Ian St. Clair from The Mile High Report joins us for his latest article on DenverBroncosUK.com, ahead of Sunday’s game at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The way last Sunday’s game ended against the Los Angeles Chargers had a Tim Tebow feel to it. The Chargers dominated the Denver Broncos for three quarters or so, and then everything suddenly, inexplicably fell Denver’s way. Take LA’s final drive of the game, and even its final play. All Philip Rivers needs to do is not throw an incomplete pass or run out of bounds. What does Rivers do? Throws an incomplete pass that took a grand total of two seconds off the clock. The only area the Broncos won that game is in turnovers and luck. But as the adage goes, “It’s better to be lucky than good.”
When you look at Case Keenum’s numbers from the game, they don’t jump off the page. In fact, they scream average. But there is one stat that does make you do a double take: No turnovers. For the second-straight game, Keenum hasn’t turned the ball over and at the end of games, he morphs into Captain Comeback. All you can ask of your quarterback is to not be the reason your team loses. Keenum isn’t playing bad and he’s not playing great either, but as long as he doesn’t turn the ball over and gives his team a chance to win, that’s all that matters. As I constantly say on the MHR Radio Podcast, I’m not sure if that’s because the bar is that low now in Denver or not.
There always are key moments in a game, and the biggest from Sunday was the Von Miller interception. That flipped momentum in the game because Rivers and the Chargers were driving to put the game away. It was third-and-nine at Denver’s 35-yard line with LA leading 19-7, so even a field-goal there makes it a two-score game if the Broncos also convert two, two-point conversions. So the Miller interception kept Denver in the game and allowed it to leave with a huge win.
You get a flag, you get a flag…
The officiating is par for the course in the NFL — horrible. At least it’s consistent in that regard. And both teams have reason to feel shorted by the officiating. On Phillip Lindsay’s 41-yard touchdown run, Garret Bolles jumps early, so while some may want to complain about the two-point conversion or Tim Patrick offensive pass interference, make sure to include in your complaining that the Broncos were gifted a touchdown. But the officiating problem is bigger than one game — this is league wide. It’s not that surprising when you consider the NFL still doesn’t know what a catch is.
The win over LA shows the Broncos they can beat good teams, and can do so when they face adversity. That’s what I wanted to see from this team from the start of the season — how does it respond to aspects of the game that go against it? If you look at last season, the slightest hint of misfortune was all it took for Vance Joseph and Denver to get completely lost. The win over the Chargers gives the Broncos confidence they can win regardless of what they face over the course of a game. But it’s crucial to keep all of this context: It’s one game and one win. While it keeps Denver’s season and playoff hopes alive for another week, until it beats a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, this is still the same team it was before the win in LA.
For Denver to keep its playoff hopes alive this Sunday, the Orange Rush will need to hit, pressure and sack Ben Roethlisberger as much as possible. That constant harassment of Roethlisberger limits the damage he and that offense can do. Speaking of the Orange Rush, in the last five games, Bradley Chubb and Miller have each recorded at least half a sack. If they do that again Sunday, they’ll become the first NFL teammates to have simultaneous six-game sack streaks. In honor of that, the Orange Rush shirt is now $15, and when you use the promo code BFSAVE15 at checkout, you’ll save an extra 15 percent. It’s just more reason to rock this badass shirt. In terms of the secondary, Chris Harris Jr. needs to have a better outing against Antonio Brown. The last time Harris “covered” Brown, he got torched to the tune of 16 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns. The Broncos secondary needs to be closer to the No Fly Zone than the Frequent Flyer Zone it has been for much of the season. On offense, Keenum needs to have another clean game and the offensive line needs to carry over its great game against LA. If Denver gets another no penalty, no sack performance from the guys up front, it has a chance to beat the Steelers.
Since the surprise win over the Chargers, I’ve been torn. As noted earlier, this is one win and one that is incredibly lucky. Is this the same old Broncos or does this spark a run? For Denver to make the playoff discussion serious, it will have to do so in spite of Joseph and his incompetent staff. Is there another Tebow-esque miracle in this team? How fitting is it the Broncos face Pittsburgh? 27-24 Denver.
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