The Denver Broncos are currently riding a four-game win streak with an outside chance at the playoffs, but it has mostly been on the back of the complete turnaround of Vance Joseph’s defense.
The offense, on the other hand, has done just enough to reap the rewards of the defensive efforts.
The defense has forced 11 turnovers during the stretch, but due to the offense’s struggles to get into the end zone, three of the four games have been won by a total of five points. Yet, sometimes all that matters is producing in the most critical of moments, and the offense has been able to do that.
While much of the praise for closing games out has been thrown on QB Russell Wilson, perhaps the more worthy player is receiver Courtland Sutton.
Twice on the final offensive drive of the game Sutton came up huge. First, on a critical fourth down, he was able to overcome a defender hanging on him to make a spectacular one-handed grab to extend the series. A few plays later, he was able to get separation in the back of the end zone to haul in the game’s winning touchdown.
“He’s playing outstanding,” head coach Sean Payton said after the game. “He has eight red zone touchdowns now. [He has] strong hands in traffic. There’s obviously a confidence level between he and ‘Russ’ (QB Russell Wilson).”
Sutton has been playing like a WR1 in recent weeks, becoming Wilson’s favorite target, and without his red zone presence, the last month or so could look much different for the team.
“Guys like [WR] Courtland Sutton being the best version of Courtland Sutton,” QB Russell Wilson told reporters when asked how the team is closing out games. “He’s dominant and he’s playing like an All-Pro, Pro-Bowl player. That’s who he is. That’s who he is every day.”
Offensive tackle Garett Bolles said Sutton is playing with a high level of determination and with inspiration that is being put into production on the field.
“I think he has somebody in his heart, that’s been his brother for a long time, that’s no longer with us,” said Bolles. “I feel like he has that spirit in him. It’s amazing to watch what [No.] ‘14’ (WR Courtland Sutton) can do. I see that man work every single day. One of the hardest working people I’ve been around and it speaks volumes for what he can do. He can get open and have crazy catches. He’s that person that ‘Russ’ (QB Russell Wilson) needs. [QB] Russell [Wilson] just gives the ball to his playmakers and ‘14’ does what he needs to do.”
While his teammates and coaches dished out praise for Sutton, the receiver himself was quick to shout out another group as helping the team get on the right path.
“I didn’t get a chance to shout the guys out, but the scout team, our practice squad is amazing,” he said. “Those guys come in and they give us the best looks, and I think that is why we’ve been able to have the success. We come to practice and the guys are working their butts off and really trying to make sure that they’re going to give us looks that will get us right and get us in games, and guys are prepared because of the looks that they’re giving us.”
Sutton has been the team’s leading receiver through the win streak, and while the offense has sputtered at times, he has been as reliable as can be when a big play needs to made. If the rest of his offense can catch up to that playmaking ability, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for this streak to continue on for weeks to come.