Just when you thought the sky was falling down on the Broncos season, they gutted out a big-time win on the road against Cleveland, 34-30 on Thursday night.
Never mind that they lost linebacker Nate Webster in the first quarter to an injury. Never mind that they lost running back Ryan Torain later to an injury. Never mind that running back Selvin Young was shaken up and couldn’t get back in the game. Never mind that tight end Tony Scheffler was, in the words of quarterback Jay Cutler, “about 75 percent” because of a groin injury.
“(It was) maybe the gutsiest win I’ve ever been associated with, considering the number of guys we had down and (the) guys stepping up who hadn’t even practiced,” head coach Mike Shanahan told 850 KOA after the game.
We are talking about a team that has now lost its top five running backs to injury: Selvin Young, Andre Hall, Michael Pittman, Ryan Torain and Anthony Alridge. Everyone knows the Broncos have to pass the ball. Yet on Thursday night, Cutler threw three fourth quarter touchdown passes, including a 93-yard strike to rookie Eddie Royal that popped the lid off an offense waiting to explode.
This was a classic example of a team doing whatever it had to do in order to win a football game. For as lethargic as the Broncos’ offense looked against Miami, it looked unstoppable in the fourth quarter against the Browns.
The Broncos’ 564 yards of total offense tied for the second-highest single game total in team history. Cutler’s 447 passing yards tied for the third-best single game total in team history.
We are also talking about a team that has lost its top three linebackers (D.J. Williams, Nate Webster and Boss Bailey), its top cornerback (Champ Bailey), and a starting safety (Marlon McCree) to injury. That’s five starters. And remember, defensive end Elvis Dumervil played with a broken finger early in the season.
So what happened with the game hanging in the balance? Dre’ Bly forced a key fourth quarter fumble, Karl Paymah recovered it and the Broncos scored eight plays later when Cutler found Daniel Graham on a 28-yard touchdown pass to give the Broncos a 27-23 lead with 9:50 left.
This team is having to grow up on the job. And against Cleveland, some guys stepped up.
Running back Peyton Hillis was admittedly rusty at tailback, but he hammered out a little over a yard on a fourth-down-and-1 situation in the fourth quarter. We saw his versatility as a pass receiver last week against Miami.
Linebacker Wesley Woodyard filled in admirably at linebacker. At one point, the rookie out of Kentucky hauled down Browns’ running back Jamal Lewis and then proceeded to go jaw-to-jaw with veteran after the play. The kid was not intimidated.
I’m not sure what the rest of the season holds for the Broncos. As maddening as they can be, they are a fun team to watch because you just don’t know how they’ll play or how a game will unfold.
I know this much: They gutted out a come-from-behind win I didn’t know they had in them. I’m interested to see what happens against Atlanta on the 16th.
What are your thoughts about the win over Cleveland? Thanks for reading and for posting your impressions.
I’ll have another post after the game against the Falcons.