Albert Einstein, the genius German scientist who later came to America, is probably best known for his cryptic equation that he used to prove that energy could be turned into matter and matter into energy.
E = mc2 (that’s squared)
In last night’s Thursday night game on the NFL Network, oddly enough, we may have discovered the meaning in football terms.
E is for Electric and Explosive
M is for Marshall, as in Brandon Marshall
C is for Cutler, as in Jay Cutler
E can be turned into Marshall or Cutler and vice-versa.
Squared is for the meaning of the chemistry between Cutler and Marshall; chemistry that is good and chemistry that is bad.
For more years than Marshall and Cutler have been alive (combined...ah heck, squared), Mike Shanahan has labored at being a student and a professor of the football sciences. He has found ways to get the most out of offensive talent at times. He’s also became the whipping boy for all of his maddening, genius, methodical, weird football science experiments.
Though, no doubt he is a sure Hall of Fame coach, his hypocrisy knows no bounds. Since winning two Super Bowls at the end of the last century, Shanahan’s teams have struggled to reach the playoffs again, let alone the Super Bowl. The Broncos win games they shouldn’t and they lose games they should win.
It’s mad science! Weird Science! Still, there is another equation that might just explain these young Denver Broncos in their entirety.
Mad Genius + Grace Under Pressure + Injuries = A Seasonal Explosion + Experiment Gone Awry
Much like the Broncos' draft board and roster, it looks good on paper. The above equation can be applied to any game and any play within that game. Yet there is still a question that must be answered.
How can the above equation be proofed?
Well, for starters, let the wild horses out of the gate early with carefully crafted playcalling. Subdivide the fact that there is a form of team implosion that occurs on an opening drive even after a big play.
In the case of the Denver Broncos on Thursday night in Cleveland, there was an impressive opening drive (more like one electric play), that eventually stalled deep in Browns territory.
This led to an early missed chip-shot field goal by Matt Prater and the experiment seemed to get off on the wrong foot. This was a disappointment for a team that did not need another one.
If you use the above equation and subtract (A Seasonal Explosion) from both sides, it equals out to (An Experiment Gone Awry). So it was no big deal at the time. That is at the time. Moreover, if you subtract the (Mad Genius) from both sides the equation now follows suit to look like this:
Grace Under Pressure + Injuries – A Seasonal Explosion = Experiment Gone Awry – Mad Genius
If you understand the equation properties, then you understand the proof is in the pudding. Cleveland got off to a bit of a slow, but well-managed start. With intelligent offensive coordinating on their part, they worked hard to slowly break in Brady Quinn in his first game without asking too much out of him in his first NFL start.
At times this game was like hitting the retro-grade button, going back to the future to a few games in Broncos and Browns past. None of the current players played in the following games being referenced. It’s a tale of the Broncos, Browns, and the New York Giants, and how this déjà-vu madness all fits together.
Football history has chronicled the exploits of John Elway in the big game in Cleveland that became known simply as "The Drive." After Elway and the Broncos beat the Browns in that AFC Championship game, they played the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI in Pasadena, CA. The Broncos' defense that year (1986), was then dissected by Phil Simms and the Giants in the second half for a blowout victory. In that game, Simms rarely threw for passes over 10 yards and tore the Broncos apart.
Back to the future, caught somewhere in time. Previously this season, the Browns beat last year’s World Champion the New York Giants and remain the only team in the NFL to do so. With that type of effort, Cleveland was ready for Denver, no matter how desperate this Broncos team was.
Cosmically enough, the ghost of Phil Simms in Super Bowl XXI seemed to place itself inside the body of Brady Quinn for most of his first NFL game, to make him seem like a seasoned veteran. Browns fans might think it was Kosar or Testaverde. Quinn was looking like a seasoned pro, not a first time quarterback in the NFL.
Brady’s Bunch has a bright future, it would seem, after his nearly flawless game against the Broncos. This was a wounded Broncos defense that was already beaten badly throughout this season. So now, with five missing starters, it’s left somewhat to the imagination what might happen and what did happen.
After the Broncos got the ball back, Jay Cutler started some of that mad chemistry with Marshall for a first down that gashed the Brown defense. Then, a completion to the TE Nate Jackson, then another deep ball to Marshall, and a dink to Eddie Royal, and the Broncos were moving.
Cutler later hooked up with Eddie Royal on an 18-yard hookup that placed the ball at the one. Ryan Torain dived for the one-yard touchdown on second down to put the Broncos up 7-0.
From that point on, it was all Cleveland, as they reeled off 17 unanswered points. Jamal Lewis then had his longest run of the year that went just over 25 yards and just shy of the end zone. Nate Webster of the Broncos had a possible season-ending injury on the next play. The Browns then tied the game when Quinn found Kellen Winslow in the back of the end zone between two Broncos DBs.
The Broncos' following drive was highlighted by Cutler nearly throwing two interceptions. The Broncos eventually punted. Jerome Harrison of the Browns then helped the Cleveland run game take shape. Harrison was gaining yards in bunches and the Broncos were bleeding.
Overall, the officiating was good most of the game, but there were a couple instances where things didn’t quite go the Broncos way, one in particular comes to mind. Jamal Lewis ran the ball to left side and bounced it outside when, he was aided by a Braylon Edwards crack-back block that blindside LB Niko Koutouvides on the front-side, but was a helmet-to-helmet hit.
The Broncos were flagged on the play for a horse-collar tackle, aiding the drive. The drive eventually stalled at the Broncos' 7, the Browns walked away with a three-point lead, 10-7.
The story of the early season was Jay Cutler, since that time he had hit a wall. Cutler and his favorite target Brandon Marshall (the worst kept secret in football), have in recent times lacked good chemistry between them, and it started out that way on the very next drive.
The dynamic duo was found to be the sum of nothing good at times. On first down, Cutler nearly was intercepted when he threw the ball behind Marshall. On second down, following a penalty, Marshall ran into the middle on his option route when the open space was clearly to the outside, which caused Cutler to throw an interception to Rodney Pool. Cleveland was in business again, deep in Denver territory.
Brady Quinn then hit an out route to Kellen Winslow for a 16-yard touchdown pass and the Browns were now taking control of the game on top of the Bronco turnover.
The Broncos then started to rely on Ryan Torain to run the ball and balance out the Broncos' attack. After his fourth carry on the drive, he injured his knee on the play and was out the remainder of the game. Selvin Young replaced Torain and was quickly injured and replaced by Peyton Hillis.
Dan Graham then dropped a sure touchdown near the goal line. Matt Prater then came on and connected on a 35-yard attempt. The next Cleveland drive netted a 52-yard Phillip Dawson field goal that knuckled, shifted direction slightly and squeaked just insight the right post. The score was now 20-10 Browns.
The half ended shortly after that on a dubious run to the right by Jay Cutler, with no timeouts and in field goal range to run out the clock.
On the first drive of the second half, the Browns continued to gash the Denver D and eventually ended the drive with a field goal. Jay Cutler and the Broncos' offense continued to battle with deep balls to Royal and Tony Scheffler. Marshall and Cutler failed to hook-up on a deep pass to the end zone, and the Broncos also settled for three more points on a 30-yard Prater field goal.
It’s hard to believe the Browns' record is as bad as it is when you see their talent in action with Jamal Lewis, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, and now the young Brady Quinn.
The Browns, however, almost made a dubious mistake to go for a 4th-and-2 near the end of the third, as Lewis barley got the first down to keep the drive alive. Quinn displayed his ability to throw on the run, hitting Braylon Edwards on a deep out that was eventually called back due to a Kellen Winslow push off. The drive stalled and the Broncos had to get something going once they got the ball back.
Denver was electric on a one-play drive that had Jay Cutler connecting with rookie sensation Eddie Royal for a 93-yard touchdown grab down the left side. Suddenly, the Browns were hauntingly stunned, and the Broncos were still in this football game. Cleveland fumbled away their chances of staying in control on a Kellen Winslow fumble on the Browns' next drive.
Denver got serious about winning the game, as Cutler connected again with Eddie Royal again on a deep floater in the middle to preserve the drive on third down. Jay then hit Nate Jackson in Cleveland traffic, as he did an amazing job of bringing the ball into his body and hanging on. On a key 3rd-and-11, Cutler hit Daniel Graham on a crossing route, bouncing off of one tackler and tip-toeing his way to the end zone. The Broncos had come back with 17 unanswered points of their own.
Cleveland was determined to not let this game slip away. With 9:45 on the clock, they then proceeded to chew five minutes off the clock on their way to the go-ahead score.
With explosive plays from RB Josh Cribbs, Lewis, and Kellen Winslow, the Browns had great field position. Quinn then threw a laser to Donte’ Stallworth down to the one-yard line. Jamal Lewis punched it in on second down by the nose of the ball, just prior to it being jarred loose by the Denver defense. Cleveland was now up 30-27 with 4:56 to play.
This is where déjà-vu happens all over again. In the 1986 AFC Championship Game in Cleveland, the Broncos got the ball back with five minutes to play; they drove all the way down for the tying score that eventually helped the Broncos reach Super Bowl XXI.
Jay Cutler was coming on to the field having already thrown for over 400 yards in this game. The Broncos started from the 20-yard line as Peyton Hillis bulled his way left for a first down only a fullback could make, carrying defenders with him.
Cutler nearly threw two interceptions, back to back, the last taking a toll on Nate Jackson as Willie McGinest put a big hit with his shoulder into Jackson’s head. On third down, Stokely came up a yard short of the first, with 3:59 to go. Cutler then called timeout. The play of the game was probably made by Peyton Hillis, as the Broncos went for it on fourth down near midfield.
On the play, he was initially stood up, bounced outside, then tackled but had enough muscle to just get the first down, carrying the Browns' defender on his back.
The Broncos then set their sights on the end zone and the clock. Jay Cutler then drilled Dan Graham with a rocket across the middle for another 13 yards. The Broncos then went spread formation versus Cleveland, man up, and Jay Cutler ran an absolutely brilliant draw to the left to put the Broncos near the Browns' 10-yard line.
Jay threw one to Marshall that was knocked down. The very next play, Cutler hit Marshall on a slight out route. The chemistry was amazing. Somehow, the principals of E=mc2 still held and found a way to hold true at the end of the game for the Broncos. Jay Cutler finished the game going 24-42-447 yards, three TDs, and one interception.
Brady Quinn finished the game with a very respectable 23-35-239 yards, two TDs, and no interceptions. Maybe Cleveland is growing up, in the same way this Broncos team has allowed a number of other teams to grow up.
On the ground, in the air, and at see (as in did you see that?). The subsequent Cleveland drive went four and out, and the game was over. The Broncos had comeback from a two-touchdown deficit to win the game in Cleveland.
It was like déjà vu all over again, back to the future, somewhere in time, on a crazy night where all laws of the physical world held true to their theoretical principals.
Mad Genius + Grace Under Pressure + Injuries = A Seasonal Explosion + Experiment Gone Awry
E = mc2!