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Ultimate Fans: No reason the Broncos can’t win against the Cards

But they still have to avoid their usual it won’t be a walk in the park - especially with a backup QB.

Denver Broncos v Tennessee Titans Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images

It’s coming down to the end of a very long and mostly disappointing season, but the Broncos showed a little life last week that has Broncos Country hoping for at least something entertaining to watch.

With Russell Wilson ruled out - despite passing concussion protocol - the offensive charge will be up to backup quarterback Brett Rypien.

Luckily here at the UFG, we are not only going with veteran heavy hitters, we’ve got two of them to feature and their insights are outstanding! Broncomack is just about to walk the graduation stage with his Ph.D. so he is unofficially on here now known as Dr. Broncomack! And Topher Doll deserves all kinds of PhDs for his diligent research on all things Broncos (side note: when I first joined MHR, Topher was on staff and was an encyclopedia of knowledge...I never Googled any stat; I just asked him!)

Last week’s offensive explosion (at least for 2022 standards) is unlikely to be duplicated but both our UFGers see a game the Broncos can and should win!

Week 15: Cardinals at Broncos

MHR - OK, I know they lost last week. BUT WHAT A CRAZY FUN GAME, AMIRITE?
Topher Doll: The middle was certainly wild but I can’t say the same for the entire game as the beginning and end felt all too familiar. But I’ll take an exciting 30 minutes over a boring 60.

Dr. Broncomack: Amazing game - and I was thinking about you (Doc LLV) being there and what a roller coaster ride that must have been like in person. To show up that well against the Chiefs after looking so dead in the water for almost the entire first half was very impressive. I was looking at the twitter feed when the Broncos were down 27-0 and it was an absolute dumpster inferno - not that that’s the best measure of reality…

MHR - Did the Chiefs game change your mind at all on where the true problems lie with this team? Regardless of whether it changed, what do you see as the major areas of weakness to fix in the offseason?
Topher Doll: I rarely put too much stock in a single game over the trends and for many fans, players and coaches this was viewed as one of the two biggest games of the season (along with the Seahawks) game. For Denver this was almost a Super Bowl, the chance to show the Chiefs they weren’t safe on their throne, that Denver had been disrespected for too long, that they finally had a quarterback and head coach to compete with Mahomes and Reid.

The season hasn’t played out that way but this was a divisional game against a team Denver felt they needed to put in their place, so I wasn’t shocked it was close, especially with the Chiefs coming off that emotional Bengals game. So for me, it didn’t reveal too much we didn’t already know but if Wilson can get healthy and the offense can look serviceable to close the season, I may change my mind about the strengths and weaknesses of the team.

Dr. Broncomack: Not really. This team has been nauseatingly close in so many games. I’m not a moral victories person, but I do believe there’s something to be learned from and built upon by competing at the level they did in that game, largely because of the way the offense was clicking.

MHR - For the first time this season really, the Broncos offense AND defense showed up throughout the game against the Chiefs. Does that provide the offense some momentum through the final few games of the season that it can really build upon?
Topher Doll: Momentum is fickle and possible all in the heads of the players. Combine the fact that the Broncos kept it close due to turnovers, also a fickle and not reliable thing for teams to build around (unless you are Lovie Smith), so I’m not sure how much the offense can really score without the defense giving them great field position but I’d sure love to see players gain some confidence and hopefully get two wins in the final four games, especially with the Rams and Cards looking downright horrible.

Dr. Broncomack: It’s possible, but the big two-part question is if Russ will play and should he play. If he’s not out there, I don’t think there’s much to build upon for the rest of the year.

MHR - The Broncos had a tough time with Pacheco and McKinnon last week - adding to the list of running backs able to get the best of the Denver D. How much of a threat is James Conner and what should we expect from their ability to stop him this week?
Topher Doll: Conner isn’t the explosive runner or receiver that the Broncos have had struggles with in the past like Jacobs (twice) or what the Chiefs field in their backfield. He’s a reliable, solid back who can catch when he has to but isn’t going to tear a 50 yarder. Combined with the system Kingsbury runs he should also be less of a threat in the passing game. The Broncos have shutdown stout and reliable runners before this season, so I do have hope but I do worry that Kingsbury might watch the Carolina game, slow things down and know he can beat the Broncos with 4 yards per carry, an efficient passing game and limiting turnovers.

I think the Broncos defense is up for the job, they’ve shut down better back and the Cards line is a mess but there is a game plan for how to beat the Broncos by running with with Conner.

Dr. Broncomack: This is an under-reported, in my opinion, weakness of this D. Much as I love so much of what the D has done to keep the team close in so many games, the opposing running backs running wild (especially Josh freaking Jacobs) has been tough to watch. It’s been especially bad in end-of-game situations where a stop would have prevented a comeback or allowed for another shot for the O. I understand the argument of them being gassed because of the position the O put them in, but it’s just happened too many times.

MHR - Kyler Murray is out and Colt McCoy is in. Our writer Jess Place joked on Twitter during the Monday night game that McCoy is going to be itching to get the best of Denver, the team that passed him up in the 2010 draft for Tim Tebow. What kind of problems can Colt McCoy present to the defense? Or should this be a great opportunity for the Broncos defense to take advantage of a backup QB?
Topher Doll: McCoy has really impressed in his time in Carolina, maybe off the field more than on as he gets rave reviews from the coaches and his teammates, but he is limited at his age (though I’m only a year younger than him, who am I to talk?) He’s a smart QB with some good mobility and solid for short and intermediate accuracy. But his arm was never strong and has only seemed to weaken as time has gone on. I think Colt actually runs Kingsbury’s offense better than Murray, but he is far less dangerous as a runner or deep passer.

I hate the term “game manager” or “scheme QB” since they are so derogatory and have so much connotation attached to them, but Colt to me fits those bills well as a backup. The Cards do ask him to throw too often, he’s dropped back 35 times or more every game he’s played this season and Kingsbury might need to tone that down a bit with how shaky their line is.

All of that is a long-winded way of saying “he’s a fine backup who fits the scheme and can manage the game.” Should the Broncos be scared? No, but if they play bend-but-don’t-break he can wear a defense down. And with how bad their offensive line, at least from my limited number of games watching them, has been, it could be a good week to be aggressive.

Dr. Broncomack: The day Colt McCoy is a significant problem for this D is the last day this group is called special. Yes, it’s a great opportunity as the Cardinals are a bit of a mess, themselves, and I would love to see the D tee off.

MHR - As good as the Broncos defense has been, the last two games have been in their hands to get a stop so the offense could make a run for a win - and neither happened. Although they usually have to overcompensate for bad offense, is this inability to close out the game a legit concern?
Topher Doll: Not really for me. For a while the defense was holding opposing teams to fewer than 14 points and then fans said “well but they aren’t getting turnovers.” Then last week the defense allowed 34 points but had three turnovers, which set the offense up incredibly well. Heck the last interception fit your question, they intercepted Mahomes with 6 minutes to go and near midfield. Hard to ask for a better way to close the game. Now maybe if Wilson is health he can drive and score and win, or turn it over like Rypien, but had the offense scored on that drive the story would be different.

The defense hasn’t been perfect and obviously they could try and win games while ignoring the offense like the Bears did to the Cards all those years ago, but I think fans are so enamored with the talent and big names on offense, they rather blame one bad defensive drive or lack of unpredictable turnovers than the offense.

Now as for the Chiefs game specifically, I think that game was both a great offensive and defensive game. The offense scored a lot of points, the defense created turnovers. I find it hard to blame either unit as a whole, though certainly certain players could have done better.

Dr. Broncomack: This is what I was referring to earlier. It is a problem and I don’t think it’s a simple as saying they’re gassed because of how poorly the offense played. They’ve just been beaten in too many critical situations at the end of the game. That’s what keeps this D from being truly elite, in my opinion. No, they shouldn’t have to do it all. At the same time, I do think some coaches play conservative O against them confident that the Broncos O won’t have much success against their D. Limiting mistakes and punishing the Broncos O has led to many ugly low scoring wins against our guys.

MHR - Randy Gregory is likely back this week. What does that mean for the defense? Also, what does it mean that he wants to play even for just four games of a completely lost season?
Topher Doll: I’ve never really bought into Gregory being a big impact player for this defense; he’s a rotational pass rusher who struggles in run defense and hasn’t impressed me as a pass rusher. Having said that, the Broncos pass rush has been so sluggish without Gregory or Chubb that it has to improve if he’s back to 100%. I do think Gregory will want to play; injuries have derailed his career time and again and I’m sure he wants to show he isn’t just another bust for the wasted 2022 Broncos offseason. I really hope I’m wrong as I was down on his signing and down on his play early on in the season - and then he predictably got hurt. But the Broncos really could use a pass rush boost, and I hope he can bring it.

Dr. Broncomack: Gregory flashed with all the deserved hype early in the season. At the same time, his injury history continues. I love that he wants to play and I hope he’s a wrecking ball out there. I’d be fine with the D not only stifling the Cardinals O, but scoring a few times against them. I could easily see a Gregory strip sack taken to the house.

MHR - Last time the Broncos played the Cardinals, Von Miller promised an ass-kicking and that was exactly what happened. Nevermind that it was an easier team to beat, but could that kind of fire from the offense and defense be put on display this weekend you think?
Topher Doll: This really feels like a low scoring game, especially with Wilson out and Rypien in as starter. While I’d love to see the Broncos blow out a team that was viewed as their inferior entering the season, the Broncos have yet to win by more than one score and I don’t expect that to change.

Dr. Broncomack: Ah Von memories {sheds tear}. I have a really hard time seeing the offense do anything nearing 451 degrees fahrenheit, but I do think the D can pin their ears back and go with reckless abandon. That alone is worth the price of admission.

MHR - The offense seemed to turn a bit of a corner last week. What do you think were the main reasons for that and can it be duplicated the rest of the season even with the multitude of injuries to starters?
Topher Doll: I think it was the combination of a few things: playing a weaker defense, great starting field position (14 points came off turnovers while Rypien’s TD came on a drive with a 40-yard pass interference penalty) and lastly the run game showing up when it was needed (either Wilson running himself or Mack and Murray carrying the load). I don’t know how much they can replicate the score (Wilson’s 3 TDs came on a predictably inefficient passing day where he threw for 4.7 net yards per attempt but again, short fields) but I do think relying on the run game, playing stout defense, grabbing a turnover or two and I think the Broncos could easily top their season average.

Dr. Broncomack: Such a multi-faceted question. I’m of the belief that Hackett has been the main problem - especially early in the season when so many of those games were winnable. That’s not saying Russ hasn’t caused his share of problems, but I still think that man can be minimum good and maximum GREAT under the right circumstances.

MHR - Playcalling seemed to be decent last week, but still…1st and goal from the 2 with the backup QB JUST coming in and you call a pass play? Is Kubiak up for this job full-time and worth keeping around next year? Why does this seem to be so hard for us?
Topher Doll: Looking at the scheme and design breakdown from last week and the plays were pretty much the norm we’ve seen under Kubiak since he took over. And he still called some headscratchers. I don’t think Kubiak is a bad play caller or designer, just like I don’t think Hackett is as horrible as he seems, but I do think both are inexperienced (which for Kubes makes sense but is less of an excuse for Hackett) but it shows itself at times. I’m not sure he’s going to be kept around but I also think that the fact Wilson at this point will likely have incredibly strong control over the next head coach and offensive coordinator (since Wilson holds all the cards and knows he can’t be benched or moved) it all comes to down how Wilson and Kubiak get along these final games.

As for the struggles finding a good play caller, that is likely a very long story haha.

2020-21: Shurmur was a known bad hire that Elway seemed to like due to experience rather than excellence.

  • 2019: Scangs was inexperienced but wasn’t let go because of bad play calling but because Elway wanted change.
  • 2017-18: Musgrave was also a known bad hire with a bad track record who had history with Denver, same for McCoy in his half season as OC.
  • The Kubiak Years: Dennison was never really the OC, the offense was almost entirely designed by Peyton and Kubiak.
  • The McD and Fox years: I don’t actually have too many issues with the play calling on offense those years, most offensive problems seemed to stem from elsewhere.

So I again went longer than anticipated but in the post-Peyton years the OC issues seemed to have arisen from a bad OC no longer carried by a Hall of Famer or Elway meddling. With Elway no longer in a hands-on role, there was a lot of hope for Klint Kubiak (a young OC with ties to Denver, which actually seems to be a bad thing at this point) and Hackett (I don’t buy the idea that was brought here for his mind, I still think he was brought to Denver specifically to lure Rodgers here) but I think there was warning signs it might not have been a good idea.

Dr. Broncomack: I don’t hate the call of bringing in Rypien cold to make that play. It was a shot and I like aggressive play-calling. I would like to see Kubiak earn the job and I’m glad he’s getting a shot. I would like to see more historical Broncos bloodline in the building - people who legitimately hate the Raiders and know the deep importance of winning the division. Peyton came in and knew that right from the jump. I don’t like spending a lot of time looking back, but not hiring Kyle Shanahan, John Lynch nor drafting Christian McCaffrey does burn my biscuits - especially when I see the 49ers thriving and think how all of them would have loved to be in Denver…

MHR - Jerry Jeudy also turned a corner. Was that him just stepping up? Was it the fact that they moved him outside for a majority of the plays? Was it the QB being told he was open? ;) Basically, can we see more of this even though he’ll easily be double-teamed given he is the only starter by a mile out there?
Topher Doll: What a game from Jeudy, monster game. While I don’t think it was turning a corner, not yet at least, and I’m saying that a lot, but he certainly made the most of some favorable matchups against an inconsistent Chiefs secondary and made them pay. I do think we’ll see it again because the Broncos face some weaker secondaries (though he could also face isolation against Ramsey when they face the Rams) but teams are going to note that Jeudy is the only real threat left for the Broncos that can go for 100 yards or break a big play, and lighter coverage against him likely ends soon.

Dr. Broncomack: I’m still bullish on Jerry Jeudy. He seemed to be demanding the ball last week when he wasn’t bumping refs and I like that (the former part). Using him (or anyone) correctly is so important to make them successful. This is my big sticking point - this team needs to commit to building a system and developing its players. It’s both cost-effective and allows players to plug in and be their best quickly. Clearly defined roles keep players from having to try to play hero ball - which is almost always a fool’s errand.

MHR - Marlon Mack’s run was…awesome. And completely nerve-wracking! But he and Latavius Murray have been moderately successful. Does the run game play a big part on Sunday especially if Brett Rypien is playing?
Topher Doll: Arizona is allowing 4.6 yards per carry to opposing running backs so I hope Kubiak sees that on film as he designs the game plan with Hackett and make it a big part of what they want to do. Mack was very solid with the Colts and he’s a reliable every down back and Murray can run inside with the best of them. These aren’t always the most exciting backs (though Mack certain had a statement highlight against the Chiefs) but I don’t think they need to be. Run for 4 yards on 1st down, convert 3rd and shorts, be successful at the goal line (if Kubes calls the run) and this Broncos run game should get fed.

Dr. Broncomack: I’d be happy to see them go 65/35 running/passing; really commit to beating up the Cardinals, even though the stats point to the red birds being much more stout against the run than the pass.

MHR - Before the Chiefs game, where were you on “keep the coach/fire the coach; keep the GM/fire the GM”? Any changes after the Kansas City game (meaning, if players like Hackett is there benefit to giving him another year)?
Topher Doll: I do think Paton is a good GM who made a trade he felt pressured to make due to the mistakes of his predecessor (and now boss, strange to get promoted after doing a bad job, huh Elway?), and so I don’t fault him for trading for Wilson. I think that was a trade that had to happen; the Broncos weren’t going to earn a winning record with their 2021 QB situation. To me Paton did make one very huge, no-good, strange, bad mistake when he signed Wilson to an extension. Wilson still had years on his contract, he wasn’t expecting a new contract either since that didn’t happen until later.

Does that deserve to get Paton fired? I don’t think so. Paton was praised as a top GM by the Denver media, even after the Wilson trade but all that changed when Wilson started play. So I’m fine keeping Paton though his leash should be much shorter.

As for Hackett, I mentioned above that I firmly believe he was brought here for Rodgers and when that fell through he was put in a tough spot with a QB he didn’t match perfectly with (though the idea Hackett and Kubes run some foreign and strange offense that Wilson has never seen before is measurably wrong). I don’t think keeping Hackett helps either him or Wilson and I’m sure he’ll find a nice OC job somewhere and Wilson can handpick his OC, like he used to do at times in Seattle. To me it doesn’t matter if Hackett is well liked; it matters if Wilson likes him and they mesh - and clearly they do not. Keeping Hackett may keep the players happy but it will make Wilson unhappy and Wilson is the most valuable, or costly, asset the Broncos have right now and everything they do at this point is to make him happy.

Dr. Broncomack: I have thought that Hackett would be fired…but I don’t necessarily think he should be. I get the outrage - it’s no fun losing, especially the way they have been. At the same time, as I stated above, they’ve got to get it right at some point and a lot of that has to do with building a winning culture.

MHR - What are your thoughts on Russell Wilson playing. Assuming he’s “cleared” to play, is it a good idea? (*editor’s note: Q asked before we knew Wilson was out, but the answers are perfect, so I’m leaving it in!)
Topher Doll: I said earlier in the week the petty part of me wants him to go out there and play, earn those hundreds of millions of dollars he got from the Broncos. It isn’t a very moral thing to think but he’s shown very little accountability for his poor play or even acknowledged it and I want him to earn those paychecks like his teammates.

But the human part of me knows it is wrong to wish pain on him and long term I know if the Broncos are to salvage Wilson in 2023 resting him is the smart idea. If the Broncos want to recoup their investment, got to treat Wilson with kids gloves, even if his teammates have to continue to suffer through this season.

Dr. Broncomack: On the one hand, I love the guy’s competitiveness, desire to play and still believe he can help the Broncos win in the long term. Winning matters every single time. On the other hand, risking injury - especially something as serious as a brain injury - is irresponsible at best. Without insider knowledge, I’m of the opinion that Russ should sit.

Predictions- Topher Doll

Stats for RUSSELL “LET’S RIDE it out” WILSON Brett Rypien? 250 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Stats for each Broncos RB? 60 rushing yards for Murray, 75 yards from scrimmage for Mack, 1 TD each

Number of yards receiving/TDs for the receivers? Oh I have no idea, between the injuries and TE flux it could be quite the hodgepodge.

Longest FG for McManus? 45 yards

Number of sacks to Colt McCoy? The Cards offensive line seems horrible, how about 4.

Broncos player with the most tackles? Alex Singleton

Who gets the first sack of the game for the Broncos? Dre’Mont Jones

Who gets the most sacks? I say the Broncos spread the love, everyone gets one.

How many INTs/FF/FR for the Chiefs D? 1 INT/1 FF/0 FR

How many penalties between the two teams? Oh a bundle, top two teams in penalties, so I’ll say 14.

Final Score? Denver 14, Arizona 10

Predictions - Dr. Broncomack

Stats for RUSSELL “LET’S RIDE it out” WILSON? *Injured

Stats for each Broncos RB? Murray - 49, Mack 28

Number of yards receiving/TDs for the receivers? J. Jeudy - 68, G. Dulcich - 54

Longest FG for McManus? 48

Number of sacks to Colt McCoy? 6

Broncos player with the most tackles? Singleton

Who gets the first sack of the game for the Broncos? Randy Gregory

Who gets the most sacks? Browning

How many INTs/FF/FR for the Cards D? 2/1/0

How many penalties between the two teams? 14

Final Score? 13-10 Broncos

The Favorites - Topher Doll

Favorite Broncos win ever? This changes yearly, or weekly, but right now I’d say Week 1 of the 2013 and the massive revenge smackdown Peyton laid on the Ravens after his struggles against them in overtime in the playoffs during the 2012 season.

Favorite Peyton Manning win? Can I say the one above haha? How about his 2013 duel against Tony Romo where they went back and forth until the final drive.

Favorite John Elway win? I’d say it is his final regular season game, 1998 against the Seahawks where he and TD just tore that defense apart.

Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? Depends who is beating the Broncos at lot recently (which has been all three teams sadly) but right now the Chargers.

Coach you despise most in the NFL? Feels very in the moment but right now it is Jeff Saturday; just feels so unearned.

Team you hate to lose to the most in the rest of the AFC (outside AFC West)? Steelers

NFC team you could cheer for in the Super Bowl? I’d love for Ron Rivera to get another ring to match his one as a player and I think that it would be nice for a scrappy team like Commanders to prove people wrong. I wrote all that before I remembered who their owner was, and my point about the players and coaches still stands. But I’d like to change my vote to the Lions - go bite some knees off!

NFC team you’d want to face more than any other in the Super Bowl? The Broncos have some embarrassing losses in the Super Bowl I’d love to see avenged but none worse than the 49ers, so maybe that would be a good rematch.

Toughest game left on the schedule? Chiefs, it will be in Arrowhead and the emotion of trying to show the Chiefs who the boss is will be gone. Throw in the Chiefs will likely be better prepared and still fighting for the No. 1 seed, so I can’t imagine they make the same mistakes.

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Mike Purcell, love a lunch pail work ethic.

Favorite Broncos player of all time not named John Elway? Champ Bailey

Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? He hasn’t been perfect but considering what he’s been tasked to do, Demarri Mathis has been growing on me.

Food/Snack you have to eat on game day? I don’t think I really have any consistent game day foods.

Favorite game analyst/commentator? It may be easy to hate on them but I enjoy Buck and Aikman. Though I did really enjoy Storm and Kremer on Amazon before they replaced them for Thursday Night Football.

If YOU were giving a tour of the Ring of Fame at Mile High, which players would you make sure to highlight in your talk? Hard to resist the modern legends of Elway and TD, throw in some Orange Crush guys like Meck and Grad and finish it off with the legend that is Little.

The Favorites - Dr. Broncomack

Favorite Broncos win ever? Peyton’s four first half touchdowns vs. Raiders…in part because I was in the Oakland Coliseum to see it happen. Masterful. Dec. 29, 2013.

Favorite Peyton Manning win? SB 50

Favorite John Elway win? SB 32

Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? Raiders

Coach you despise most in the NFL? McDaniels

NFC team you could cheer for in the Super Bowl? 49ers

NFC team you’d want to face more than any other in the Super Bowl? Dallas

Toughest game left on the schedule? Chiefs

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Pookie

Favorite Broncos player of all time not named John Elway? Atwater

Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Bonitto

Food/Snack you have to eat on game day? Nachos

Favorite game analyst/commentator? I know he’s polarizing for many, but I have a bit of a personal connection to Joe Buck. His dad had Parkinson’s, just like my dad. I got to interview him for the first “Boys of Summer” film at Dodger Stadium, and he was fantastic. Incidentally, I’d like to mention my non-profit,, with a shout out to the Parkinson’s community I serve (we do have online classes where all are welcome and we don’t charge)!

If YOU were giving a tour of the Ring of Fame at Mile High, which players would you make sure to highlight in your talk? Rick Upchurch, Terrell Davis, Karl Mecklenburg

How did you become a Broncos fan?

Topher Doll: Not sure exactly. I’ve never been a big fan of one team, growing up in southern Oregon you were either a 49ers or Seahawks fan and this was in the 90’s and I wrongly chose the Seahawks as a kid. Poor Tez Kennedy couldn’t fix my broken heart as the 49ers were so dominant. I also loved watching Dan Marino plus the Bears defenses so I followed them. At some point I latched onto the Broncos and it kind of stuck. Not the most exciting story, but hey, it is all I’ve got.

Dr. Broncomack: 1977. I was a 7-year-old kid growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Football was mildly interesting to me at the time. I went over to a friend’s house. He was from Colorado - which didn’t mean much until I walked in and saw everyone wearing orange, eating orange food and screaming orange screams as they watched the Orange Crush defense dominate. It was over. I’ve been hooked ever since.


Favorite single "big play" moment in Broncos history?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    CJ Anderson’s OT touchdown to beat the Patriots in 2015
    (5 votes)
  • 14%
    Steve Atwater’s killer hit on Christian Okoye
    (10 votes)
  • 10%
    Champ Bailey’s 100-yard INT off Tom Brady
    (7 votes)
  • 23%
    Von Miller’s first sack on Cam Newton in SB50
    (16 votes)
  • 2%
    Peyton Manning’s bootleg TD against the Cowboys
    (2 votes)
  • 5%
    "Shasta" (other)
    (4 votes)
  • 16%
    ANY Elway comeback ;)
    (11 votes)
  • 17%
    Tebow to DT. ‘Nuff said
    (12 votes)
67 votes total Vote Now