The Denver Broncos dominated the stat sheet, but the game was a lot closer than it should have been until their tenacious defense changed the tide of the game with two scores of their own in order to secure a 34-20 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
Despite having no problem accumulating yardage, whether it was on the ground or through the air against a decimated Colts defense, for the second straight week — the offense struggled to translate that success into efficient drives that resulted in touchdowns as opposed to field goals or turnovers.
With several starters out in the Colts’ secondary, the offensive game plan for the Broncos was to sling the ball across the field. A total of nine different players on offense caught receptions throughout the course of the game. Everyone on offense was involved and helped contribute to a team victory.
Trevor Siemian was impressive moving the ball down the field, but similarly to last week, struggled when nearing the red zone. He missed Emmanuel Sanders on an easy throw that should have been a touchdown in the left corner of the end zone early in the game and the Broncos had to settle for a field goal.
Several drives later, he was picked off in the second quarter by Darius Butler on a screen pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders that should have been returned for an interception, but Butler buckled on the field after snagging the ball with a hamstring injury.
Four Broncos giveaways this season. All inside the opponent's 30. 31 of a possible 63 points from nine drives inside the opponent's 30.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 18, 2016
Those type of miscues are somewhat understandable for a young player at the position, but if the team wants to have any sort of efficacy and longevity this season — they are going to have to fix those turnovers and fix them fast. Yet, the Broncos went into halftime leading the Colts 16-9.
After winning the toss and opting to defer, the Colts received the ball at the beginning of the second half. Luck was able to rally his troops and put together an impressive 13 play, 79 yard drive which was capped off with a 5 yard touchdown run to bring the score to 13 all. The drive showed a lapse of poise and discipline by the Broncos defense, who had three costly penalties that extended the drive when it should have been over a lot earlier than it was.
The Broncos came back with a score of their own, but just a field goal after moving the ball downfield on a 13 play, 60 yard drive. Field goals won't win you many football games, but having the league's best defense certainly can help bail you out.
If it weren't for the staunch play of the Broncos defense during the game, the outcome could have been a lot different. But once again, the No Fly Zone, spearheaded by Aqib Talib's pick six changed the tide of the game and gave the Broncos a 23-13 lead.
Through the course of the fourth quarter, the two teams continued to battle it out and the Colts were able to bring the game within three points when Luck hit Frank Gore on seven yard touchdown pass to bring the score to 23-20.
With a little bit more than four minutes remaining, Siemian and the rest of the offense trotted onto the field in order to put the final dagger in the Colts' dreams of a comeback victory. On a key third and eleven play, Siemian tossed a laser to Demaryius Thomas who was able to stretch out and convert for a first-down, but shortly afterwards, the Broncos' offense stalled and Brandon McManus racked up his fourth field goal of the game to give Denver a 26-20 lead.
With less than two minutes to go and no timeouts, Luck had the opportunity to lead his team to a comeback victory — but on the first play of that drive, Super Bowl 50 MVP and All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller completed a strip-sack on Luck, which was swooped up by Shane Ray and returned for Denver's second defensive touchdown of the game.
The Broncos' defense dismantled the Colts' offense for the game's entirety. Luck was sacked five times (3 by Miller, 1.5 by Derek Wolfe and a half sack by DeMarcus Ware) and was limited to a paltry 50% completion percentage and only 197 yards through the air. The Colts' offense only had 253 total yards all game, which chalks up to one of their worst offensive outings in recent memory.
Many prognosticators and analysts thought the Broncos would start the season 0-2 after playing the Panthers and Colts, but instead they are 2-0 and on top of the AFC West. Denver will travel to Cincinnati next week to face off the Bengals with aspirations of registering their third win of the season.
Hart’s Quick Hits
- After taking down Andrew Luck in the second quarter and earning a half sack, outside linebacker Demarcus Ware now has sole possession of 9th place on the NFL’s all-time sack list with 136.5 on his magnificent career.
He left the game in the third quarter and according to various reports, has suffered a fractured right ulna and may miss significant time due to the injury. Look for second-year player Shane Ray to take his place and be the 'next man up' at outside linebacker for the Broncos' defense.
- I can’t emphasize enough how tremendous of an off-season acquisition left tackle Russell Okung has been for the Broncos. He has been phenomenal in pass protection, a stalwart in the running game and demonstrated his incredible athleticism with several blocks down field on screen plays.
- Donald Stephenson left the game early with a calf injury and did not returned. He was replaced at tackle by Michael Schofield and Darrion Weems moved inside to guard. Second-year and consistently injured offensive tackle Ty Sambrailo was inactive for today's game due to an ankle injury, but would have replaced Stephenson had he been active.
- The offensive line did a wonderful job at the point of attack in both phases of the game and only allowed a handful of hits and pressures on quarterback Trevor Siemian and just one sack by Zach Kerr.
- Speaking of oft-injured players who have yet to contribute this season — 2015 third-round draft selection tight end Jeff Heuerman was also inactive for today's game. He has still not played a regular season down for the Broncos since being selected. With Virgil Green and John Phillips the only other active tight end's on the Broncos roster, the team desperately needs him to be healthy and contribute on the field.
It's a bit of an early prediction, but expect the Broncos to take advantage of a very strong 2017 NFL Draft tight end class and add a receiving threat to the position with one of their first several selections, perhaps as early as the first-round.
- The Broncos got the running game going against the Colts by using a healthy dose of C.J. Anderson and Devtonae Booker. Anderson had 20 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown, with Booker racking up 46 yards on 9 carries. Kapri Bibbs and Siemian each had a rush for seven yards. They totaled 134 yards on the ground and averaged 4.3 yards per carry. If they can run that effectively all season long, there won't be many games the Broncos lose.
- Trevor Siemian didn't play lights out, but finished the game going 22/33 for 266 yards and an interception. As noted earlier, he was impressive between the 20's, but struggled to finish drives in the red zone. Denver's efforts in that area have been awful thus far and must improve if they want to improve their efficacy as a unit moving forward. They cannot continue to settle for field goals and turnovers when they need touchdowns to put away games.
- Despite being limited through the course of the week with a nagging hip injury, Demaryius Thomas was the team's leading receiver with 5 catches for 90 yards, including a 44 yard bubble screen earlier in the game.