The Denver Broncos have been a terrible team for the last two-plus years.
Since the firing of Mike Shanahan in December, 2008, Denver's football team has been in a constant state of flux.
The Broncos have fired one head coach (Josh McDaniels) and hired two (McD and John Fox), traded away a franchise quarterback (Jay Cutler) and benched a veteran QB (Kyle Orton) for a virtual rookie (Tim Tebow), traded two big-time wide receivers (Brandon Marshall, Brandon Lloyd) and drafted almost more busts than booms (13 of 28 players drafted the last three years aren't on the roster currently).
And over the last two-and-a-half years, the Broncos have gone 15-25 (37.5 percent) overall, which includes their improbable 6-0 start to the 2009 season.
Denver has been outstanding on offense at times and self-destructive defensively, while special teams have been anything but spectacular.
But all that changed Sunday, as the Broncos put together their most complete game in years while beating up the rival Raiders on the road.
Yes, Tim Tebow has been the talk of the town—heck, the country—but to say he won the Broncos the game would be an ignorant assumption. Take nothing away from Tebow. He played an improved game, especially compared to last week's debacle against the Lions, but he was far from elite passing the ball.
Tebow went 10-of-21 for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Not flashy, but efficient enough numbers to make the passing game a threat. Tim Terrific's two best passes came on the touchdown scores, as he hit Eric Decker in stride on a post pattern and found Eddie Royal uncovered across the middle of the field for a walk-in score.
But where Tebow really impressed was on the ground, running the option to near perfection, taking it outside on runs of 32 and 28 yards. The quarterback ran for a total of 117 yards Sunday, only the second time a Broncos QB eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground and the second-highest total for a QB running in franchise history (Norris Weese—120 yards).
Willis McGahee was the true star of the Denver offense, running for a total of 163 yards, including a 60-yard TD and the 24-yard touchdown that iced the contest for the Broncos. McGahee was as dominant as he's ever been in the NFL despite playing in his ninth NFL season, and the Broncos' 299 total running yards on the day were good for fourth-most in team history for a single game.
Eric Decker enjoyed a solid game—three receptions for 47 yards—and his touchdown score gave the Broncos the 7-3 lead in the first quarter.
Eddie Royal enjoyed his best game of the season, catching two passes for 25 yards, including the touchdown that capped Denver's first drive out of halftime to bring the Broncos to within three points at 14-17.
Denver really showed up on defense Sunday, posting a season-best plus-three turnover differential, and it was a big reason the Broncos were able to earn back-to-back road wins for the first time since September, 2009.
Rookie cornerback Chris Harris showed how well he can play, leading the team with 11 tackles, while intercepting his first career pass that led to the 60-yard touchdown rumble by McGahee on the next play to tie up the game at 24.
The wily old veteran Champ Bailey came up huge on two interceptions himself, one in the second quarter and the game-capper in the fourth.
Also notable was the play of Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil was in Raiders' QB Carson Palmer's face all day long, sacking him 1.5 times while deflecting a screen pass that could have ended in a big gain for Oakland.
And linebacker Von Miller earned a half a sack as well, as he continues to look like the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Not only was Eddie Royal visible in the offense, he was the hero on special teams Sunday. Royal's 85-yard touchdown punt return gave the Broncos the 31-24 lead with only 5:53 remaining in the game, and he became only the second Broncos player to score a receiving and return TD in the same game (Rick Upchurch in 1982).
Matt Prater missed a 43-yard field goal but also connected on a 43-yarder in the third quarter.
And punter Britton Colquitt boomed five punts for an average of 47.6 yards, although he did drop one snap and had to rugby-toss it forward (which actually saved a touchdown or safety at the time).
Overall, it wasn't the prettiest of games played by the Broncos—it should never be expected to be when facing the rival Raiders—but Denver competed and eventually won by executing in all three phases of the contest.
The total team win should boost the confidence of all involved, and now at 3-5 on the season, the Broncos are merely a game out of first in the AFC Worst—er, West.
While no one should expect this team to win the division, the bad Broncos are proving they will compete and not accept defeat.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report and Mile High Hoops.
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