Sometimes you just have to put your foot down. The Broncos did that in Sunday’s 16-13 win over the Buccaneers.
Don’t get me wrong. I love watching shootouts. But there is something to be said for winning a defensive struggle. The Broncos showed they could do that.
I won’t pretend the Buccaneers have an elite offense. The fact remains, however, that they were averaging 350.2 yards per game entering Sunday’s game. They had only 307 against the Broncos.
They were also averaging 22.8 points per game before Sunday. They had just over half that against the Broncos.
The Bucs had allowed just four sacks in the first four games and none in the two games leading up to Sunday’s contest against the Broncos. Denver had three sacks in the 16-13 win.
For as much as the Broncos’ defense struggled early in the season, it toughened up against the Buccaneers. In seven of their 11 possessions, the Buccaneers had the ball for under 2:30. Only four of their possessions netted 37 yards or more. The other seven drives netted nine yards or fewer.
Beyond the stats, the Broncos defense simply stood firm. It didn’t get gashed. The tackling was better. The guys made plays when they needed to make them.
Perhaps most importantly, the Broncos showed they could be physical. They never let Bucs’ running back Ernest Graham get going. They allowed 38 yards to Warrick Dunn on one play; the rest of the game he had 36 yards on 10 carries.
Broncos’ cornerback Champ Bailey knocked Tampa Bay quarterback Brian Griese out of the game with a huge hit near the Bucs’ goal line.
The Broncos defense played tough on Sunday. And so did the offense did. The Broncos knew how good the Buccaneers defense was and is. They knew points would be at a premium.
Yet when Denver had to have a drive, the Broncos delivered. In a 6-6 game in the third quarter, they took advantage of great field position and Cutler found Brandon Stokley on a 10 yard touchdown pass to take the lead for good.
On their next possession, the Broncos went 62 yards in 14 plays, took 6:17 off the clock before Matt Prater hit a 27 yard field goal. Denver converted three third down situations before turning to Prater. The lead was 16-6 and with the defense playing as well as it was, the Broncos were in good shape.
The Broncos still have plenty of work to do. But so do a lot of other teams. Through five games, only one team in the AFC has a better record than the Broncos, and that team is the 5-0 Tennessee Titans.
Moreover, only two other teams in the AFC are 4-1, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills. Most importantly, the Broncos again have a two-game lead over the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West.
It’s never too early to watch the standings. It’s never too early to be at or near the top of the conference. And it’s never a bad thing to win a game because you were just plain tough.
One last note. Congratulations to Broncos’ head coach Mike Shanahan. He became the seventeenth NFL head coach to record 150 wins. Outstanding.
What stood out for you in the Broncos win? I enjoy reading your comments. Thanks for reading and have a great week.