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Five things we learned from the Broncos whopping of the Cowboys

It is just Week Two and it’s hard not to get carried away, but Denver put the rest of the NFL on notice. This was a statement game for the Broncos.

Dallas Cowboys v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

There have been numerous impressive wins.

There have been numerous unexpected wins.

Through the years, there have been fewer impressive, unexpected wins. Don’t confuse unexpected for the literal sense. What was unexpected about the Denver Broncos 42-17 humiliation of the Dallas Cowboys is the adjective I just used. Perhaps the only group of people not surprised by the win is Broncos Country. It’s how the Broncos manhandled Dallas that was impressive and unexpected. As for my game prediction ... at least I’m not alone.

It is just Week Two and it’s hard not to get carried away, but Denver put the rest of the NFL on notice. This was a statement game and win for the Broncos. It’s also crucial to point out that Denver still has a better record than the New England Patriots.

Here’s the five things we learned after this ass whopping.

Broncos defensive line is no mirage

Over the last week at Mile High Report and pretty much everywhere else, you heard for Denver to beat the Cowboys the defensive line had to own the line scrimmage. In my mind, that was the biggest question for the Broncos; especially going against the best offensive line in the NFL. Was the performance by Denver’s defensive front in the season-opening win over the Los Angeles Chargers a mirage or was it real?

There is no longer any doubt, and that gasp you heard came from offensive coordinators across the NFL. “Did you see what that defense did to the Cowboys?”

What Domata Peko and the Broncos defensive line did to the Dallas offensive line, Ezekiel Elliott and that running game was laughable. Denver held the Cowboys to 40 yards rushing and made Dak Prescott the leading rusher with 24 yards. Elliott, meanwhile, had more carries (nine) than yards (eight). To show how dominate the Broncos were against Elliott, Tom Brady had nine yards rushing against the New Orleans Saints.

Denver manhandled the Cowboys. Dallas had no answer for how physical the Broncos front was. If Denver puts forth that kind of domination on a consistent basis, on top of the No Fly Zone, it has a 2015 level of defense.

Chew on this: Denver was able to put forth this performance with some key pieces out on the defensive line — Zach Kerr and newly signed Ahtyba Rubin. And don’t forget about Shane Ray. So as good as the defense is right now, it’s only scratching the surface.

Are the Cowboys that soft?

When a team gets that manhandled you have to ask the question. Dallas had no answer, on either side of the ball, for the Broncos’ physicality. The most startling is how weak the Cowboys’ supposed awesome offensive line was. After the end of the third quarter, someone should have thrown in the towel because it was out of hand.

If they aren’t that soft and weak, they weren’t prepared. Either way it’s not a good look for Jason Garrett, his offensive coaches or his players. It’s one of those moments that forces a team to look inside itself and find the answer.

People seemed to think the Broncos cracked the code for the rest of the NFL on how you beat Dallas and shutdown that offense. Few teams have the defense and personnel to do what Denver did. How the Cowboys respond to getting humbled will let us know how soft and weak they really are. Whether it was just a fluke or if they were really exposed.

C.J. Anderson and Denver’s rushing attack is on a mission

The hype around the Broncos running back isn’t unusual. The last three seasons we’ve heard the same refrain, “This is Anderson’s year.” What gets in the way is injuries.

So Anderson focused more on his body. Not in his physical condition or what he eats, but his joints, ligaments and muscles and how he can keep all of them more reliable and stronger. Anderson constantly talks to the Broncos team doctors about those aspects of his body. He even gets regular massages.

The results speak for themselves.

For the sixth time in his NFL career, Anderson eclipsed 100 yards rushing. In the process, he became the first running back to do so against the Cowboys defense since 2015. Anderson finished with 25 carries for 118 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown. He also had three receptions for 36 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown. Anderson now has 188 yards in his first two games, and according to Pro Football Reference, that’s the most for a Denver running back through two games since 2007.

When you include Jamaal Charles and his nine carries for 46 yards, you have a Broncos rushing attack that compliments the defense incredibly well. They finished with 39 carries for 178 yards and an average of 4.6 yards per carry. That eats time off the clock, opens the passing game and brings a reliable element to Denver’s offense it hasn’t had since Mike McCoy left four seasons ago.

It’s still very early in the season with a lot of football left, but the first two games are a great foundation to build upon for Anderson and this rushing attack.

What will the Broncos do at left tackle?

The loss of rookie left tackle Garett Bolles could be huge for Denver. All we know as of writing this is Denver fears a broken left ankle, but the team is hopeful for a high ankle sprain. I’m not sure why that’s the hope because those linger like a nasty odor no amount of air freshener can eliminate.

Either way, it’s highly unlikely Bolles plays in Week Three against the Buffalo Bills or Week Four against the Oakland Raiders. If he’s out for the season, that’s a whole new discussion and problem for the Broncos. Until the results of the MRI are in, we won’t know.

For the remainder of the second half after Bolles went down, Denver turned to a combination of Donald Stephenson and Allen Barbre. My guess if Bolles isn’t out for the season, we’ll see something similar. If the worst comes to life, Elway should revisit a trade for Joe Thomas or another left tackle.

It sucks the injury to Bolles happened, but that’s life in the NFL. The Broncos can’t allow the hole it brings, regardless of how big it is, to sink the season. Not with how good they’ve looked the first two weeks.

Trevor Siemian continues to impress

Who holds the longest active streak in the NFL for multiple touchdowns thrown in consecutive games? That would be Denver’s starting quarterback. With his four touchdowns against the Cowboys, Siemian tied his career high and is the most in a Broncos home game since Peyton Manning threw four TDs against the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 23, 2014.

Siemian was efficient and in control. He kept drives alive on third down and helped the offense to a perfect showing in the red zone. Even more impressive? Denver’s offense has juice again and it’s mainly because of Siemian.

As impressive as the Broncos offense was against Los Angeles, it was even better on Sunday. There are still some areas that need to get cleaned up, but the offense is damn fun to watch.

As the old adage goes, the numbers never lie.

  • 380 total yards, for an average per play of 5.2 yards
  • 26 first downs, 12 passing, 11 rushing and three from penalty
  • 9-for-15 on third down
  • 4-for-4 in the red zone
  • 33 minutes, 50 seconds in time of possession

The best part is it’s only Week Two. The more comfortable Siemian gets in the offense, and McCoy with Siemian and the rest of his players, the better the offense should get. This kind of offensive attack is tough for any defense to stop, but when it’s rolling on all fronts like it is right now in Denver, it’s near impossible. A lot of the credit for that goes to McCoy and his staff, but it’s mainly due to the guy at quarterback.

A balanced and methodical Broncos offense paired with this defense? There are not a lot of teams in the NFL capable of beating that powerful and unique combination.

In each facet of the game on Sunday, Denver owned the Cowboys. The result was a statement to the rest of the NFL: You better watch out for the Broncos.