From The Armchair: Denver Broncos: Week 5
While the Broncos schedule to date hasn’t been the most difficult, they headed to Dallas Sunday to face their biggest test of this young season. We’re going to have to go with a Cliff’s Notes version of the recap since recapping every score and drive would take 5,000 words. This game couldn’t have started off any better for the Cowboys. They started the game with a long touchdown drive, forced an Eric Decker fumble on the Broncos first possession and took a 14-0 lead on a Demarco Murray. After that score, things were officially on. The Broncos went on to score touchdowns on their next 4 possessions of the first half en route to a 28-20 halftime lead. The 2nd half started off status quo for the Broncos as they marched down the field with a 7 minute drive that ended on a Wes Welker touchdown (5th TD drive in a row). Tony Romo put himself in the Cowboys history books with the way he played in the 2nd half. The Cowboys scored touchdowns on 4 consecutive drives while holding the Broncos to two field goals and intercepting Peyton Manning for the 1st time this year to make up an 18 point deficit. With 2:39 remaining, the Cowboys took the ball at their own 20 yard line in a 48-48 game. The Broncos D stepped up on 1st down and sacked Romo for a 6 yard loss. On 2nd down, they were able to create a little pressure with a 3 man rush, forced Tony Romo to step up and try to squeeze in a tight pass to the tight end instead of checking down to Murray. The throw was ultimately picked off by Danny Trevathan on a diving snag at the Dallas 24 yard line and the twitterverse exploded with “I KNEW that was going to happen” tweets. The Broncos were able to milk the clock with a couple first downs and called upon Matt Prater to kick a 28 yard chip shot for the win as time expired. The NFL Network is going to be showing this game Wednesday night (October 9th), so if you missed it, it’s worth a watch.
Peyton Manning was superb again on Sunday. He finished the day 33/42 for 414 yards, 4 TD and 1 INT and had his first rushing TD in 5 years. His 20 TD passes is the most in NFL history through 5 games and is on pace to throw 64 of them which of course would also be a record. The Broncos scored on 9 of their 11 drives (6TD, 3FG) on Sunday. An Eric Decker fumble on the first drive and Manning INT in the 3rd quarter being the only blemishes on an otherwise supremely efficient day where the Broncos put up 50+ points for the 2nd week in a row. Denver now leads the league with 230 points scored, which is 78 more than any other team.
Outside of Manning’s big day, Knowshon Moreno had another solid performance with 93 rushing yards and a touchdown and also caught 5 balls for 57 yards. Tight End Julius Thomas had a huge day as well catching 9 balls for 122 yards and two scores, giving him 6 on the season. Wes Welker chipped in with a modest 49 yards on 4 catches but caught a touchdown pass for the 5th consecutive game giving him a league leading 7 on the season and surpassing his total from last year.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out and the competition, on paper anyway, gets tougher, but through 5 weeks it’s hard to ask for more from this offense. Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Julius Thomas are all projecting to have 1,000+ yard receiving totals and Moreno with 1,000+ yards rushing.
The defense for both teams in this game could be summed up with one word, porous. The Broncos came into this one already missing Von Miller (suspension) and Champ Bailey (foot) and suffered three costly injuries in the first half to key parts of each level of their D. CB Chris Harris left with a concussion, LB Wesley Woodyard left with a neck injury, and DE Robert Ayers left with a shoulder injury. Romo took advantage and abused the Broncos secondary throwing for a team record 506 yards and 5 touchdowns with a plethora of deep passes down the sidelines and targeting Jason Witten in gaping holes down the middle of the field. Although they gave up a season high in yards and points, the beleaguered unit came through when they had to on the Cowboys final drive getting their 4th sack of Romo and the Trevathan INT to seal a victory. Overall, Romo had way too much time to find open receivers and exploited some holes we’ve seen in the pass D in the first quarter of the season.
The one positive remains the rushing D. The way the Broncos score, teams are going to have to throw the ball to stay in games so total rushing yards allowed is naturally going to be low. The number to key on is the fact the Broncos are 2nd in the league in yards per carry at 3.3. Luckily, the Jaguars come to town next week and the players who left the game appear probable as of today play next Sunday. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Champ Bailey sit out again next week to give him one more week to rest up before the Broncos head to Indy which would also mark the return of Von Miller.
Matt Prater remained perfect on the year in field goals going 3/3 (50, 48, and 28 yards) and making him 9/9 for the season. The only action punter Britton Colquitt saw was while holding for FG and PAT attempts.
The Broncos host Jacksonville next week and opening lines in Vegas have them as 28 point favorites. There hasn’t been a line that high for a game since the merger, but you have to think it may even move up as the week moves on. The Jaguars have scored 51 points this season, a number the Broncos have matched or beaten each of the last two weeks.