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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ten Reasons the Broncos are 2-0

  1. Shanahan’s gutsy call on the two point conversion...
    In the last half minute of the game, Mike Shanahan set himself up to either return to genius status or to be reviled by all of Denver for at least the next week. Down by a touchdown, beneficiaries of a favorable call (the second really big call of the game that went for the Broncos--and more on that later) that kept the ball in the Broncos’ hands, Denver pulled to within one point with a great touchdown pass from Jay Cutler. Typically this is an easy call: go for the extra point and get the game into overtime.

    There was no hesitation on the Broncos sideline, though, and the call was for a two point conversion. Instead of taking the safe play, Shanahan gambled on winning now--a gamble that left him either hero or goat for the week.

    Hey, hero.

  2. Brandon Marshall’s return...
    Brandon Marshall--eighteen catches for 166 yards and a touchdown--had the kind of day that Eddie Royal had a week ago. That is, brilliant. His first game back after the one game time-out was as good as Broncos fans had hoped, and he’s shaping up to be one of the best receivers in the league.
  3. The rest of the receiving corps...
    And the rest of the Broncos did pretty well catching the ball down field, too. Six other Broncos caught at least one pass on the day with tight end Tony Scheffler’s six catches and two touchdowns really standing out. Eddie Royal didn’t have the kind of week that he had against the Raiders, but his five catches, touchdown, and reception for the two point conversion were all important to the Broncos winning the game. This team knows how to throw the ball. Or, more precisely, Jay Cutler knows how to throw the ball…
  4. Jay Cutler...
    What a great game. Take away the one interception--on a ball that he never should have thrown--and his four touchdown, 350 yard day was superb. He is starting the season in Pro Bowl form. Did the Broncos get the best quarterback of the 2006 draft? Maybe so. He did put the ball on the ground twice today, though, and the game could have gone in a very different direction.
  5. The running back committee...
    For the second straight week, the top three running backs for the Broncos each averaged more than four yards per carry, with Selvin Young going for a gaudy 9.8 yard average. I’m not entirely sure that the Broncos will end up with a 1,000 yard rusher this year, though it’s not beyond either Young or Hall to make that mark, but I feel pretty certain that the Broncos are going to keep running the ball successfully this year. Young and Hall both have good moves, speed, and strong legs and Pittman, who has become an important part of the rushing offense, is showing his value, too. Great stuff.
  6. The offensive line...
    Coming into the year, I was worried about the Broncos defense getting pressure on quarterbacks, giving up too many yards on the ground, and not closing the deal when they get opposing teams into third and long situations. My next biggest fear was an offensive line. While I’m still wondering why the Broncos couldn’t put the Chargers away when they had a big lead, why they let the Chargers convert some long third downs in the second half, and how they let San Diego’s Sproles do so damned much running, receiving, and returning the ball, apparently I didn’t really need to worry about the o-line. Cutler has time to pass, running backs are finding lanes, and defenses are getting pushed around on the goal line.
  7. No Merriman and very little Tomlinson...
    San Diego could have used Shawn Merriman and a healthy LT. Just sayin’.
  8. A defense doing just enough...
    While the Denver defense didn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence today--they gave up big plays, watched long third downs converted with regularity in the second half, and had serious problems in coverage--they did do just enough to win. Included in “just enough” was forcing San Diego to settle for field goals twice when it looked like they were marching for touchdowns. If both of those second half drives had ended in seven points instead, the game wouldn’t have been a giddy, weird Broncos win. It would have been a tremendously disappointing loss.
  9. A newfound willingness to score touchdowns...
    Last year, the Broncos scored pretty regularly. Unfortunately a lot of those scores were field goals. This year has been different: the Broncos are scoring touchdowns--lots of touchdowns--and they are doing it from everywhere on the field. Short or long doesn’t matter: Shanahan’s team has remembered how to score big points and it is serving them well.
  10. The football gods looked upon them and smiled...
    Two reviewed calls went the Broncos way that shouldn’t have--although both calls were also completely in line with the rule book. Both calls involved possession (Champ Bailey’s interception and Jay Cutler’s late fumble) and both possessions ended in Broncos touchdowns. Luck only plays so much of a role in life, but today chance might have taken center stage. The Broncos won’t win too many games with this kind of luck, and might not win too many games with this kind of performance.

    Not that I’ll complain too loudly. I’m greatly appreciative of the kindness of the football gods.

Update: Darren does the play-by-play. Apparently he was also in the San Diego locker room after the game--and I’d love to hear the raw sound bites from that excursion.

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