The Denver Broncos defense continues to get the job done, even with the offense stumbling a bit here and there with the turnovers and lack of touchdown drives. They defeated the Minnesota Vikings 23-20 in a thrilling game that came down to yet another defensive turnover to secure victory for the Broncos.
As much as I want to start comparing this defense to the 2013 Seattle Seahawks, we must temper our expectations until we know what this Broncos team has on offense. Those 2013 Seahawks had eight of their games decided by a touchdown or less, which goes to show that the Broncos could be on similar par with that unit. The difference right now, those Seahawks also had six victories of 20 points or more that year, not including the playoffs. So I'll keep my "greatest defense of all-time" talk to a minimum until I see what this offensive identity looks like.
For now, however, the Broncos are 4-0 and are a solid two games up on the second place Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. Not bad after a month of regular season football. On with the game balls!
Ronnie Hillman scored the Broncos first rushing touchdown on the season, and it was a big one. Hillman's 72 yard touchdown run kick-started the Broncos' offense to life early in the game. The run was impressive, considering the Broncos' offensive line struggles, where he found a crease and kicked on his jets down the sideline, never slowing down. He finished the day with 103 yards on 11 carries, and may have won the starting job back. - Kelly Fleming
Michael Schofield, a healthy scratch in the first three weeks, stepped into the starting right tackle role and had himself a surprisingly good game. According to Pro Football Focus, he would finish the day with a (-0.1) pass blocking grade and a very respectable (+1.3) run blocking grade. That's as impressive as one would expect from a guy with that much pressure on him. I think it's safe to say the haters can withhold their "bust" label for a while and cut ole Mr. John Elway some slack as well.
Really, this game ball goes to the entire offensive line, because they really stepped it up in this game. Evan Mathis was a monster in the run game with a (+5.0) run blocking grade. Together this line helped the Broncos to a 150 yard rushing day. Let's string a couple of those together here, fellas. - Tim Lynch
Demaryius Thomas may have missed on the would-be TD catch to seal the victory, but he made the most of his other 11 targets by catching 9 of them for 93 yards. I'm going to overlook his false start penalty (WTF?) and give him loads of credit for coming back after taking that wicked (illegal because he was leading with the crown of his helmet) hit from Harrison Smith. DT is an elite receiver and our offense functions better when his in the game. When you only drop back to throw the ball 27 times and 12 of those throws (44%) go towards on player, he must be your ace. - Joe Mahoney
Brandon McManus gets my game ball, and it's probably overdue. McManus is a perfect 8 for 8 on the year in field goals, several them over 40 yards (and a handful over 50). I don't know if you've noticed, but the Broncos have been winning very close games. One missed field goal can make a difference (cough Blair Walsh cough), and the Broncos haven't had to worry about that. Add the consistent touchbacks on kickoffs and McManus should have been named September's AFC Special Teams Player of the Month. Another kicker won that, but if he continues his September performance into October (which he did Sunday), McManus will get awarded with the NFL's best midseason award. He gets my Game Ball for now. - Kyle Montgomery
T.J. Ward was the MVP of this game. He was impactful in each quarter and looked liked the player in this one game that I thought we were getting when we signed him in Free Agency. THIS is what an excellent strong safety looks like. If he keeps playing at this level, we'll be talking about him being the new Troy Polamalu by season's end. He's a formidable beast as a blitzer and his coverage this week was near perfect. Want to know what a dominating safety stat line looks like...take a look at T.J. this week: 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD, and 1 FF. That's yet another huge weapon on defense that our opponents need to prepare for. - Sadarine
Von Miller and the Sack Attack Backs
Von Miller’s stat line after the Vikings game isn’t necessarily impressive – one sack, one fumble recovery, two QB hits and four total tackles – except when you add in the timing factor. Miller’s sack for a nine-yard loss took the Vikings from a likely first down to a third-and-long at the end of the game when Bridgewater and the offense were moving the ball on a potential game-winning drive. Though the Vikings escaped that third-and-long, three plays later on a strip-sack by T.J. Ward, Miller recovered the fumble and ensured the Broncos would end the home game victorious. But I’m also giving game balls to all the defenders who contributed to the 7 – SEVEN! – sacks on Bridgewater yesterday – Ward (2); Shane Ray with his first-ever NFL sack; DeMarcus Ware who adds another sack and is the only player in the NFL to have one in all four games; Corey Nelson with one; and Sylvester Williams and Malik Jackson who shared a sack. Call it "mind control" like Miller does. Call it "sack-tastic" like Jon Heath. Or just call it awesome because the Broncos' SACK ATTACK IS BACK. - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann