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Big plays on offense, red zone defense give Broncos uplifting victory

Feels good, man.

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Admit it. Winning feels good.

Sure the Broncos are still 3-6. Sure Brandon Allen’s performance was refreshingly good but not definitely-winning-next-four-games good. Sure the defense had some big stops that were just a better ball spot away from possibly being on the losing end of the total points scored.

All of the above is true.

But it’s also true that the Broncos won a game with some gutsy performances by both young players and vets.

So it’s best to live in the moment and celebrate what was finally an offense worth watching and a defense worth keeping together (can you say, “re-sign Justin Simmons right now, John!”?)

The locker room was certainly fired up after the win, including its head coach who highlighted the third- and fourth-down stops by the defense and Phillip Lindsay’s big run to keep the offense on the field before giving the game ball to backup quarterback Brandon Allen, who earned a QB rating of 125.

The coach was a little more subdued with the press when it came to his QB’s performance - but no less happy about the result.

“He did well. I thought he ran the offense well, showed a little mobility, made some good throws, missed a few too,” he said. “We’re not ready to put him in Canton yet, but overall pleased with the way he played.”

Fangio was also not ready to bite on reporters’ questions regarding Allen’s mobility being the deciding factor for the offense’s performance.

If anything, he credited the defense for its fourth-down stop so the offense didn’t have to score to win.

“I think there was a little bit of all that stuff you’re alluding to, but we’ve been in games like this before,” he said, noting that the Broncos are only 1-3 in games where the offense needed to stay on the field and not put the defense in a position to defend a small lead. “The third-and-one stuff, [the Browns’] last drive where we threw them for a minus three or minus four, that was a critical play, which sets up 4th-and-4 and we stop them there and great credit to the guys.”

Fangio seemed particularly pleased with the third-down stop from Justin Simmons on a safety blitz.

“That was a critical time - short yards,” Fangio said. “That’s a call we have up every week. It’s the first time we’ve called it this year. I just felt that was the time to do it, and I did it.”

It was a pretty good time to pull that out of the repertoire as Simmons hit Nick Chubb almost the second he got the ball and took him down behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of three - setting up a 4th-and-4 that ended in an incomplete pass.

But no one wanted to take away the game that Allen put together in his NFL debut. In fact, Von Miller almost wanted to take credit for it - even likened it to “Lil’ Wayne discovering Drake.”

“I called it at the beginning of the week. I said it. I said he was going to give us the magic. He was going to be ready to go. He was balling in college. I just knew if he got an opportunity, he would be good,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of talented guys in the National Football League, and it was great to have him step up for us and give us a boost. He was incredible.”

Dalton Risner said he was a little surprised at how calm Allen was despite playing in his first NFL regular season game.

“What impressed me the most was how he stayed calm. You’d think a guy would go out there wide-eyed, but holy cow, that guy kept us all calm. He kept me calm,” Risner said. “A lot of credit to him. He’s worked extremely hard. He gave a postgame speech and gave all the credit to Joe Flacco. That’s the type of guy he is. Kudos to him.”

Derek Wolfe might have been surprised at Allen’s calm demeanor too but was definitely not surprised by the performance.

“No. That guy’s got moxie, man. He carries himself like a professional, he’s a personable guy. He talks to everybody on the team,” Wolfe said. “I said it right before the game that Brandon Allen was going to go out there and give us a spark, and he did.”

Two of Allen’s biggest playmakers - Courtland Sutton who absolutely owned a 50-50 ball in the end zone for a touchdown and rookie tight end Noah Fant who scored a 75-yard TD play in the second quarter - gave big props to their quarterback.

“Y’all saw the same thing we saw. Brandon escaped the pocket and made some plays on third down that we really needed. He had a big third down run that ended up with us scoring,” Sutton said, also pointing out how much Flacco helped Allen behind the scenes in meetings. “Those things are really huge and it’s good to see him have that success.”

Fant, who refused to call his big day a “breakout” game, believed the offense really rallied behind Allen, not just for the QB’s sake, but for the entire offense.

“I think our mentality as an offense was just to make plays whenever they came our way. Phil had great plays out there. Courtland had a phenomenal catch over the top of a corner, and everybody feeds off that stuff,” Fant said. “Everybody does better when those plays happen, so those definitely help a lot.”

But there’s no denying that the offense and defense had to work in tandem yesterday, and the Broncos’ red zone stops were critical to helping the offense.

Just “do the math,” as Fangio said. Inside Denver’s 25 four times during the first half only resulted in field goals instead of touchdowns. And a 4th-and-goal attempt ended in Broncos’ ball in the fourth quarter. If even two of those field goals were TDs, the Broncos’ offense wouldn’t have scored enough.

“We’ve been good in the red zone this whole month really,” Miller said. “It just comes down to great coaching. We’ve got great coaches. We’ve got great players and that leads to success.”

Chris Harris Jr. noted that the red zone defense is a “win or lose” strategy.

“You just have to play better, tighten up your coverage and try to do whatever you can to not let them get in the end zone,” he said. “I think we made some plays down there and got some third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 stops that were huge. We know the red zone is win or lose for us.”

Finally, it was a win.


Broncos play two away games after the bye - Minnesota and Buffalo. How many does this team win?

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  • 36%
    2, of course.
    (247 votes)
  • 45%
    Just one.
    (309 votes)
  • 17%
    Zero - because I’m a pessimist.
    (118 votes)
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