It took a few months, but head coach Sean Payton has turned the culture around in Dove Valley. As ugly as Sunday’s game was at times, the Broncos overcame the obstacles to emerge victorious.
The Broncos of the past seven years were accustomed to giving up when things got tough and finding ways to squander opportunities in close games. However, this year’s team is different.
Starting the season 1-5 only to bounce back to a .500 record in time for a stretch run is no easy feat, but Payton and Russell Wilson have resuscitated the Broncos' campaign. Denver's four-game winning streak is currently the longest in the NFL.
As the streak continues, so does the Broncos' steady climb in NFL.com Power Rankings. Eric Edholm marveled at Denver’s midseason turnaround as the Broncos jumped three spots in the power rankings.
Broncos Ranking: 17
“In the past three games, Denver’s defense has forced 12 turnovers -- that’s more takeaways than six teams have produced all season. Suddenly, the Broncos are rolling, winning four straight after the 1-5 start. It should be noted the run defense has been a problem in the past couple games, but they’re making it work. The offense moved the ball fairly well against the Vikings, and though settling for five field goals (four in the red zone) will sometimes come back to bite a team, Denver finished it off with the late TD drive. It was Russell Wilson to Courtland Sutton again, their fifth straight game connecting for a touchdown and the second straight that they did so in spectacular fashion. Four of the final seven games are on the road, but the Broncos have turned their season completely around.”
The Broncos’ masterclass in taking the ball away continued against Joshua Dobbs and the Viking’s offense. While Minnesota found some success in the run game, whether through its running backs or Dobbs, it still couldn’t help but cough up the football.
Dobbs fumbled on a 3rd-&-1 run on the game’s opening series after Broncos' outside linebacker Baron Browning dislodged it, and it popped right into the hands of playmaking cornerback Ja’Quan McMillan. McMillan also picked off Dobbs later, once again proving his worth as a disruptive force in the slot.
Broncos' defensive tackle D.J. Jones also stripped running back Alexander Mattison, which was recovered by Josey Jewel. If the Broncos' defense can sustain this volume of takeaways, this team will have a fighting chance to win no matter who it lines up against.
Still, a glaring issue is Denver's inability to limit the run game. This defense can hang with anyone if it can limit big runs.
A win is a win, but boy, does Wilson and the Broncos 'offense make fans sweat it out over four quarters. While Denver came away with the victory, its offense still struggled until the final drive.
15 of the Broncos' 21 points came off the leg of Wil Lutz. If the Broncos want to keep their season alive, they must convert these timely takeaways into touchdowns, especially when given possessions that start in enemy territory.
Four field goals in the red zone isn’t a winning recipe. However, in back-to-back weeks, Wilson and Sutton conjured some Mile High Magic when it mattered.
Sutton and Wilson’s resurgence goes hand in hand. The two have connected on eight touchdowns, one in each of the last five games. If one of Denver’s other receivers can step up, the passing attack could become very dangerous.
Wilson and the offense have done a spectacular job in protecting the football. If the Broncos can continue to play clean, efficient football on offense, they can find a way to win on Sundays.
This week, the Broncos face the Dorian Thompson-Robinson-led Cleveland Browns, who boast the best defense in the NFL and a 7-3 record. If Denver wants to keep its season alive, it must continue to dictate the game’s flow by limiting mistakes on offense and creating turnovers on defense.
The Browns may be the Broncos' biggest test going forward. The momentum is in Denver's favor after conquering the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, and heretofore red-hot Vikings. A win at Mile High on Sunday will make a playoff spot even more possible.
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