Redskins vs. Broncos: 8 Takeaways from Denver's 45-21 Victory over Washington
A week after losing to the Indianapolis Colts in Peyton Manning's return to Indy, the Broncos struggled throughout the first half to move the football—before scoring 38 straight points in the second half to put away the Redskins.
Down 21-7 in the middle of the third quarter after two Manning turnovers, the Broncos ran roughshod over Washington's defense and Robert Griffin III. Griffin was pressured relentlessly all game long. He was sacked three times, and the Redskins turned the ball over five times.
The Broncos will enter Week 9 at 7-1, the second-best record in the NFL, just behind their AFC West rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs, who moved to 8-0 after an afternoon victory over the Cleveland Browns.
What are several takeaways from the Broncos' demolition over the Redskins?
The Broncos Offense Still Dominates
A week after struggling on offense on their way to 33 points versus the Colts—yes, 33 points in a single game is considered "struggling" for the Broncos' offense—Denver came out flat in Week 8.
The Broncos scored a touchdown on their first touchdown drive, which saw Peyton Manning complete all five of his passes for 55 yards, capping off the drive with a touchdown to Wes Welker.
After that, it was nothing but a struggle for Manning and Co. to move the ball for the rest of the first half.
At the beginning of the second half, the four-time NFL MVP turned the ball over on two consecutive drives—one a fumble, the other an interception return for a touchdown—which resulted in the Broncos trailing by two touchdowns, 21-7, in the midst of the third quarter.
Those two turnovers are what Denver needed to wake itself up.
The Broncos proceeded to score 38 points—31 points in the fourth quarter alone—to smash the Redskins into defeat.
As has been the case throughout this season and last, Denver's offense is slow to get going, but when the game counts and the second half comes around, there is no better offense in the NFL than the team that resides in Denver.
The Pass Defense Is Underrated
Most Broncos fans know this, but most NFL fans don't: The Broncos' pass defense is underrated.
They came into Week 8's game versus the Redskins ranked No. 32 in passing yardage allowed, and they've been in that spot for most of the season.
But what a lot of people don't consider is that the defense is constantly playing against the pass because opposing teams are busy playing catch-up due to Denver's potent offense.
The defense forced five turnovers today, four on interceptions, and a large reason why Denver's front seven was able to pressure Robert Griffin III so much was because of Denver's outstanding ability to cover Washington's receivers—without Champ Bailey.
This defense won't rank near the top of any statistic involving pass defense, but the defensive backfield helped keep the Broncos in the game when the offense struggled for an entire half to put points on the board.
The Broncos Have the Deepest Depth at Receiver in the NFL
Most know about the emergence of third-year tight end Julius Thomas, as he's on track to rake in more than 1,000 yards in 2013.
However, most don't know about the Broncos' depth at the receiving positions.
Julius Thomas left the Broncos' victory early on in the third quarter with an ankle injury. How did the Broncos respond? They utilized Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen, two guys who started for the Broncos all season in 2012.
Although Dreessen's and Tamme's stats weren't astounding—three combined receptions for 24 yards and a touchdown—the Broncos offense didn't miss a beat when they replaced Thomas.
The Broncos have so many weapons in the passing game that losing one key player won't deter the offense from putting points on the board.
Peyton Manning Needs to Watch the Turnovers
Peyton Manning is a four-time NFL MVP. He is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. He has led the greatest offenses in NFL history throughout his 15-year playing career.
Which means that people are hesitant to call out Manning when he struggles. And although he didn't exactly "struggle" in the Broncos' victory, he turned the ball over four times.
The four turnovers only led to 14 points by the Redskins, but next time, the Broncos might not be so lucky. Manning turned the ball over twice in last week's loss to the Colts.
No one is expecting Manning to maintain the pace he set earlier in the season, but if the Broncos are to continue winning games, Peyton has to watch out on these turnovers.
The Front Seven Made Life Miserable for Robert Griffin III
Similar to the pass defense, the Broncos' front seven has been an underrated unit of this 7-1 football team. Lost in the record-breaking numbers of the offense has been the spectacular play of Denver's front line of defense.
Robert Griffin III was sacked three times, fumbled twice and lost one of his fumbles to Denver's defense. The Broncos pressured Griffin III from the beginning until the end of the game, eventually knocking the second-year player out of the game for good at the end of the fourth quarter.
Even backup Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins got nailed on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard.
The offense may get all of the attention, but the defense is nothing to sneeze at.
The Broncos May Have Found Their Third Running Back
Broncos second-year running back Ronnie Hillman was inactive for the Redskins game due to his fumbling problems. In fact, it was known for days before the game that Hillman would not be active for Sunday's game.
In his place was C.J. Anderson, the formerly undrafted running back who didn't initially make the 53-man roster at the end of the preseason.
Montee Ball couldn't do that at the beginning of the season, which led to him losing snaps over the past several weeks. Hillman couldn't do that last week on a key goal-line drive versus the Colts, and he ended up on the inactive list.
Anderson carried the football four times for 22 yards in his first NFL game. More importantly, he didn't turn the ball over.
The Broncos may have found their third running back in Anderson.
Offensive Line Does Its Job
The offensive line was abused by Robert Mathis and the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7.
They repeatedly hit Peyton Manning—the reason for his fumble and interception—and rattled him in the process.
It doesn't take a defensive coordinator to know Manning's weakness; if you hit him a few times, you rattle him for good for the rest of the game. The Colts did that last week, and they won in convincing fashion.
The Redskins didn't do too bad of a job versus the Broncos offensive line—two sacks, one fumble forced—but for the majority of the game, the Broncos' makeshift line kept Manning comfortable and safe in the pocket.
Peyton still turned the ball over four times in this game, but he led the Broncos to scoring drives when it counted, in large part because of the lack of a pass rush by the Redskins defensive line.
The Broncos Are Still the AFC's Team to Beat
The Denver Broncos are 7-1. They have the second-best record in the AFC, behind the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs.
And in the end, it doesn't matter. The Broncos are still the AFC's team to beat.
The Chiefs have a dominating defense. It is as good as it gets. They are No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed, sacking the quarterback and in forcing turnovers.
The Broncos have a dominating offense. They have broken all-time records in points per game and total yards.
In today's NFL, a great offense beats a great defense. With the rule changes that have been put in place, a dominant quarterback such as Peyton Manning will beat a great defense more times than not. It will take a perfect game plan and execution by Kansas City's defense for them to knock off the Broncos.
For the third time in the past several weeks, the Chiefs have had the advantage of playing against a backup quarterback making his first start of the season—Week 5 versus the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Tennessee Titans, Week 7 versus the Case Keenum-led Houston Texans and Week 8 versus the Jason Campbell-led Cleveland Browns.
Let's see how the Chiefs defense dominates when they face a real quarterback in Manning in Week 11 at Denver.