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Broncos vs Browns: The No Bull Review

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The Denver Broncos beat the hapless Cleveland Browns for their third win of the season. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on the game.

What a difference a change in quarterback can make to a team and how they look on the field. The change to Brandon Allen provided a definite spark to the Denver Broncos that helped them look like a team having fun again on the football field.

It isn’t something you can show on a stat sheet, but the playmakers, especially on offense, looked like they were fighting harder than we’ve seen this season.

It was refreshing to see from our team halfway through a rebuild and still missing a lot of what makes a real NFL team click.

Defense

The constant now for four weeks or so has been the stout defense that Vic Fangio is calling every week. This game was no exception.

I’m honestly still pretty impressed that we’re playing defense this well with such inexperienced corners and getting away with it.

Also, our pass rush is nowhere near full strength, and it just isn’t the focal point that it used to be. Fangio mixes a lot more looks in where it isn’t about pressure and instead we are only rushing 3 guys and playing coverage to keep the opponent off balance.

Unlike the past few seasons, there’s only a time or two a game where I’m scratching my head about a defensive play call because it didn’t seem to make sense.

Front 7

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

Derek Wolfe got a nice sack in the 3rd quarter. He did a great job of wrapping up Mayfield and slinging him down. Much like his work earlier in the season, he’s being a force of nature up front with 2 quarterback hits, 1 TFL, and even 1 PD to his credit.

I really liked what I saw from both starting inside linebackers Alexander Johnson and Todd Davis. They were all over the field making tackles (they led the team with 13 and 10 respectively), which is exactly what you want to see. You don’t want your defensive backs leading in tackles - that just means your front seven is getting beat too often.

I spoke earlier of the lacking pass rush ability of the team. You may be saying to yourself, “But Sadaraine, Justin Hollins had a sack. Von Miller had a quarterback hit.” They sure did. Outside of that, what did they have? A whole lot of diddly and squat. While I like the potential we see in Malik Reed and Hollins, they just don’t have the consistency yet to provide pass rush in a vacuum. Also, dare I say that this front misses Demarcus Walker?

Secondary

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

Justin Simmons is an outstanding safety. In the second quarter, he took a smart angle and got up on the very speedy Calloway to save a TD. On the next play he blew up an end-around for a TFL. Late in the fourth quarter, Simmons blitzedon the edge and came across the formation to stop their RB.

Coty Sensabaugh did terrible job defending the 3rd down line on a Baker Mayfield scramble on 3rd and 14. I’m honestly astounded to see this guy getting snaps over a guy we drafted in Isaac Yiadom.

Devontae Harris on the other hand had a very impressive game. He made a superb pass defense on 3rd-and-short inside the red zone to save a TD. Later in the game on 4th-and-4, he broke up the pass over the middle to kill a Browns drive.

Chris Harris, Jr. had another really bad game. On a play when he had a sure pick, he didn’t track the ball or get his arms up high enough to even break up the pass. Later he gave the Browns a third down conversion by straight up tackling OBJ instead of playing the pass with proper technique. I get that he’s got the tough assignment of following the #1 WR of the opposing team week in and week out. I’m not sure if he’s the guy you optimally want doing that though.

Offense

Rich Scangarello deserves a lot of praise for this game. He designed great match-ups for the Broncos players that led to big plays and eventually the win. If there’s any criticism to be had of him in this game it would be that he still doesn’t have the offense prepared to run a successful screen.

But the end results speak for themselves. The offense scored a whopping 24 points. The offense got big plays out of some of its young stars-in-the-making and the backup QB wasn’t asked to do too much.

Quarterbacks

Brandon Allen really impressed me with his drive late in the 3rd quarter. He ran a bootleg and dropped a pass right over two defenders. On 3rd and 1, Rich Scangarello called a short rub route concept that he executed perfectly. Then he made a superb play action pass to Fant for a big gain.

Outside of that drive, he was a good NFL QB in this game. It likely has a lot to do with playing a bad opponent and them having no tape whatsoever on him, but let’s give credit where it is due. Allen threw to the receivers that the plays were designed for and trusted them to make a play. That’s more than I can say for Joe Flacco.

Line

The offensive line handled this game about as well as one could have expected. There was still pressure and sacks. The guys up front did a fairly decent job though. I’m still head over heels about the play of Dalton Risner (especially when they pull him to the right as a lead blocker). I’m still ready for our worst offensive player at LT to be benched because that’s how bad his play has been.

Running Backs

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Phillip Lindsay finally broke a big run for 41 yards. He’s a guy that can break it big like this at any time, and it is good to see the offense keep feeding him even when some of his runs get stuffed for short gains. In the 3rd quarter, with the Browns defense on its heels from the high flying passing attack of Brandon Allen, Lindsay housed it against a defense that didn’t look like it was ready for the run play. I also loved the game sealing direct snap play to Lindsay. It largely was a play that the Browns weren’t ready for, but credit Lindsay for getting it done.

This was an off game for Royce Freeman. He averaged 3 yards per carry and looked pretty pedestrian against the Browns. But that’s why you use a 1A and 1B running back situation in today’s NFL.

Receivers

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

Courtland Sutton’s TD catch was phenomenal. This guy just needs targets even if he looks covered. His skill set and catch radius are what you see from elite NFL receivers. Scangarello has to be looking for ways to get other playmakers involved in the offense so that it opens up more opportunities for Sutton to shine. That has been the challenge this season for Sutton. He’s the focus of every defense we face.

How about the TD play by Noah Fant!? This play was all Fant shaking tackles and was to me the breakout play of this young player’s career. THAT is what we drafted him in the 1st round for. I hope he embraces what that play was like and it helps stoke the fire in him to work harder and do it again.

Diontae Spencer as a WR needs to understand who he is and what his limitations are. He’s a small player with jets. He isn’t the kind of guy that can fight for yards against NFL players. His fumble in this game was a result of a lack of strength that he could have avoided if he just would have taken what he can get then go down to minimize the risk of a fumble.

Special Teams

Colby Wadman is still a bad punter. His 34-yard punt from deep in our territory was one of the worst I’ve seen from him this season and that’s saying a lot.

Final Thoughts

I’m always excited to see our team win football games. I’m honestly surprised by how refreshing it was to see a new QB behind center this week as well. In the past few seasons that’s not been very exciting or productive. Yet putting Joe Flacco on Injured Reserve was a sound move for this young team, and they responded very well to the change.

The team now heads into a bye week enjoying a win before they come back to face the Vikings on the road. I don’t know if the Broncos will be able to hang with a well-coached team like the Vikings, but this game gave me hope that they may be able to surprise some people in the back half of the season.