One more game before the Bye Week, and Broncos have another tough test (even if it shouldn't be!) when they head into the dreaded Dawg Pound of the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
But before we head to MHR's panic-master to talk about the game which will be played in his back yard, last week's Ultimate Fan Halliday21 had some thoughts about the exciting - if not slightly frustrating - win over the Raiders.
Broncos 16, Raiders 10
I am glad we escaped Oakland with a victory. The game played out as expected on the defensive side of the ball. Our pass rush and cover corners proved too much for the Raiders to handle, and we ended up with four sacks (not the five I had predicted). Von Miller was a very important part of that pressure, and although he only ended up with one sack, it was a thing of beauty (good trade off any day).
Any way you slice it, I won't be predicting big games for Owen Daniels any time soon. -Halliday21
The offense continues to be a work in progress. They clearly targeted Owen Daniels (especially in the red zone), but it just wasn't working. He had the third most targets on the team and ended up with exactly ZERO catches. Apparently the Raiders also got the memo about how bad they were defending TEs in 2015. The first pass to Daniels at the goal line was deflected (otherwise he probably scores). The second in the red zone was either pass interference, OD ran the wrong route or Manning overthrew him. Any way you slice it, I won't predict big games for Daniels again anytime soon.
Sanders indeed lead the Broncos in yards, and I was impressed by Manning's long ball. I think he actually threw the ball better this week and really believe that the offense is on the cusp of getting it together. Oddly, I feel there is a benefit to learning to win these ugly, gritty games.
Our run game is just terrible, which is probably a combination of problems. I can predict that if we keep running for 40 yards combined as a team, we won't stay undefeated much longer. I think the offense will get it going, and I am completely on board with Manning finishing off his incredible career with a Super Bowl victory. Go Broncos!
Week 6: Denver v. Cleveland
#Browns are 5-22 v. Denver all time. That is by far their worst record against any opponent in their history.— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) October 14, 2015
So it's only appropriate that he gets to answer questions about a 5-0 Broncos team that some would think was 0-5 based on reactions to the win.
No matter what though, prodigal will be at the game cheering for the Orange and Blue, and he assures us there will be no panicking on his part (well, probably not ...too much...maybe a little...depends on that offense and our 30th-ranked QB).
MHR - OK, Prodigal, let us have it. Why should panic this week:
the_prodigal_fan: It all starts with Peyton Manning. According ESPN's quarterback ratings, Manning is the 30th ranked QB in the NFL. That is bad, much like his TD/INT ratio. Another reason to panic is the offensive line, which is allowing pressure on Manning far too frequently for my comfort. And our running game is terrible, due in part to play calling (really? Every run is going to be up the gut?) and in part to the offensive line failing to keep defenders out of the backfield all too often. In short, the offense is why we should panic.
MHR - Now tell us why we should not:
the_prodigal_fan: Our defense is freakin' amazing. If they can maintain this level of play for the whole season, this team has a chance to be the best defense I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Truly dominant, and I love every minute of it.
MHR - What will you be doing on Sunday, panicking or not?
the_prodigal_fan: What will I be doing on Sunday? Cheering my head off in the stands in Cleveland. I'll be far too busy to be panicking.
MHR - The 2-3 Browns are hosting the 5-0 Broncos, but Cleveland is likely feeling a bit emboldened after their win in Baltimore. Do you anticipate another heart-attackingly close game or will it be the game for our offense to break out of its funk?
the_prodigal_fan: I wish I could say we're going to see a big time blow out win, but the Browns are a scrappy team, playing with confidence and in their own home stadium. This is going to be another close one. I think we will win it, because our defense is going to give McCown nightmares, but it will be another nail-biter.
MHR - What will it take to get the Broncos' running game going and could this Browns' defense (that allowed 196 rushing yards last week) be the team to help it?
the_prodigal_fan: I don't have all the answers for the offense or the running game in particular. But I have to think that running some sweep plays to the outside once in a while instead of slamming our RBs up the gut into walls of linemen and linebackers on every running down would be a good start.
MHR - What offensive stat would you like to see be awesome for the Broncos in this game?
the_prodigal_fan: More offensive touchdowns than turnovers. It would at least show that the offense is making some progress over the mess that was the Raider game.
MHR - Which Broncos player do you expect to stand out on offense this Sunday?
the_prodigal_fan: I expect to see Emmanuel Sanders stand out. He has consistently been our best player on offense for most of the season, and he is producing every single week with clutch third down conversions and big plays using his speed.
MHR - A relative no-name tight end, Gary Barnidge, torched the Ravens for 139 yards last week, a team that had previously allowed only 21 yards total to tight ends in four games. How dangerous could he be to the Broncos?
the_prodigal_fan: He shouldn't be much of a factor. He is in his eighth season, and while he is having his career-best year, I like our linebackers and safeties against him. We do need to respect him (I mean, did you see that ridiculous touchdown catch against the Ravens?) but we should be able to stop him.
MHR - Browns' QB Josh McCown was AFC Offensive Player of the Week this week, having thrown for 300+ yards the last three games and hitting 457 in last week's comeback win over the Ravens. What's the secret to stopping this somewhat hot offense?
the_prodigal_fan: The formula is pretty standard. Get pressure on McCown and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. McCown is prone to making mistakes and can be rattled by pressure. If our guys can get in on him and hit him early, it will pay dividends later. If we make him nervous, he WILL make some mistakes. Our defense is fast and aggressive, and while Browns' running backs may be able to break a couple of long runs in this game, we contained Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson. If we can do that, we can handle anyone the Browns have.
MHR - Which player do you expect to stand out from the Broncos defense this Sunday?
the_prodigal_fan: I have two. I think we will see big games from Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett. These guys are going to step in for the injured DeMarcus Ware and the defense won't miss a beat. I just love our defensive depth.
MHR - What defensive stat would you like to see be awesome for the Broncos in this game?
the_prodigal_fan: Sacks, sacks and more sacks. I want to see the team hit double digits for the game. Why is it the most important? Because sacks lead to big down-and-distance plays as well as turnovers. But mostly because I love sacks.
MHR - A radio personality last week said it was crucial for the Broncos to win the game going into the bye and coming out of it to avoid a tailspin for the season. What do you think of that?
the_prodigal_fan: I don't really agree. With a defense like this and the mental toughness that the team has shown in getting wins in spite of struggles and in the face of adversity, we can recover from a loss in either game or both. Losses would obviously be a bad thing and would jeopardize our chances for a first-round bye or home field advantage, but this team is good enough to finish the season strong anyway.
MHR - Brandon "McMoney" remains perfect this season. Are you confident any time he gets out there to kick?
the_prodigal_fan: Absolutely, yes. I have been pleasantly surprised by our special teams as a whole this season and McManus has been the brightest spot. Now, if we could only get a touchdown from the special teams, I wouldn't have to PANIC!!!
MHR - There have been some costly penalties and Kubiak mentioned being concerned. Are you?
the_prodigal_fan: I've been concerned about penalties after every game this season. Part of me acknowledges that some of the penalties are simply the result of an aggressive style of play and to be expected. But we have seen way too many undisciplined mistakes that have led to drive killing penalties on offense and drive sustaining ones on defense. Against better competition than we have played thus far, it could cost us a game.
MHR - How tough of an atmosphere is the Cleveland Stadium and its infamous "Dawg Pound" for visiting teams?
the_prodigal_fan: It is truly tough. Cleveland's fans may be often frustrated, but they are loyal, and they can get very loud, especially in the Dawg Pound. They take pride in making it difficult for offenses in that end of the stadium.
MHR - You're going to the game Sunday...will you be bringing the Dawg Pound some dog biscuits?
the_prodigal_fan: No biscuits. I don't like rewarding poorly behaved mutts. I WILL be bringing a leash and muzzle however. :P
MHR - Recalling the Broncos iconic wins in the 80s when John Elway defeated the Browns in back-to-back AFC Championship games, which was your favorite - the Drive or the Fumble?
the_prodigal_fan: Both of those games were fantastic. I have to go with The Drive though, for a couple of reasons. First, it happened IN Cleveland, making it sting all the more for the Browns and their fans. The second reason is that it was Elway's coming out party, the moment when he served notice that he was going to be not just a star, but a superstar, in the NFL.
Stats for Manning? 40 passes, 200-250 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Number of yards rushing? Anderson, 60; Hillman, 40; Thompson, 20
Broncos receiver with the best stats? Emmanuel Sanders - 8 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD
Number of sacks to Manning? 3
Number of sacks on Josh McCown? 7
Broncos defender with the most sacks? Shaq Barrett (taking advantage of more playing time and double teams on Miller)
Broncos defender with the most tackles? Brandon Marshall
Number of penalties on the Broncos offense/defense? 4, 4
Number of field goals/longest by McMoney? 3 FGs, 52 yards
Final Score? Denver 23, Cleveland 17
- Favorite Broncos loss (*not a trick question!)? October 17, 1994: Chiefs at Broncos - Montana and Elway, two of the greatest ever.
- Team you hate to lose to the most? Once upon a time, the Raiders. Now, thanks to their obnoxious fans, the Chiefs.
- What is worse - losing a close game or disgusted fans after a close win? Losing is always worse than winning.
- Game most looking forward to this season? Are you kidding? This one...because I get to go to it!
- Game most worried about this season? New England. Still a juggernaut, and if we can't get the offense figured out, they will give us fits.
- Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? No Fly Zone. I love Chris Harris's game, and he signed an awesome team-friendly deal to stay in Denver. Love this guy. Total man crush.
- Favorite Broncos player of all time? No. 7. 'Nuff said.
- Superstitions on game day? ALWAYS have to wear my Broncos pendant and chain.
How/when/why did you become a Broncos fan?
I do not remember a time when I wasn't a Broncos fan!