Get your heart pills ready, Broncos Country. This has the look of another wild ride.
As long as the Denver Broncos continue to find ways to get wins, no one will complain about the damage they do to their ticker. Or the fact it feels like you just finished running a marathon when the game ends.
As the old saying goes, “It’s better to be lucky than good.” In the same refrain, teams make their own luck. There were ample opportunities for the Broncos to think the NFL opener just wasn’t their night. Three turnovers all inside the 30-yard line. Stupid penalties. Questionable play calls.
To Denver’s credit, it didn’t stop, here we go again, kicking and screaming en route to the 21-20 win over the Carolina Panthers at Mile High.
The catalyst to that glorious finish was C.J. Anderson and the Broncos running game. Anderson was the best player on the field in Denver. If there was any doubt he would answer the call after his contract extension, he put that talk to bed.
Anderson looked and played like a No. 1 running back. Yet more important, his teammates fed off of his energy. The harder he continued to run, the better the offensive line blocked. As the game ticked by, Denver’s offensive line got better and better. Anderson finished with 20 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown, plus four catches for 47 yards and another touchdown.
Granted, it’s just one game, but that aspect for the Broncos is huge as the season progresses. If Denver runs the football as it did against the Panthers, it will be nearly impossible to defeat this team.
The biggest question prior to Thursday’s game was the Broncos offensive line. How would those five guys respond to a front seven that Gary Kubiak called the best he’s coached against? After Thursday’s performance, the question now is how good can this rushing attack be?
92 rushing yards, 47 receiving, two touchdowns.— ESPN (@espn) September 9, 2016
C.J. Anderson fantasy owners are probably as happy as he is. pic.twitter.com/j7OedM5Rl5
Chew on this: Denver rushed the ball 29 times for a 148 yards. That averages out to 5.1 yards per carry. Against a front seven that Kubiak called the best he’s ever coached against. That’s good. That’s really good.
That’s why the Broncos were able to overcome those three turnovers. That’s also why they were able to overcome, at least early in the game, a shaky showing by the defense.
But it wasn’t just in run blocking where Denver’s offensive line shined. It was strong in pass protection as well. The Broncos gave up just two sacks, and those only happened on delayed blitzes when Trevor Siemian held the ball too long. That will improve as the season progresses as well. And Siemian will build on his first start where he did some truly great stuff and truly awful stuff. The positive is he has a run game to lead the way.
It’s crucial to point out that Denver faced one of the best defenses in the NFL on Thursday night. There aren’t a lot of teams that can throw out the front seven the Panthers have, and the Broncos still took over this game at the line of scrimmage. That’s a great sign.
The best aspect of all is this comes in a win. Denver sees what it did well and where it needs to improve, all with the sweet taste of victory to wash it down. And the Broncos get to do that on a mini bye. They get some time to come down after that exhausting game before the Indianapolis Colts come to Denver.
You know the Broncos defense will shore up those too many men penalties and breakdowns in coverage. That unit is too proud and good to not let a performance like that piss them off. They know they escaped with a win and need to get better. If they want to go down as the best, there is no choice.
On the list of things Kubiak and Wade Phillips need to concern themselves with, the defense isn’t one of them. The kinks will get ironed out.
But the biggest development out of this win is the offensive line and that rushing attack for the Broncos. And this was just the first game of the season against a helluva defense.
It all came in the best way imaginable: a win. Lucky or not, Denver starts the season 1-0 where Anderson and the Broncos offensive line shined.
Ready or not, Operation Kicking and Screaming is once again in full effect.