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Ultimate Fan: Winning the turnover battle, sticking with the run still the key to a W

This week’s ultimate fan still believes running the ball needs to be the Broncos’ first offensive game plan, and on the defensive side, continuing to take the ball away so CJ Stroud can’t do too much damage is crucial.

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Ultimate fans, this is not a dream. This is Denver Broncos 2023, where the wins keep on coming.

But this week’s game may end up being the toughest one of the season as both teams are surging but both have weaknesses to exploit.

And both 6-5 teams desperately need a win to keep playoff hopes a legit reality.

TheGueroLoco lives in enemy territory right now, and he can tell us this Texans team is for real. But so are the Broncos, and our ultimate fan has his money on the good guys. Obvi!

GO BRONCOS!

Week 13: Broncos at Texans

MHR - Five in a row and a winning record for the first time in too long. What were your thoughts during last week’s win? Did the offense surprise you? How are you feeling generally about this Broncos team overall?
TheGueroLoco: Last week was the most complete game the Broncos have played all year. I know many will point to the Kansas City win, but that was largely fueled by an obscene 5 turnovers.

This was no doubt the best offensive game of the Sean Payton & Russell Wilson era. The playcalling was largely superb. Payton stuck with the run game, even though on paper that was a mismatch. They ground out long drives, completely caught the Browns off guard with the RPO and controlled the tempo from start to finish. All of this against what was largely considered a top 3 defense.

Surprised? Yeah you could say that. However, I will say I felt like they were on the verge of clicking for weeks, so maybe not as suprised as I would have been five weeks ago.

Overall, this absolutely looks like a playoff team. This is the best I have seen all three phases look since 2014 (people forget the offense was largely hot garbage in 2015).

After the Jets game, I figured I would mostly be asked questions about the draft, how to get out of Wilson’s contract, and if the game passed Sean Payton by. Yet here we are!

MHR - But now the Broncos face a Texans team with some head-scratching wins and losses but also a lot of threats, including a rookie QB playing way above his pay grade. What makes you most nervous about this Texans team?
TheGueroLoco: Houston is the closest NFL city to me, but I largely haven’t followed them. Just based on highlights and a few articles they get mentioned in, I would say their youth and Demeco Ryans. Sometimes the kids don’t know any better, and that ends up being a good thing. CJ Stroud is a monster inside the friendly confines NRG stadium where he boasts a 109.4 passer rating. That is about all I could tell you about this team.

One of my old college buddies is a MASSIVE Texans fan, and I deferred to Misael Gonzalez on this one, his take:

“CJ with time.” Misa has spoken, and Broncos fans, I trust this is true. That means we have to put some heat on the rook.

I know we keep saying this, but this is the biggest game the Broncos have left. Our record against the AFC is not great right now, so having tie-breakers against Cleveland, Buffalo, and Houston will basically guarantee us a spot if we can win 10 or 11 games.

Time for the pass rush to step up this week!

MHR - The Texans edge rushers had been having success getting pressure on the QB in recent weeks, until last week when they had zero sacks to Trevor Lawrence, who gets the ball out quickly. Since Russell Wilson isn’t known for that, what is the key to the Broncos passing offense to avoid the pressure. Is the O-line up to task again?
TheGueroLoco: I lost count of how many times this year I screamed at the TV “THROW THE EFFING BALL RUSS!!!”

Yet, last week I never found myself saying that. He always got the ball out, even if it was at the last possible second.

Garett Bolles had one of the better games of his career against Myles Garrett. (Side note Wheel of Fortune needs a puzzle where the answer is Myles Garrett Bolles, lol!) I think as long as we continue to chip for Mike McGlinchey they will be fine. Continuity is always the biggest key for an offensive line. This group, knock on wood, has played nearly every snap together this season. I think they are really gelling, and with Russ getting the ball out (even if it is not necessarily quickly), they should be able to negate the Houston pass rush.

MHR - The Texans are eighth in rushing defense (95.1 ypg) and 27th in passing defense (252.5 ypg) so how would you like to see the offense position its run and passing games on offense?
TheGueroLoco: When you put it like that, we should just jump in shotgun and let Russ cook for 4 quarters!

That being said, this team is built to run the ball. We have two bulldozing running backs, and a great change of pace “scat-back.” Plus the offseason additions of Ben Powers and McGlinchey were brought in to complement run blocking studs Garett Bolles and Quinn Meinerz. Let’s not forget, prior to the Broncos game the Browns were allowing under 100 rushing yards per game, and we ran all over them.

Pound the rock early, and set up play action shots to Courtland Sutton and (hopefully) Marvin Mims. I’ve been feeling a big Mims game coming, and I think this is the week he pops for a couple of huge gains!

MHR - Marin Mims keeps impressing in kick and punt returns, putting the Broncos at No. 1 in both areas. Sean Payton says the goal is to get him more involved in the offense, it just hasn’t worked out that way. Is it important to get him more involved or is there plenty of time to use him while letting him shine on ST?
TheGueroLoco: Lol, funny this was your next question. I keep a close eye on the snap counts posted by MHR’s own Joe Mahoney. Ever since the bye week Marvin Mims has seen his snap count land right in line with Jerry Jeudy’s. So he has been on the field more, even if he hasn’t necessarily gotten more touches.

Tim Jenkins does some amazing offensive breakdowns on YouTube (stop what you are doing right now and give him a subscribe). One thing he mentions is that sometimes plays are designed to go to a certain player, but the defense covers that up, or something else pops open. Sometimes the play gets blown up, or the QB bails from the pocket too early.

Point being, the Broncos could be dialing up 10 plays a game for Mims and we would never know. I think getting the deep ball going again is the last missing piece for this offense. That starts, and largely ends, with chucking it deep to #19!

I would like to add that even without his involvement in the offense he is the Rookie of the Year for this team. He has taken the return teams from a complete liability, to arguably the best in the league. He deserves a lot of praise for that.

MHR - Courtland Sutton has had some superstar catches of late, but Jerry Jeudy has been a solid pass-catcher the past few weeks as well, going under the radar sometimes because he isn’t scoring. Mims is there and Brandon Johnson could end up in the mix again soon - and we still have Adam Trautman and Lil’ Jordan Humphrey bringing in catches. How do you like the makeup of our pass-catching group? Too many or is it important to have so many options?
TheGueroLoco: I guess I look at pass catchers like I do pitchers in baseball - you can never have too many. I am not playing Fantasy Football this year, but I would imagine the Broncos are one of the most frustrating (and likely ignored) offenses in the NFL. Sutton, Jeudy, Mims, and Trautman log the majority of offensive snaps for this squad. That should continue for the remainder of the season.

Sutton is the Alpha that always comes up big. Jeudy is the perfect “X” receiver but doesn’t get enough looks because of how little we throw. Mims is the future of the offense, and the guy that opens up a lot for everyone else because of his ability to take the top off of the defense. Humphrey is largely used as a blocker but will sneak a catch in here and there. I hope Payton ignores Johnson’s return, and that he does not eat into Mims’ snap count. That would truly be a travesty. Johnson is a great story - Charles Johnson’s (former Rockies catcher) son and UDFA that made the team last year. However, I have yet to see anything that indicates he is more than a possession guy and WR5.

The TEs are largely ignored other than being a safety valve (Trautman). I almost wonder if it makes sense to leave Greg Dulcich on IR for the rest of the year, so he does not disrupt the hierarchy. I think he could add another dimension with his speed, but he does not block well and would tip off the other team we are passing.

MHR - The Broncos RBs haven’t been flashing but they have solidly plodded along and racked up yards while wearing down defenses. Is this the best group of RBs in a while or does it need more starpower?
TheGueroLoco: This is absolutely the best runming back room we have had in a very long time. Javonte Williams is an old school bell cow back that grinds out yards and wears down defenses. I love how he always tries to initiate first contact; it’s a joy to watch. Samaje Perine is the perfect 3rd down back, and has a very similar running style to Javonte between the tackles. It’s not hyperbole to say the five-game win streak does not happen without him, given the clutch first downs he picked up on late-game winning drives.

Jaleel McLaughlin is such a great story. The NCAA’s all-time rushing leader that went undrafted, and was homeless at times growing up. He was the first one in the building all summer (and by all accounts he still is). This guy is the epitome of the American Dream and is the perfect “lightning” to the “thunder” of Williams and Perine.

This group has a little of everything, and Sean Payton seems to know exactly when to use each of them.

MHR - The turnaround by the Texans has been a little surprising as CJ Stroud is playing much better than you expect from rookie QBs. Do you think Baron Browning and Nik Bonitto can rattle the talented signal-caller enough? How much of an impact is it for the Texans to not have OL Tytus Howard?
TheGueroLoco: Given where they finished last year, yes it is surprising. In the NFL, though, if you get 2 spots right (head coach and QB) things generally turn around quickly. I think everyone in the league knew Ryans was a home run. However, no one really foresaw what Stroud has done this year. He has been a revelation for a franchise that badly needed him to work out after the Deshuan Watson debacle. As long as he doesn’t have Watson’s proclivity for Houston-area massage therapists he should be the answer for the next 15 years! (Too soon?)

Houston has excellent tackles, and as far as the pass rush, Howard has mostly played guard this year. George Fant and Laremy Tunsil have formed a solid tackle duo. I think the best place to get pressure will be on the interior, particularly where Juice Scruggs will take over at LG for Howard. We need big games from Zach Allen, DJ Jones, and Mike Purcell to generate interior pressure. As much as it pains me to say this I don’t think Browning, Bonitto, and Jonathan Cooper have the juice to get to Stroud consistently.

MHR - The Broncos defense has just been lights out the past four weeks, and everyone keeps saying they cannot sustain the number of takeaways. But is that true? Why couldn’t this defense continue punching out the ball and creating situations for turnovers? Do you think the Broncos’ D can continue the turnover production this week?
TheGueroLoco: The pundits are right to say this level of turnovers is not sustainable long term. The three turnovers last week, for example, were largely unforced errors committed by the Browns.

We play the games one week at a time, though. You have the best cornerback in football, Pat Surtain II, and arguably the best safety in football in Justin Simmons. They get a rookie QB and a group of young pass catchers. The Denver secondary has to be licking its chops to get its hands on a couple of errant throws from the young Texans signal caller.

Additionally, punching the ball out is a real skill, one this defense seems to have brought on recently. It also snowballs, because guys see other players punching at the ball, and then try and emulate that. The more balls we punch out, the more opportunities for turnovers!

MHR - DeMeco Ryans (whom the Broncos supposedly considered for a head coach) has had a successful year turning this team around, but there have been a few head-scratching decisions (ie, electing to kick a 58-yard field goal by a kicker who hasn’t gone past 50). Who has the upper hand in the coaching matchup this week - Broncos or Texans?
TheGueroLoco: Ryans is the real deal, and will partner with Stroud to give Doug Pederson and Trevor Lawrence a run for the money for the next decade. He was my #2 choice if the Broncos didn’t get Payton. As far as the kick last week, I don’t think going for it would have changed the outcome of the game.

All that being said, Denver has a HUGE advantage in the coaching department (man it’s been a long time since we could say that consistently).

MHR - The Texans struggled to run the ball last week as David Singletary and Dameon Pierce, who returned from an ankle injury for the first time in three weeks, combined for 32 yards on 11 carries against the Jaguars. Is stopping the run a key for the Broncos to win this game?
TheGueroLoco: It is always a key. Not a key we seem to be able to follow through on, but a key nonetheless. I think our best hope is that the Texans fall in love with letting Stroud chuck it and PSII and Simmons bait him into turnovers. If this game comes down to stopping the run, because the Texans committed to it, it’ll be a long day.

MHR - Which defensive unit will be the most important on Sunday - pass rush? D-line? Linebackers? Secondary?
TheGueroLoco: Secondary, this is a passing league. Adding Fabian Moreau and Ja’Quan McMillian (nay McMillion, lol) to the starting lineup has made this group look like The No Fly Zone Light. Our linebackers and D-line are largely liabilities. Alex Singleton can’t tackle, and the front allows holes you can drive a Mack truck through. The pass rushers can’t be counted on week to week, though they do have a knack for big plays when we need them. At the end of the day, this will come down to how well the backend holds up.

MHR - Still not talking about the streak…but what do you think is at the heart of the Broncos’ success the past five wins?
TheGueroLoco: Turnovers. We force them and don’t commit (many of) them. That is the ultimate formula for success in the NFL. I would also add that sticking to the run game on offense, and winning “money downs” (3rd and 4th downs) has played a huge part in this as well. Still, it all comes back to turnovers.

Predictions

Stats for RUSSELL WILSON? This is so tough. I think we end up needing more from him this week 22/32, 273 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions.

Stats for each Broncos RB? Javonte 18 carries 87 yards 1TD; Perine 6 carries 31 yards, 6 catches 43 yards 1 TD; Jaleel 3 carries for 21 yards.

Number of yards receiving/TDs for the receivers? Sutton 7 catches 82 yards 1 TD; Jeudy 3 catches 42 yards; Mims 3 catches 77 yards 1 TD (TD catch goes for at least 40).

Longest FG for Lutz? 58 just because that is where they missed from last week.

Number of sacks to CJ Stroud? 2

Broncos player with the most tackles? Singleton, but he also leads the team in missed tackles, unfortunately.

Who gets the first sack of the game for the Broncos? Nik Bonitto

How many times will Wilson get sacked because he holds onto the ball too f-ing long? Lol, I think this week he builds on the Browns game and it only happens once.

How many INTs/FF/FR for the Browns D? 2 INT’s by PSII/2FF/1FR

How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos’ D? 0INT Russ fumbles on a scramble again but we fall on it.

How many holding penalties for the Broncos? This has been another area they have improved. I say 4 penalties for 35 yards.

Final Score? Russ throws for 3 TDs, Javonte runs one in, PSII takes an INT to the house. Lutz hits from 58 so…Broncos 38 Texans 24 after the Broncos give up some garbage time scores.

The Favorites

Favorite John Elway win outside of the Super Bowls? It’ll always be The Drive “We got em right where we want em!”

Favorite Broncos win ever? It should be Super Bowl XXXII because that was the first one, but for me it was Super Bowl 50. Lost my mind during that game. In fact, every time we lose to a division rival, I am going to rewatch it!

Favorite Peyton Manning win? The comeback against the Chargers was amazing, but I always like to go back to the 7 TD 2014 opener against the Ravens. That set the tone for all the records we broke that year.

Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? Right now it is the Chiefs, because they have lorded over the division for so long. Usually though, it’s (Chris Berman voice) DA RAIDERS!

Coach you laugh at the most in the NFL? Mike McDaniel. He is a genius, but he just doesn’t look like an NFL head coach AT ALL!

Coach you most want to throw an egg at? I wish I had done UFG before McDumbass got fired from DA RAIDERS. He was doing such a great job…burning the franchise to the ground! So now I will say The Hoodie.

Team you hate to lose to the most in the rest of the AFC? Patriots, they always rubbed me the wrong way, even pre-Brady.

NFC team you could cheer for in the Super Bowl? I would love to see the Detroit Lions slay the dragon and get their long awaited first SB. Same with the Vikings.

NFC team you want to face more than any other in the Super Bowl? It has to be the Cowboys. I live DEEP in the heart of Cowboys Nation, and they haven’t beaten us in almost 30 years. Every time I bring it up they throw the SB from the 70s in my face. I know Cowboys fans will never actually shut up, but at least then they’d have nothing else on us!

Favorite game so far this season? No doubt about it - vanquishing the streak against KC at home.

Easiest game left on the schedule? Love being able to type this: The Patriots!

Toughest game left on the schedule? This one, although the Lions game should be trouble, but they seem off the last few weeks. Plus that one won’t matter nearly as much in the standings since it is out of conference.

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? The Best Corner in the Game PSII is my guy right now!

Favorite Broncos player of all time not named John Elway? Von, but by the end of his rookie deal I think it’ll be PSII

Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Mims, partly because he is great, partly because that is what we called my great grandmother (long story for another UFG) so I think of her every time he gets the ball.

Food/Snack you have to eat on game day? If you ever meet me, you will see I’m not picky when it comes to food! As long as I have an ice cold Dr. Pepper I am good with pretty much anything.

Favorite game analyst/commentator? Tony Romo, but I would love for Aqib Talib to get back into broadcasting. I loved hearing that hard southern accent of his.

How did you choose your MHR handle? I’ve been in sales my whole life, and when I was selling cars I needed something unique. I live in a predominantly Hispanic area on the Texas/Mexico border, and I’m a tall white guy from Colorado. So, I stick out a little bit. Naturally, people will refer to me as “guero,” which means “light complected guy” in Spanish. I wanted to convey that I could give you a crazy deal, and The Guero Loco was born. I liked it, because it did not tie me down to selling cars. As I changed industries over the years it was easy to keep the same handle/advertising page.

Who do you highlight in the Ring of Fame?

You can tell the story of the team in three men - Floyd Little saved the franchise from being moved, and was the first true star we had. Pat Bowlen changed the culture of the team forever, and set them on a course for greatness. John Elway is The Duke of Denver, the King of Broncos Country, and in every way he is the franchise. From taking us to five SBs as a player to convincing Manning to come to town and taking us to two more. Every great moment of the last 40 years involves him in some way.

If I had more time I would add Shannon Sharpe, because he changed football forever as a TE. Karl Mecklenburg because I just loved him growing up. Champ Bailey for being (for the next year or two anyway) the greatest CB in team history. Steve Atwater for The Hit. Peyton Manning for just being great, and a couple others I forgot.

How did you become a Broncos fan?

It wouldn’t be my UFG without:

It was a cold December day in 1984 in The Rocky Mountains, and my mom went into labor. Our little town did not have a labor and delivery ward, so they typically sent the moms to the next county to give birth. I wasn’t waiting, so our family doctor had to deliver me. When he slapped me on the butt, I looked at him and said “that Elway kid is something, ain’t he?” The nurses were shocked when they drew my blood and it came out orange. The lab tech took one look at it and said “this one is a Broncos fan for life!”

Poll

How should Payton use the run game this weekend?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    STICK. WITH, THE. RUN. duhhhhh
    (9 votes)
  • 46%
    Keep running the ball but air it out every now and then.
    (45 votes)
  • 44%
    Run. Play action. Bomb to the end zone.
    (43 votes)
97 votes total Vote Now