Last week Sean Payton said he hoped there would be “a lot better milestones” accomplished after he won his first game at Mile High as the Denver Broncos head coach.
One week later he accomplished a milestone that no coach since Gary Kubiak in 2015 has been able to do.
Beat the Kansas City Chiefs.
For 16 games in a row - going all the way back to November 2015 when Peyton Manning was benched after throwing five interceptions against Kansas City at Mile High - the Chiefs have bested the Broncos.
During the week, the head coach downplayed the streak.
But ask Justin Simmons if it’s a big deal.
“It would mean everything,” Simmons said last week before the game.
He and Garett Bolles have the longest tenure on the team, joining in 2016 and suffering 15 of the 16 losses to the Chiefs.
Even young guys like Baron Browning or newly acquired players like Mike McGlinchey understood the significance in the win.
“Oh, it meant the world. Like I said earlier, [the fans] definitely brought that extra energy,” said Browning. “They were definitely the 12th man on the field for us today.”
McGlinchey called it a “huge” win.
“To come out and beat these guys, the defending world champs and number one team in the AFC. That’s a huge win,” he said. “That’s a win that’s going to make us believers. It’s a win that can change an organization.”
Ask former Broncos Von Miller and Brandon McManus if they think the win is a big deal.
You already know the answer.
And the key to reaching this milestone was improving two things that seemed somewhat impossible a few weeks ago - playing good defense and putting forth a consistent running attack on offense.
Although Denver’s three touchdowns Sunday all came from pass plays, those 21 points were built off the 153 rushing yards Javonte Williams and his fellow backs (and Wilson) pounded through on the ground.
“It doesn’t have to be aesthetically pleasing to be effective,” Payton said of “good running” teams. “I think the key is winning. It’s the one way where you get to control the game relative to the clock and how it’s played, whereas in other scenarios, there’s a little bit less control.”
The turnaround on defense over the past two games has really just come from putting in the work, Payton said. The Broncos’ D would tally three sacks, 11 QB hits, 6 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
“I thought we did the things you do when you win,” Payton said after the game. “We were plus four in the turnover battle. We rushed the ball better than they did. I thought we, defensively, did a fantastic job with their offense, a tough offense. We didn’t have the sack production, but we had a lot of hurries, and I felt like we did a good job of keeping [Mahomes] off-schedule.”
While Sunday’s win represented a solid showing from all three phases, Payton believes his team is still finding its identity.
“I think as a team we’re beginning to develop our identity—what we feel like it can be or should be,” Payton said, adding that it’s not quite where it should be yet. “Are we a finished product right now? By no means.”
But beating the Chiefs was an excellent start.
And it will fuel more confidence Payton believes.
“I think that confidence ... it’s extremely important,” Payton said. “It’s a quality opponent, and when you beat a quality opponent, you begin to see yourself in that same light.”
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