After taking home the win in Orchard Park last night, it’s easy to feel like the Denver Broncos are really turning into a force. Was luck on our side? Yeah. Was Buffalo’s offense playing below their normal bar? Of course; but if the Broncos had failed to capitalize on those opportunities, none of that would have mattered.
Normally, I would be writing up our current coach’s speech about strategies to improve. We would be consoling each other for yet another loss in this never-ending series of devastations. We would pray for a good draft pick and a sprinkle of hope for next season. All of us would be dreading each day that drew us closer to the Minnesota Vikings, knowing they would make us look like a high school football team.
But today isn’t a normal day in Broncos Country.
In what he described as a “good win on the road,” head coach Sean Payton shared some things he was proud of and some things that can still improve. Belonging to the latter category, he mentioned the penalty rate as a major issue.
“In the first half, there were four different times we were third-and-10 or more, and there’s a penalty on the drive that’s putting us in those spots,” he elaborated, “We have to clean that up.”
When asked about the turnaround since their incredible loss to the Dolphins, Payton gave credit to his team. “It’s the NFL. I mean, credit these guys. There’s a little toughness to this league. I keep saying it—there’s that fine line between a groove and a rut.”
The coach went on to describe how practice throughout the week is the most telling part of the process, saying, “You have to bow up a little bit and you have to demand it of each other at practice during the week. You win during the week. I felt like we’ve been practicing during the week better—a lot better. If you do that and you demand that of each other, then Sundays become a little bit less chaotic.”
Now, there is a lot to say about the defensive side of the ball. CB Ja’Quan McMillian forced and recovered a beautiful fumble. His fellow corner Fabian Moreau intercepted Josh Allen just before the half, allowing us to make a field goal. I think I mention S Justin Simmons every time I write, but it’s because I don’t get tired of talking about the way he disrupts every offense he encounters. Monday night this entailed forcing yet another fumble, catching another interception, and tying for the most tackles.
All this to say: our secondary was a force to be reckoned with last year, and still is this year, even if it was off to a slow start. And for Buffalo’s part, their defense really showed up to play.
“These guys cause fumbles at the top of the league with anyone,” Payton said of the Buffalo Bills, “When you watch it, and you watch it, and you keep watching it, you start getting mad at yourself because it’s something that’s being coached and emphasized. I think those guys got tired of me talking about it.”
He continued, drawing a comparison to how our secondary pulled it off last night. “Defensively, we were on the other end of it. That was the difference tonight. Four takeaways—you finish plus three, you’re winning 98 percent of your games.”
Asked about his thoughts on Russell Wilson’s flip passes to RB Samaje Perine, Payton complimented Wilson’s ability to read the field quickly.
“Well, he sees coverage right away. For him, a lot of times it’s the cavities in the rush. It’s not just dropping back and throwing over the rush,” he explained, “Samaje and the backs being available—this was a zone defense, so we felt like there were going to be a lot of underneath throws. That can kind of vary week to week, but that was important, certainly, on that drive.”
Payton also gave a shout-out to Marvin Mims, Jr., who impressed all with his punt returns. “It was significant. I felt like we played a lot of the game on their end of the field,” Payton said, “What happens when you do that is the mistakes are magnified when they make them, and they’re not as glaring when you make them.”
Regarding the message he has for the team moving forward, Payton admitted that it’s too far out for him. “I didn’t divide it in half. I understand the question. We just talked about the game tonight. We’ll kind of shift to the next opponent...this is their team. We’re playing better, but we have a lot of work to do.”