Broncos Report Card: Week Four

Kris BurkeCorrespondent IOctober 6, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 04:  Brandon Marshall #15 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after the final play against the Dallas Cowboys during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 4, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. Marshall caught a game winning 51 yard reception late in the fourth quarter as the Broncos defeated the Cowboys 17-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Second verse, same as the first.

That would be how the outside world views the Denver Broncos after yet another win, propelling them to 4-0 on the season, a season in which not many people expected the Broncos to win more than five games.

The Broncos are 80 percent of the way there with 12 games yet to be played. But at the rate head coach Josh McDaniels has his team playing, they won't be stopping at five or maybe even eight. Now on to the grades for Week Four.

Passing offense:

Kyle Orton got off to a horrendous start, but he didn't turn the ball over. He was under siege by the Dallas defense the first portion of the game, but in typical Orton fashion he picked himself up and won the game without making a careless mistake.

Major kudos go to Ryan Clady for setting a record by not allowing a sack in 20 straight games and the fact that those are the first 20 starts in his career is even more remarkable. The Broncos have a keeper here.

Last but certainly not least is the play of Brandon Marshall. That was pure talent in that touchdown run in the final two minutes and that embrace he had with McDaniels after the touchdown (as well as during McDaniels' postgame press conference) show that this young man has turned the corner and he's returning to 2008 form. Look out NFL.

Overall grade: B

Rushing Offense:

Bronco fans held their breath after Corell Buckhalter went down with a knee injury, but not soon after they were (or should have been) able to breathe a sigh of relief as rookie halfback Knowshown Moreno has proven the Broncos made the right choice drafting him in the first round at this year's draft.

While he finished with 14 carries for 65 yards, Moreno again displayed that not only can he be a solid runner between the tackles, but he also showed he can be a good screen option by catching a touchdown pass out of the backfield.

Overall Grade: B minus

Passing Defense:

The reports on the demise of cornerback Champ Bailey have been greatly exaggerated.

Bailey made three outstanding plays. First was the interception of Tony Romo with Dallas inside the Denver red zone. Bailey showed incredible athleticism there and that he still has plenty left in the tank. Not only was that not enough, but Bailey made the two deflections in the end zone during the final seconds to sea a Broncos victory.

Overall, the Denver secondary rocked and rattled Romo all day. The only big negative against this unit was that big catch and run by Sam Hurd that allowed the Cowboys to get deep in Broncos territory in the waining moments of the game.

Oh, and Elvis Dumervil keeps on trucking. Put him on the Pro Bowl roster now.

Overall Grade: B plus

Rushing Defense:

The unit looked shaky early on as a wounded Marion Barber was running all over the Broncos, only to give way to Tashard Choice later in the game. The Broncos only gave up 74 yards on the ground to the talented Cowboys rushing attack, with most of it coming early.

Solid day overall, though.

Overall grade: A minus

Special Teams:

Matt Prater had an easy day, one PAT and one 28-yard field goal. No sweat.

Punter Brett Kern played solid as well. He had six punts on the day, averaging almost 42 yards a punt and Dallas return man Patrick Crayton had only two punt returns for an average of seven yards per return.

Overall grade: A minus


McDaniels had not yet ceased to amaze me this season. The team keeps pushing and pushing and is finding ways to win the game. What McDaniels should be the most proud of is that each win has been a team effort and everyone has done their job.

I can't say enough about Mike Nolan's defense. Twenty-six points allowed through four games and the number one overall defense in the NFL? What a turnaround from the dismal performance by the Broncos defense in 2008.

McDaniels has to be the early front runner for coach of the year. With an assist to Mike Nolan.

Overall grade: A

This coming week provides a huge test for the Broncos as Bill Belichick, McDaniels' boss and mentor from last season, comes to town with Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots.

Not many people will pick the Broncos to win this one, even though they are playing at home. Then again, who expected the Broncos to be 4-0 at this point.

That's why they play the games.