So the Broncos are 4-0 to start the season.
Sure, we can point out the deficiencies in each game. We know the offense has been merely adequate, that Peyton Manning is living life too dangerously and it’s costing him plenty of times (as was the case today on those two interceptions), and that it would be nice to see the Broncos regularly churn out rushing yards throughout the game.
And we could point out that Josh McDaniels did the same thing in his first season in Denver — heck, he went 6-0 — then things unraveled. And the Broncos schedule won’t get easier.
But this team looks different from that McDaniels team. This year’s defense is vastly better. Peyton may not be what he was in his prime, but he’s smart enough to know he can’t rest on his laurels. And the offensive line is getting better, rather than regressing like it did under McD.
Yes, I think this team has a much better chance of following up a 6-0 start with a good finish, even if it’s not 10-0. It doesn’t need to be, though. All it needs to be is enough games to win the division, maybe get a first-round bye, and then turn them loose in the postseason.
Getting to today’s game, I’ll start with a couple of negatives.
* Peyton Manning’s throws that led to interceptions are the type you just don’t expect him to make. Some would say if he was in his prime, he’d make those throws, and perhaps he would have gotten that second one to Demaryius Thomas. But the first one had no chance as Peyton never saw Anthony Barr. Regardless, the picks weren’t about Peyton’s arm as much as they were about Peyton throwing caution to the wind at the wrong time.
* Aqib Talib has had his share of subpar outings, but it’s hard to believe he’d get beaten repeatedly by rookie receivers. And Chris Harris had his problems matching up with Mike Wallace. Give credit to Bradley Roby, though, who had a slow start but got better, to the point Teddy Bridgewater quit picking on him. Bridgewater was smart enought to know that Talib and Harris weren’t that effective.
* I don’t know why John Lynch had to jump on C.J. Anderson so much. Sure, he hasn’t gotten off to a good start, but he kept running hard and, as the O-line got in sync, he gained ground. Most inexpicably, Lynch got on Anderson’s case for failing to get a first down when Anderson tripped after a Vikings player grabbed his ankle and wouldn’t let go. I can only guess Anderson is on Lynch’s fantasy team.
And now, for the positives:
* I loved everything about T.J. Ward in today’s game. When Ward dropped in coverage, he took on Kyle Rudolph and won most of the battles. And every time he rushed Bridgewater, Ward won the battle. Ward is tailor made for this Wade Phillips defense.
* Hey Teddy, DeMarcus Ware says hi. Get used to Ware visiting often.
* Give credit to Bridgewater, though. Joe Flacco and Alex Smith folded under the pressure but Bridgewater never did. The second-year QB showed poise in the pocket. He showed he still has plenty to learn, but that poise he showed means his team will continue to believe he can get it done.
* Michael Schofield started slowly, but got more comfortable as the game went on. His block on that late Anderson run was a thing of beauty. He played well enough to convince me that the best thing for the Broncos to do is let Ty Sambrailo get back to full strength. And Ryan Harris held his own on the left side. Of note: The Broncos gave up just one tackle to Everson Griffen, who never once touched Peyton Manning today.
* Demaryius Thomas is one tough dude. Let’s just hope he doesn’t take too many more hits like that.
* Let’s also be happy that the Broncos got the running game clicking when Thomas was sidelined. Take out that Ronnie Hillman 72-yard run and the Broncos averagd 3.13 yards per carry. Sure, that can get better, but after barely getting past two yards a carry to open the season, you’ll take that forward progress.
* Speaking of Hillman, he just looks like the right back for Gary Kubiak’s offense. Especially with his speed in the open field. Once Owen Daniels and Harris cleared the path, it was a foot race to the end zone. I’ll take Hillman in those foot races any time.
* Oh, sure, Adrian Peterson had the long TD run on fourth-and-one, but blame it on the defensive backs for providing no help after the Vikings line blocked well. But if you take out that 48-yard run, Peterson had just 2.2 yards per carry on 15 touches. That is what you call containment of the Vikings’ best offensive weapon.
* You want a statistic you are all going to love? Eleven Denver defensive players have at least one sack and we are just four games into the season. The roll call: DeMarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, Malik Jackson, Antonio Smith, David Bruton, Shane Ray, Von Miller, Corey Nelson, Sylvester Williams, Brandon Marshall and Shaquil Barrett. Did you just see some dudes run past you? Those dudes were Derek Carr and Josh McCown, and they had to hurry because they need to change their underwear.
* Oh, and did we forget that Derek Wolfe is returning from suspension next week? This means the defense becomes even scarier. The only question: Who do the Broncos bid farewell to make room for Wolfe? (My guess: Shelley Smith is turning in his playbook.)