard hurt for Young, and by forcing 3 turnovers, and 3 other fumbles the Broncos were unable to recover, the defense made sure the Titans were thinking instead of reacting.
Can't talk about tonight's game without at least mentioning Mike Shanahan. You'll hear alot of talking about how well Shanny did calling the game tonight, and alot of it is true. The Broncos are a tough team to beat when they get a lead. It allows Shanny to use his entire playbook, instead of simply one portion, and when the Broncos are not one-dimensional they are tough for anyone. That is the reason that I though the Elam field-goals were so important last week in Kansas City, and that is why the Broncos seemed so polished tonight.
This was easily Jay Cutler's best performance as a pro, and not just because of the numbers. Cutler has started off solid in several games during his young career only to fade out as the game went on. I attribute that to the scripting of plays and Cutler feeling comfortable with the first 15 plays or so. Conversely, Cutler has struggled as teams began to adjust to him. Not tonight. When the Titans started to bring pressure at Cutler, Cutler stood in and made the plays that needed to be made. This was particularly evident after the Titans closed the gap to 27-20. The defense was in trouble and you could get a sense that the momentum was shifting. On that drive, Cutler impressed me more than during any of his comebacks. Tonight Jay Cutler learned how to be effective with a lead. Sure, It is Andre Hall's TD run that will get all the glory, but Jay Cutler's ability to hit receiver after receiver enabled Hall to get a lane right up the middle.
In all, the Denver Broncos proved that they are still a solid team, despite the injuries, despite the youth. It was also a changing of the guard a bit, with Cutler, Young, Hall, Marshall, Crowder, Dumervil all coming up big and leading the team to victory. While the future is definitely bright in Denver, the present isn't all that shabby either.