Vic Fangio had no plans for sleeping last night.
Not because he was going to be partying over the team’s first victory in 2019 - though reporters wondered if the win would help him sleep better Sunday night.
But at 1-4, the film room is where his next party will get started.
“I might not sleep tonight, to be honest,” Fangio said after the Broncos beat the Chargers 20-13 for their first win of the season. “We’ll probably get back to the facility at whatever time we do, and I’ll probably go in and start working on Tennessee.”
The victory in L.A. was proof the Broncos are improving. Not just in record or stats or scores, but in discipline and consistency.
But it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t comfortable, Fangio said, calling the win more of “hanging on” rather than “finishing.”
“We got out to a nice lead there, playing well on both sides of the ball. Then we just couldn’t get a first down in the third quarter,” he said, adding that the defense stepped up for the most part until the punt return for a TD killed some momentum. “That kind of changed the game there a little bit. ... We finished, but it was painful.”
Not nearly as painful as watching it unfold and having nightmare flashbacks to the Jacksonville game just last week.
Not going to think about Jacksonville game...— Doctor of Words (and tights and kicking ass) (@docllv) October 6, 2019
Not going to think about Jacksonville game...
Not going to think about Jacksonville game...
Not going to think about Jacksonville game...
Still, the first win is the first win, and Fangio earned the game ball from John Elway for it.
And then he promptly gave it away.
“The way I look at it, it is just the first win of 2019 Broncos,” Fangio said. “I’m really just happy for this team. These guys, I know the results don’t show it, and results can obscure a lot of things – justifiably so – but these guys have been doing everything we ask from them. They fought.”
In fact, Fangio said Chargers’ head coach Anthony Lynn told him before the game he noticed how hard the guys had been playing each week.
“Just keep hanging in there,” Lynn had told Fangio, adding that he hoped it wouldn’t be Sunday.
“But I’m glad it was today,” Fangio added.
So were his players.
“It feels good, but we have a lot of work to do,” said Phillip Lindsay, who had a monstrous day with 147 total yards and one touchdown. “We made it harder than it has to be. ...Every game has been tough for us. Every game we have gotten stronger and bigger. That’s what it’s about. We have tough a conference and it’s going to pay off down the line.”
Von Miller, who had a minimal stat sheet but was constantly giving Rivers and his running back fits, said the conference win was big but at this point, “any win is big.”
“We’ve had a tough month of football, and to get a win, it feels good,” Miller said. “No one really dwelled on the past and we don’t want to move too fast going forward. Just stay in the moment. All the games that we’ve played in the past we’ve been in it, and it feels good to come out on top today.”
Like his coach, Miller wasn’t ready to call anything a dominant performance, but he was thrilled to be able to say the defense shut down Rivers’ offense.
“I don’t know if I would say we shut those guys down. We created situations where they had to move it around,” he said. “We had a situation on defense where they couldn’t just go to Melvin [Gordon III] or Austin [Ekeler]. They had to find a different answer, and it feels good to mix it up and not just have one guy win the day today for us on defense.”
After two games in which the Broncos defense let a slim lead fade away in the waning seconds - despite the offense mounting near successful comebacks against the Bears in Week 2 and the Jaguars in Week 4 - it was obvious the Broncos’ offense was going to have to take a more starring role if this season were salvageable.
But even though it was the offense getting out ahead of L.A. early, it was the defense that contained the ever-dangerous Rivers while the offense worked out of its third-quarter funk.
Alexander Johnson with his first career interception. #Broncos D continues the shutout! pic.twitter.com/IWSIpT8iIi— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) October 6, 2019
“I think it all started with the offense. They started off hot, on fire and they went down and scored. They went down and scored again, and then they kicked a field goal,” Miller noted. “It’s easy to feed off stuff like that. They led us today, and it was just easy to feed off their momentum. They had a good day on offense.”
But the defense’s accomplishment did not go unnoticed by Joe Flacco, who had 182 yards and one touchdown pass on the day.
“Man, they were awesome today. They obviously got [the Chargers] off balance a little bit. It seemed like they forced a lot of throws into the flat and came up and made tackles quickly, and that was huge,” Flacco said. “Then there were probably a couple times where they get impatient and the ball goes down the middle of the field and our guys were there waiting for it when they had their opportunity, so it was good to see those guys have a big game and play the way they did.
“They have a lot of young guys - one guy making his first start,” Flacco said, adding that the loss of De’Vante Bausby who left the game on a stretcher for a neck injury obviously threw the defense into some disarray. “A lot of things going on over there, and those guys rallied and played really tough.”
Fangio agreed. And with good reason.
The defense held Keenan Allen to just 18 receiving yards and limited the Chargers’ running game to a mere 35 yards. Although Austin Ekeler did snag 84 yards in the air, his hard-earned catches mostly went unheralded as the defense allowed only four of 13 third-down conversions and stopped the Chargers all four times they entered into the red zone. One of those stops was an interception in the end zone, care of Alexander Johnson.
“We hammered [the defense] last week, as you guys did, and deservedly so, for our performance last week,” Fangio said. “You got to give them their due this week. They played their butts off. No points in the first half, got the interception in the end zone after they got a takeaway down in there tight. They just kept fighting. They’ve been doing that all year, but the results haven’t been there. They really played really well. The defense deserves a big pat on the back.”
It does...and Lindsay was right there to do it.
“Defense played great. They are out there playing for each other. You guys saw it today,” the ‘Pitbull’ said. “They are going to rage on. ...If you were in our locker room, you would think we are 5-0 right now. That’s just how we are, and we understand we are family. Things don’t always go our way. But you keep chipping away.”
Landing back in Denver with a win got us like … pic.twitter.com/7oWbmcq5TE— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) October 7, 2019
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