The Denver Broncos opened up the home half of the schedule this season in a dominating fashion on Sunday, as the bested the lowly Cleveland Browns 27-6 in front of a crowd of 73,931. And you know what? It wasn't even close.
It was a dominating performance by the Broncos as a whole on Sunday, but, the Defense is the unit that truly emerged and showed that they're to be not only respected, but possibly feared. The Broncos D blanketed the Browns receivers all day, and abused the Browns' Offensive line. Denver had their way with the Browns yesterday, in what may be the Broncos' best performance in the last 3 or 4 years.
The contributions on D came from everywhere. The Defensive Line, the Defensive Backfield and the Linebackers all converged to make it a long day for Brady Quinn and the rest of the stagnant Browns Offense holding them to only 200 yards of total offense, and only 58 of that on the ground.
Of all the good performances, the one that stands out and rises above, is that of Elvis Dumervil. How does 7 solo tackles, 4 sacks and 1 forced fumble sound for a stat line? Answer: Good enough that Dumervil should earn Defensive Player of The Week honors and enter the Broncos record books for most sacks in a half.
Elvis was all over the field yesterday, making play after play, as was his Linebacking partner Andre Davis. Davis, a former Cleveland Brown of 6 seasons, had a stellar day against his old mates making 8 tackles, 3 for a loss and 2 assists. Darcel McBath added an interception and Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins both added 10 tackles together. It was the kind of performance that Bronco fans haven't seen here in Denver in years. Many, many years.
The Offense, a unit that I was greatly critical of, made enough plays to get the job done, and showed a great deal of improvement from last week to this week. Kyle Orton went 19/37 for 263 yards and 1 score and got a lot of timely help from his offensive mates when it mattered. And, Denver's receiving and running back corps both finally showed up.
Correll Buckhalter was the leading rusher for the Broncos running for 76 yards and 1 TD on only 9 carries. For those of you wondering, that's an 8.4 ypc average....pretty good. Moreno contributed as well going for 75 yards on 17 carries, and the rough and tumble kid from Arkansas, Peyton Hillis, contributed a score in the 4th quarter.
On the receiving front, Jabar Gaffney and the slot machine himself, Brandon Stokley, combined for 152 yards receiving (Gaffney 82 and Stokley 70). Tony Scheffler made an appearance yesterday, getting into the endzone accounting for Orton's only passing score.
Overall it was a solid performance from a group that had a lot of questions surrounding them going into that game on Sunday.
Now, it's time for the realty check.
The Broncos were struggling early to find their rhythm....again. Kyle Orton was booed by the Bronco faithful for several horribly thrown passes, that some other defenses would have picked off, and they let Matt Prater have it too, when he missed kicks from 37 and 39 yards.
Keep in mind Bronco fans, it was the Browns. And yes, they looked good, and yes, their Defense looked dominant. But, these two wins to open up the season haven't come from offensive powerhouses, or against stout D's like those they'll face soon. They've been against 2 middle of the road teams. The Browns are average to bad, and really, I think the Broncos dodged bullet last week when they faced a Bengal team that struggled badly to find any kind of consistency. Because honestly, the Bengals handled and beat the Packers IN LAMBEAU on Sunday, and looked pretty good doing it.
Most teams make their most noticeable and marked improvement between Weeks 1 and 2. And, while the Broncos improved on both sides of the ball, the Defense was the unit that did the most. The Offense is still working out the bugs a bit, and it's important that they get everything ironed out BEFORE week 4, When the Dallas Cowboys come into Invesco Field at Mile High.
If they don't have the Offensive kinks ironed out by then, they could be in for a long rest of the season. As they face the Patriots and Chargers, then have a bye and face the Ravens AND Steelers in successive weeks. All of those teams can make you pay for making mistakes, and likely will if given the opportunity against Denver.
It doesn't get ANY easier after that either as they then have the Redskins in Washington and then host the Chargers and Giants. They then go into two places where they historically do NOT play well, in Kansas City to play the Chiefs and the Colts in Indianapolis.
My point here is this - This team must get on track offensively before Week 4, and by on track, I mean up to par with their D. If they can do that, they'll have built some confidence with a couple of wins, and be more prepared to face soem of those challenges head on.
Also, the Broncos haven't faced, at least not yet, any kind of adversity. And as the great Vince Lombardi once said; "It's not the adversity we face, rather the way we respond in the face of that adversity that determines who we are as men". Once they face that adversity, be it a loss or being down in the 4th by a lot against a good team, we'll really learn more about who this team is, and what they're all about.
Naturally, Bronco fans are ecstatic with the performance they saw yesterday, as well they should be, their team looks much better than most anticipated. I think however, it's important to look at these two wins with a "Glass Half Full" mentality, and understand not only who these wins were against, but also what's ahead.
Nest week they're in Oakland, and they get a chance to play a team that's definitely beatable, but that's exponentially improved defensively. They only give up 17 per game, and with Nnamdi Asomugha, Richard Seymour, Greg Ellis and old friend Gerard Warren playing inspired football again, this could be a tough D this year.
I think that game could prove to be their first real challenge, if for no other reason, it's a division game and a rivalry game at that. I for one am pulling for Denver in this one, as I despise none more than I do the Raiders.
The end all say all here is this: This team has to stay on track, and continue to improve week to week, as they've done so far. If not, the chrome shines less, and the wheels come off sooner than later.