Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

I’m Glad I was Wrong

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 7, 2008

I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.  I honestly didn’t believe the Broncos had much of a chance to win in Cleveland on a short week going into the game, let alone when they trailed 23-10 in the second half, missing ALL of their tailbacks due to injury, struggling to get pressure on Brady Quinn, and reverting to giving up big plays in the running game.  What resulted is one of most exciting games I have ever seen, maybe exciting enough to go in the top five, but for sure in the top ten.  I’m not sure what I’m most excited about.  I could give accolades to Jay Cutler for his 447 yard, three touchdown effort that ranks third in Broncos history.  (Trivia question: can you name the two quarterbacks who posted the highest single game yardage efforts?  Hint: neither one is John Elway.  The answer is at the end).  I could praise Eddie Royal for his 164 yard effort, including a 93 yard TD that completely changed the momentum, that resulted in a Broncos rookie record for reception yards in a game.  I could talk about Brandon Marshall, who stepped big with the clinching touchdown, or Tony Scheffler, who had 92 yards receiving despite playing with a groin so sore he didn’t think he was going to play when conducting his own pregame interview on the Broncos radio network.  There’s also Ryan Torain, who ran hard before injuring his knee in the second quarter, and even Selvin Young, who tried so hard to tough it out when he was literally the last running back standing, even though he himself was nursing a groin injury such that Mike Shanahan was hoping not to have to use him.  Even the much maligned defense stepped up when it mattered, forcing a key fourth quarter fumble and coming up with the fourth down stop to preserve the win at the end.  

Truth is, everyone mentioned played a critical role in this win for the Broncos.  I realize that sounds cliche, but it’s the only way they could have come back and won a game where everything seemed lost.  How many teams do you know that would be even remotely effective offensively when they’re down to their fifth running back?  On that note, let’s not forget about Peyton Hillis, who kept the game alive with a critical conversion on fourth and 1 with the Broncos trailing 30-27 and time rapidly ticking away.  This is type of clutch play the Broncos have been missing the past few weeks.  It is this type of unsung play, which won’t get a lot of notice in the box score, that separates winners from losers.  A key play for sure, one that the Broncos couldn’t have won without, and one that wouldn’t have had a chance to happen at all if not for a real gutsy play much earlier in the game.  

It is amazing in a way that the Broncos were able to keep it together.  They had lost four of their past five, they continued to lose guys to injury, they had no running backs left, they were down by 13 on the road, and they had no momentum against a Browns team that was starting to look like it was getting new life on a lost season.  Even looking at the body language of the players on the sideline, it didn’t look like the Broncos were going to come back.  Somehow, the defense was able to force a punt, a victory in itself for a unit that was missing several of its top players and had struggled to stop the Browns most of the night.  That’s when Jay Cutler proved that he has the gusto to be a great quarterback in the NFL.  The Broncos faced the prospect of starting their drive at their own 7 yard line (Does this evoke memories of The Drive anyone?).  Most teams are scared to take a shot down the field when they’re backed up that deep, but Cutler took the chance.  Despite a dropback that practically took him to his own goal line, he launched a perfect strike down the sideline to Royal, who caught it perfect stride, left a gambling defensive back grasping for air, and was off to the races.  This play changed the momentum so dramatically that the body language on each respective sideline changed.  The Browns players were the ones that had looks of shock of despair, and the Broncos players were rejuvenated, and it showed in their play the rest of the night.  Plays like the 93 yard touchdown pass from Cutler to Royal can define a season, and in this case it may have quite literally saved the Broncos season in more ways than one.

It should be noted that not only did Cutler show a lot of guts to make that throw in that situation and field position, but Mike Shanahan and his staff should be credited for calling that play in that situation.  Maybe they would have run the ball if Torain or Young was healthy enough to do so, and we’ll probably never know for sure, but in any case, Shanahan deserves credit for rolling the dice and dialing deep when most coaches would go the safe route.  There are a lot of Broncos fans calling for Shanahan’s head, mainly because the Broncos have won just one playoff game since John Elway’s retirement.  I have long argued that the Broncos would never have won a Super Bowl in the first place if not for Shanahan, and it is easy to forget that he has won 150 career games, no small achievement.  If Shanahan were to leave the Broncos, odds are your team would be among the first in line to hire him.  It is easy to forget that Shanahan is not the one on the field turning it over or getting beat deep.  I challenge you to tell me another coach that could have kept his team together in a situation like the Broncos had in Cleveland, and of course there are others, but tell me someone out there and available who would be better than Shanahan.  The answer is no one.  

I believe the Broncos saw a very impressive glimpse into their future tonight.  When clicking, the offense is as good as any in the NFL right now, and that’s with most of the key players having three years or less experience in the league.  As they continue to play together and mature together, things will only get better.  Jay Cutler is indeed the real deal, having shown ability to lead his team from behind.  A win like this not only gives a team hope, but it gives them confidence even when things aren’t going well.  Frankly, things didn’t go well tonight for Denver for the most part for three quarters, but when push came to shove, they managed to pull a win out of nowhere.  Now, they have a game and a half lead over San Diego in the AFC West, and suddenly the next game at Atlanta doesn’t appear to be the guaranteed loss it seemed to be 24 hours ago.  (Side note: the NFL Network’s Adam Schefter told us tonight that Champ Bailey will play against Atlanta.  If that’s true, it will be another huge boost for the Broncos).  Suddenly, the Broncos actually winning the AFC West with an actual winning record doesn’t seem so impossible. Sure, the defense could still use some work, but they stepped up when it counted, and all things considered continue to show improvement.  Let’s not forget also the offensive line has only allowed five sacks this year, which is truly amazing especially with a rookie left tackle (Ryan Clady) who has been nothing less than terrific and doesn’t get a lot of press for it.  It’s really amazing how one game can really change your picture on things.  There is still obviously a lot of season left, but one thing is for sure: the Broncos are not left for dead yet, and will be a major player in the AFC race.

Trivia answer: Jake Plummer (499 yards vs. Atlanta in 2004), and Gus Frerrote (462 yards vs. San Diego in 2000).

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