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Taking the Reins: Competing Dysfunctions

Can the Broncos keep their series momentum this weekend against the Panthers?

Denver Broncos v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

What do you do when you find yourself as the doormat of the NFL, unable to beat even the hapless Las Vegas Raiders?

You pick yourself up and do what you can to win what currently appears to be arguably the only winnable game remaining on your schedule.

Fortunately, it comes against an opponent that the Denver Broncos have historically dominated. In the 2 teams’ 7 prior meetings, with the obvious highlight of Super Bowl 50, the Broncos have built a hefty 6-1 lead. Like Super Bowl 50, effective offense from the Broncos is a highly questionable concept. And if the team is to push that all-time record to 7-1, we may need Baron Browning to play a convincing imitation of Von Miller.

Super Bowl 50 - Denver Broncos v Carolina Panthers Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

#1: Play Offense

Early last week it looked like the switch to Klint Kubiak as playcaller might finally get this off of our list of keys to victory. And then the offense stalled out and got stale just like we’ve seen it do all season.

This is where we have to hope that another week with Kubes Jr calling plays bears even more of that highly efficient Russell Wilson we saw early against the Raiders. Like it or not, we’re going to have to lean on Russ to win going forward. With Melvin Gordon’s fumbles finally becoming too much, the Broncos are left with none of their original RBs for the season still on the roster. The RBs we have instead make for a pretty impressive depth chart, though... at least if this was somewhere in the 2017 to 2019 range of seasons.

There were at least signs of life, though. So there’s reason to hope. And that’s a good thing for an offense that desperately needs things to start going right for it.

Las Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

#2: Pressure Sam Darnold.

This will be Sam Darnold’s first start of the 2022 season. And while he’s got some prior familiarity with a number of guys on this Carolina Panthers offense, he’s going to have to hit the ground running in the midst of a franchise that has already fired its head coach. That means there will likely be opportunities for the defense due to miscommunications- especially from a Panthers offense with two 3 turnover performances in their last 3 games. The Broncos’ pass rushers and defensive backs will need to be ready to seize those opportunities and make the most of them.

The Broncos’ pass rushing group is pretty depleted at this point versus how it started the season, but Baron Browning can be a dynamic threat to any quarterback. Denver will need him to have a good game, as well as a good outing from the rookie opposite him: Nik Bonitto.

Denver Broncos vs Indianapolis Colts during week 5 of the NFL season Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

#3: Stop the Panthers from running effectively.

With a new QB under center, Carolina will doubtless be trying to make things as easy on him as possible. That means running the ball effectively. It’s a bit of a volatile gambit- the Panthers have rushed for 169+ yards 3 times in their last 5 games, but have also been held under 65 rushing yards twice in that time.

So we’ll need to see the Broncos’ defense dare the Panthers to pass, and clamp down on their rushing game with a plan more like how they approached Derrick Henry than how they dealt with Josh Jacobs (or, rather, didn’t). If they can accomplish that, the onus falls on Surtain, Simmons, & company to make sure that there are no broken plays for Carolina to take advantage of. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough margin with this offense to let something like that happen.

What are your top keys to victory for the Broncos on Sunday?

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