This Denver Broncos team has now won 5 straight games. To add context, these haven’t been the gimme games either (they lost most of those games at the start of the season). With wins against the Chiefs, Bills, Vikings, and now Browns, it is time to start taking this team seriously.
I don’t think there’s a team left of the schedule that is going to take their game against the Broncos lightly. This 2023 Broncos team is one that is well-coached all the way around. They play sound, productive offense. They play opportunistic defense that will turn the ball over at a rate rarely seen in the NFL.
As a Broncos fan I’m absolutely loving it. It was also good to see this team comfortably put a team away in the 2nd half of a game without needing a nail-biting ending.
This defense is just hungry for the football each and every week. I love seeing a team that has the will and desire to take the ball away like this defense does. Vance Joseph has this team dialed into making game-changing plays and we’re seeing this defense really grow their confidence week in and week out.
That’s not to say that there aren’t flaws. Defenses like this survive off the turnovers they create. There are spans of the game where they look and play a little too soft (either giving up a bunch of passes or chunk runs).
While it is easy to critique, I honestly find it encouraging. The defense is absolutely 100% a significant reason we’ve won each of the past 5 games and they aren’t even hitting on all cylinders yet. We may not even see them reach their potential until next season. But I’m seeing a team that is getting tighter as the weeks go on which is exactly what you want from a team with a new coaching staff.
Nik Bonitto put together a great game on Sunday. He had an excellent speed rush around the outside to force a throw-away early in the game. In the 4th quarter he does nice spin move inside to get a sack. On 3rd down he slaps the ball as it is being thrown to kill the drive. He ended the game with 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 quarterback hits, and a pass defense.
D.J. Jones made the play of the game by wrecking the backfield on a reverse and taking away the ball. He didn’t really do much in the say of noticeable plays on the day, but I can’t stress enough what a momentum-shifting play it was.
Alex Singleton is a player that makes me want to pull out my hair. He consistently leads the team in tackles, yet showcases his penchant for weak arm tackles that miss. He also had a very nice pass defense in the end zone and a fumble recovery. I don’t ever question his effort, though. He’s getting after it out there, I just think the ceiling is pretty close at this point and he looks like a glaring spot on this defensive roster that could use an upgrade.
P.J. Locke started off the game with two great pass defenses in a row to stop the first Cleveland drive. He also forced a fumble on a great safety blitz off the edge to help seal the win for the Broncos. He took away a stop on one drive with a really stupid late hit penalty to help the Browns score. He ended the day with 7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defense, and one forced fumble.
I was honestly pretty concerned about this matchup for the Broncos offense. The Cleveland Browns defense has been phenomenal all season long and they looked like a terrible match-up for the Broncos.
Sean Payton though decided to run this offense right into their strength and found a way to grind out 4 yards per carry on the ground (this is what most analysts would say is a “good” rate… to have it against the Browns is pretty impressive as they stop the run as well as any defense in the league).
I also liked how we went for some aggressive passes on the day. Drops cost the offense a lot of yardage and likely some points. The team overall needs to work on improving their catch rate. It wasn’t just one or two players.
Russell Wilson turned in another solid game for the Broncos. It wasn’t some phenomenal show of passing extravagance. It was just sound, productive, winning football. I thought it was pretty hilarious in the first drive of the 2nd quarter Wilson was bound and determined to get a touchdown running it as we saw 3 plays at the end of the drive that had Wilson running the ball. The keeper wrinkle really got the Browns on their heels.
It was otherwise a fairly pedestrian passing day with only 153 yards through the air and one touchdown. I honestly think that’s superb against a defense like the Browns. Their secondary plays superb pass coverage. If you can get enough of the run game going, throwing it less plays to away from their strength.
I cannot give enough praise for the job the line did in this game. That is a defensive front seven that causes a lot of bad things to happen behind the line of scrimmage and this Broncos line looked to me to have won the battle in the trenches.
I loved seeing the double-teams on Miles Garrett. I noticed us chipping him with an extra defender a few different times. That’s something I think has been missed in the past with our blocking scheme. Many Broncos offenses in the past few years wouldn’t add the extra blocker on elite pass rushers to slow them down. They executed that plan at a high level and kept him to one TFL and 0 sacks.
Samaje Perine got a well-deserved touchdown run after being the most efficient runner on the day with 7 yards per carry. He showed superb power and fight to push the pile forward into the endzone darn near single-handedly. He ran for over 50 yards on 7 touches and had a catch for 11 as well.
Javonte Williams ground out some decent work in the run game with 65 yards on 18 rushes. He needs some serious time on the Juggs machine, though. Though many drops on the day were not good throws by Wilson, this is the NFL. You need to reliably catch the ball as a running back in this Sean Payton offense.
We have to give props to Adam Trautman for that great catch at the side of the end zone. It was a magnificent throw by Wilson to get it to a spot for his guy. It shows a lot of skill and ability for Trautman to make the catch in bounds as surely as he did.
Speaking of drops, Cortland Sutton had a rough game with two. One of them was a sure touchdown.
I love me some boring Special Teams games. No missed kicks. No big returns by the opponents. We take those in a game against such a well-coached opponent. Hats off to Will Lutz who has another perfect game on his Broncos resume with 2 made field goals and 3 extra points on the day.
I’m absolutely thrilled with this team. Broncos Country has been wandering in the desert of loss with this team for years and for the first time in ages, we’re seeing our team have a winning record in the back half of the season.
The most encouraging thing I’m seeing is just all the signs of a team that is getting better and better each week. The Sean Payton coaching fingerprints are all over this team. They keep adding wrinkles to their offense with new sets and motions. Both units are getting better as the season wears on.
And most importantly, you can see that the players are growing in their belief in themselves. That belief begets winning. That’s perhaps the biggest thing that Sean Payton is teaching this team how to do.