Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

One Step Closer

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 8, 2008

The Broncos are going to the playoffs!  Well, more than likely they are.  It would take a complete collapse in every way for them not to.  The Broncos merely need to win one of their final three games to clinch the AFC West title.  Or they can get it if the Chargers lose any of their remaining three contests, two of which are on the road.  Either way, the Broncos FINALLY were able to take care of business at home, although it wasn’t easy against the rival Chiefs.  Denver fell behind 10-0, then 17-7, yet rallied in the end.  These days in the NFL, I don’t care how pretty it is, or many style points are involved in a win.  Anytime you get a victory in the NFL, especially against a division rival, it is a positive.

I’ll admit there was a fair amount of screaming after Maurice Leggett picked off Jay Cutler and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to give the Chiefs an early 10-0 lead.  After all, it was turnovers that doomed the Broncos in the first meeting.  In fact, it is rare to admit that the Broncos won despite losing the turnover battle, which is surprising but also shows that the Broncos didn’t let the early error rattle them.  I really thought the Broncos showed a lot of poise by not panicking early, even after it was later 17-7.  Jay Cutler made good decisions, and the receivers all stepped up to make big catches, especially Brandon Marshall.  Marshall had his first big game in awhile, catching 11 passes, including two scores.  Overall Cutler ended up completing 32 of 40 passes, and all told eight different players caught a pass in this game for the Broncos.   

Unfortunately, Peyton Hillis suffered a hamstring pull while leaping to make a spectacular catch in the second quarter and didn’t return.  Even after this happened, the Broncos still found a running game with Tatum Bell, a phenomenal achievement considering he is their sixth option now at running back this season.  This could have been a huge blow considering Hillis had rushed for 58 yards on just 8 carries at that point in the game, including two runs where he absolutely bowled over Chiefs defenders.  Bell stepped up and added 52 yards on 11 carries, preventing the Denver attack from becoming completely one dimensional.  The defense has also really continued to pick up the pieces without Champ Bailey, D.J. Williams and Nate Webster, coming up with a critical goal line stand with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.  

I also think Kansas City deserves a lot of credit for playing hard in this game.  I have really knocked Herm Edwards this season, but I’m starting to think maybe he should have a chance to see the rebuilding project through next season.  The Chiefs have good young talent at a variety of positions, including receiver Dwayne Bowe and rookie cornerback Brandon Flowers, who had a spectacular game.  They sure didn’t look like a 2-10 team to me, and it’s not out of the question that they might win another one before the year is over.  I think in the end the Broncos ended up matching Kansas City’s intensity, but the Chiefs are not an easy out for teams these days despite their poor record.

A few more quick hit thoughts from the game:

– The Denver special teams does need serious work.  Too many times they allowed good returns by the Chiefs, while not getting good starting field position themselves.  Also, Matt Prater missed a makeable 33-yard field goal.  This cannot happen in the playoffs against a tough opponent.

– On the other hand, the Broncos made the best of their field position disadvantage.  The Broncos had three touchdown drives of 80 yards or longer, including a 95 yard march that gave them the lead for good on Marshall’s 6-yard TD grab from Cutler.  The four Denver scoring drives were all 11 plays or longer.  This reflects good decision making and good clock management. 

– It was great to see that our fans actually remember how to make some noise.  Granted, I have not been able to attend any games at Invesco Field at Mile High this season owing to my duties running the radio broadcast at the station, but all of the players said it was by far the loudest crowd of the season, and that they got a tremendous lift from that.  I really think our fans are quickly realizing that Mike Shanahan and his staff really deserve to be commended for coaxing eight wins out of this group considering all the injuries.

– Tyler Thigpen might actually have a future in this league.  He has a good arm, and if he’s surrounded by good talent, the Chiefs could certainly do a lot worse.  

– The Broncos run defense is much improved from before the bye week in October.  Today Larry Johnson rushed for just 36 yards on 11 carries for just a 3.3 average, after he torched the Broncos for 198 in the first meeting.  

– I swear Tony Gonzalez complains about a no-call every time a defensive back breathes on him.  Nonetheless, he is one of the great tight ends in NFL history, and deserves to be on a contending team next season if that’s what he wants.  It will be interesting to see what Kansas City does with him in the offseason.

– I think the Broncos could really use Bailey and Williams next week at Carolina.  Yes, the young kids are playing extremely well, but the Broncos will simply not have a chance of slowing down Steve Smith and Mushin Muhammad without Bailey in there.

– Any win is a good win, but a division win is especially key.

The race down the stretch will be interesting to watch.  The Broncos could end up as the 3 or 4 seed in the AFC, as they are now tied with AFC East co-leaders Miami, New England and the Jets.  If the Jets win the division, Denver owns a head-to-head tiebreaker (as the Dolphins and Patriots do on the Broncos).  The Broncos hold out slim hope for a bye, although that is a real longshot with a two game deficit and three to play.  Denver looks to be hosting a playoff game in the first round as a division champ, so there is a chance that could springboard them for a run.  If they are to do that though, they’d better hope Hillis isn’t done for the year, and they will eventually need their injured players back on defense.  Anything is possible in this wild and wacky NFL, after all both New York teams suffered stunning losses today and we came thisclose to seeing Detroit and Seattle pull out surprise wins.

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2 Responses to “One Step Closer”

  1. Doug Baker said

    Any news on how bad Hillis’s injury is?

  2. mizzou1028 said

    No word yet. He was walking around the locker room under his own power yesterday so that’s a good sign. From what I’ve read he thinks he’ll be able to play Sunday but I’ve also read this type of injury can take a month to heal. We’ll just have to see.

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