After gut-wrenching comebacks-that-weren't to the Falcons and the Texans, the Broncos needed a laugher -- and they got one. Denver's 37-6 demolition of the hated Oakland Raiders was perfectly timed going into the most brutal stretch of an already killer schedule.
More important, the game showed the Broncos learning from past successes (and mistakes) to present the best version of themselves.
This proved true on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball. D-wise, coordinator Jack Del Rio and his Broncos musclemen took a page out of the Falcons playbook by regularly offering up unsettled sets in which defenders took upright stances and continued moving until the snap in order to disguise their intentions. This approach appeared to baffle Raiders QB Carson Palmer every bit as much as the technique bothered Peyton Manning in week two.
Equally important, Del Rio was more willing to dial up blitzes, transforming the likes of Mike Adams into human missiles -- and it worked. The Broncos got more pressure more consistently than at any point in the season to date, with both Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil looking all-world as a result. Sure, it'd be great if the team could generate heat without such stunts, but the squad's success on Sunday reemphasizes that effectiveness is its own reward, no matter how it's achieved. And holding Oakland to single digits was quite a prize.
Offensively, meanwhile, the Broncos didn't wait until the grave was six feet deep to start using the no-huddle -- the format in which Manning and company have looked the sharpest since game one. The approach paid immediate dividends that may not be immediately evident from the ten points tallied in the first half: Were it not for a Demaryius Thomas fumble during a breakaway while trying to switch the ball from one hand to the other and the incredibly boneheaded decision to have kicker Matt Prater try to pass for a first down on a fourth and one rather than handing the rock to Willis McGahee (who looked stellar), Denver would have had twice that many points going into intermission, and maybe more.
Nonetheless, the relentless pace earned its keep in the second half, when the Broncos simply crushed the Raiders via Manning's precision passing (fewer wobbles this week!) and the running-back combo pack of McGahee and Ronnie Hillman, who seems more than capable of making us forget about Knowshon Moreno -- and thanks for that. The game was essentially over by the time the third quarter was, giving fans the rare opportunity to relax into a victory, rather than worsening an ulcer in exchange for one.
Good thing, since Denver will be on the road for four of the next five games, against the likes of New England (and a revitalized Tom Brady), San Diego (Philip Rivers looked good this week), the Bengals (beware Big Red) and Carolina (Cam Newton, here we come).
The good news, though, is that the Broncos finally seem to be establishing a personality -- and a winning one at that.
Look below to see some highlights of the game, followed by post-game comments from Champ Bailey.
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