The Denver Broncos won their second straight game last night when they defeated the San Francisco 49ers by the score of 11 to 10. It wasn’t the prettiest efforts from the Broncos offense who made us sweat this game out. However, Russell Wilson and the Broncos offense made the necessary plays to get in the end zone in the final minutes of the game. Also, the Broncos' defense flashed brilliance throughout the contest and is a big reason why our Denver Broncos are at the top of the AFC West currently.
I am going to give you five things we learned during the Broncos' 11 to 10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
1. Assistant coach Jerry Rosburg’s addition pays off
Over the weekend, news leaked that the Broncos hired some help for first-time Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett. He was struggling with balancing decision-making and game management with his play-calling duties. So, George Paton and the Denver Broncos reached out and hired veteran coach Jerry Rosburg to assist Hackett during the week and gamedays. He previously served as the Ravens game-management assistant from 2008 to 2018, so he has plenty of experience in this role.
While this game had its issues we saw decisions being made quicker, no delay of game penalties, fewer penalties in general, and just a much smoother overall process than we saw in weeks one and two.
I asked Nathaniel Hackett about the @broncos low penalty count(5) tonight as well as the role Jerry Rosburg played in the game.@KOAColorado #BroncosCountry pic.twitter.com/enbC2khhBv— Brandon Krisztal (@BKDenverSports) September 26, 2022
After the game, Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett met with the media and was asked about Rosburg’s addition. He told the reporters that “Jerry was great” and that Rosburg held him back a bit from being overly aggressive on fourth downs during last night’s game.
“Yeah, Jerry was great. We had been evaluating everything on how we had been managing things up to that point. I wanted to be sure that I was able to be an efficient play caller for [QB] Russell [Wilson] and the offense. So we were able to bring Jerry in and for the quick time, turn around and getting him here. I thought he was spectacular. He was out there supporting me whenever we potentially had fourth downs. Again, he’s there because I typically want to be a little more aggressive and he kind of held me back, especially that fourth-and-inches. I was very tempted to want to go for that, but he was just talking about it and our defense was playing so well. We were able to punt it, Corliss did an amazing job and made a drive down the field, and we got the ball back and then had that winning score. So, I think it’s just about gaining the knowledge from everybody on the staff. I think we have a great group, and I’m getting the right information, and that’s all I can ask for, and very happy that he’s here.”
We saw the instant results of Rosburg’s addition during last night’s victory and he just joined the team. This upcoming week will be this first full week with the team and coach Hackett, so we could see things get even better from here on out.
Whether this was something Hackett did indeed ask for or it was something forced on him, we did see improvements from that process in this game. At the end of the day, it just needs to work and things need to run smoothly. John Harbaugh relied on Rosburg for a decade so we shouldn’t think less of Hackett because of this.
2. Broncos’ offense struggled but made plays when it counted
It was a rough go for the Broncos offense through the first three-quarters of this game. We saw them only score three points (plus a safety) and entered the fourth quarter trailing the 49ers by the score of 7 to 5.
In those three quarters, we saw a ton of three and outs, lots of punts, and just some very poor offensive play. If I see another swing pass for nothing and get a back tackled behind the line of scrimmage, I may scream.
However, at the end of the game when everything was on the line, quarterback Russell Wilson and the Broncos came through with the game-winning score.
When the Broncos needed it the most, the offense drove 80 yards in 12 plays for the go-ahead touchdown.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) September 26, 2022
We haven’t seen Russ cook very often, but he did late in the 4th quarter, He made a brilliant 3rd down pass to Hall Of Famer Kendall Hinton, he hit Courtland Sutton for some big plays, and even scrambled and lowered his shoulder for some extra yards as well. In the end, the drive ended with running back Melvin Gordon punching it from the one-yard line for the go-ahead touchdown.
Quarterback Russell Wilson was asked about this and he told reporters that he just took over with his legs and started making plays.
“Really in the fourth quarter, I had to kind of use my legs and kind of take over. Just try to move around and find some first downs. You know, Kendall Hinton making that big play. I went left—I guess I can still go left. But I went left and hit Kendall on that out —A big play by him. And then, we had a run called and I ended up changing the play to Courtland and he made a great play on that one-on-one. The [line did a tremendous job of battling that whole drive and us just believing. And then obviously, Melvin Gordon getting in the end zone. That was pretty huge how he walked into the end zone there.”
The 49ers were a game away from the Super Bowl last season and have themselves a very talented defense. We saw their defenders flying all over, Nick Bosa killing our tackles, and their defense in general shutting down our offense in general. So, coming away with a victory and a touchdown drive late in the game is pretty impressive all things considered.
3. The Broncos' defense looks elite
Outside of the first half of the Week 1 nightmare against the Seahawks, the Broncos' defense has looked like one of the league's best units. They continued their dominance last night against Kyle Shanahan’s offense and held them to just 10 points.
In this game, the Broncos defense had 4 sacks, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles/fumble recoveries, and held them to 10 points. We saw Randy Gregory have another sack and now has had one in back-to-back games for the Broncos. He was pressuring Jimmy G. throughout the game as well. We also saw Bradley Chubb get a sack as well, and he looks back to 100% and has 3 sacks through the Broncos' first three games.
This defense is on another level pic.twitter.com/zelTG6qnD2— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) September 26, 2022
We also saw inside linebacker Josey Jewell return, which I think helped the unit as a whole improve, They seemed to be in a better position, communicated better, and just looked smoother than they did the past two weeks. He was called the “glue of this defense” and we saw why last night.
After the game Hackett told reporters he thought his defense played outstanding.
“They were outstanding. The safety was unbelievable, Chubb actually getting that interception was great too. I wish he wouldn’t have stepped down on that one but, it was just awesome. It really started watching Corliss. Corliss punting that ball back there and pinning them back continually throughout the game. It gave them such a long field and the defense did great getting them into some passing situations and that’s when they came to life. I thought it was just a great performance. Our coaching staff did such a great job, along with those guys, finding everything that we want to do. I thought it was beautiful.”
The Broncos defense has allowed the offense to figure things out while keeping them in each and every game. Arguably the Broncos should be undefeated currently, and that’s with their offensive struggles. Just imagine this team's upside if/when they improve on offense.
Also, we last saw the Broncos win a Super Bowl with a dominant defense in 2015 and the last time Wilson won a Super Bowl, he had a dominant defense as well. So, hopefully, this defensive performance continues and the Broncos find similar success throughout the rest of the season.
4. Cornerback Patrick Surtain II shuts down the 49ers' passing game
Surtain II left the week two game vs. the Texans early on and had the team and fans worried about his availability moving forward. Thankfully, the star corner escaped with just a minor injury and was able to play in the Sunday Night game vs. the 49ers.
In this game, Surtain was targeted by 49ers QB Jimmy G. a total of six times and did not allow a completion at all in this game. According to ESPN’S Next Gen Stats, that’s the most targets without a reception since 2021, and Surtain currently has the 4th-lowest passer rating when targeted in the NFL since being drafted in 2021.
He’s already among the league's best cornerbacks if not already the best cornerback in the entire NFL right now.
Patrick Surtain did not allow a reception on 6 targets, tied for the most targets without a reception allowed in a game since 2021.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 26, 2022
Surtain has allowed the 4th-lowest passer rating (59.8) in the NFL since being drafted in 2021 (min. 70 targets).#SFvsDEN | Powered by @awscloud pic.twitter.com/PWCHAdJaRQ
Next week, the Broncos travel to Vegas to take on former Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels, Derek Carr, Davante Adams, and the rest of the Raiders offense. This is a game where Surtain’s elite play will be highlighted.
Davante Adams is one of the top receivers in the game and the focal point of the Raiders' offense. There’s a good chance that Surtain will be shadowing him throughout the game and if he can shut him down, that would be pretty impressive. It would also greatly increase the chances of the Broncos improving to 3-1 on the season.
5. Broncos are at the top of the AFC West
On Sunday, before the Broncos kicked off their game against the 49ers, they watched all their AFC West rivals lose.
The Chiefs lost their first game of the season to the Colts, the suddenly banged-up Chargers were upset by the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Raiders remained winless after losing to the Titans. This means the Broncos had a great opportunity to gain and separate from their rivals on Sunday night, and that’s exactly what they did.
The #Broncos were the only AFC West team to win today.— Rachel Strand (@RachelNFL) September 26, 2022
The Broncos are also tied for 1st in the AFC West.
Weird day of football! But the Broncos head to face the 0-3 McDaniels-led Raiders next week.
The Broncos are currently tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for first place in the AFC West. Meanwhile, the Chargers are below .500 with a 1-2 record and the Raiders are where they belong, in the cellar of the AFC West where they continue their commitment to excellence with a 0-3 record. The Broncos will look to make that an 0-4 record next week.