Ian St. Clair from The Mile High Report joins us for his latest article on DenverBroncosUK.com, ahead of the Broncos’ trip to San Francisco.
It wasn’t pretty, but all that matters is the win. How the Denver Broncos look in the process is irrelevant. It’s not a beauty pageant where they get extra points in the standings for how they look in their bathing suits. What’s impressed me the most in the win against the Cincinnati Bengals, and the three-game winning streak, is how nothing seems to rattle this team or Vance Joseph. Denver is prepared for whatever happens on the field. That leads to confidence, and the Broncos exude that in droves right now. What should make Broncos Country also feel confident is it’s a quiet confidence. That’s a dangerous team, even with the rash of injuries growing by the week.
What allows Denver to feel so confident is Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton and even Bradley Chubb. What this rookie class continues to do on the field for this team is remarkable. And what is there left to say about Lindsay? Bill Musgrave needs to continue to feed the Pitbull, and one way he can do that is by taking a page from the New Orleans Saints. Not only increase Lindsay’s touches in the passing game, but utilize him and Royce Freeman on the field, like Sean Payton does with Melvin Ingram and Alvin Kamara. The last thing the Broncos want is to become predictable. Putting both rookie running backs in similar situations as the Saints gives defenses more looks. You can also increase the carries for Freeman because, with Emmanuel Sanders now out for the season, the running game will carry this offense. As for Sutton, he needs to get the intermediate routes figured out yesterday. He can’t just be the receiver Case Keenum chucks the ball to. That approach was fine with Sanders, but he needs to be the No. 1 option now, and that means moving the chains and becoming a reliable target. I’m also excited to see what Daesean Hamilton does now with his expanded role. He’s a remarkable athlete and receiver, and he’ll want to prove to John Elway, Joseph and his teammates that he can do the job. Same goes for Tim Patrick.
The last couple of weeks have been the best Justin Simmons has played as a safety. Simmons was a big reason why the Broncos didn’t miss a beat when Chris Harris Jr. left the Cincinnati game, and that will need to remain the case for Denver and this defense on Sunday. The Broncos need to slow down George Kittle in the passing game for the San Francisco 49ers, and Simmons will more than likely be the defender that falls on. He needs to be strong in coverage and continue to play as he has the last few weeks.
That’s also been the case for Garett Bolles and Colby Wadman. You probably don’t hear much about either because, if they do their jobs, you shouldn’t hear about either a left tackle or punter. Bolles and Wadman have been excellent over the course of this winning streak for the Broncos. Fans and media joked about Bolles and his holding, but the only holding he’s doing now is holding down the left tackle position. As for Wadman, his consistency is a big part of the Broncos actually playing complementary football. That’s another aspect of this three-game winning streak that is so exciting. When you have all three phases of the game playing off of each other, you win games. Of Wadman’s six punts versus the Bengals, four were downed inside the 20-yard line. When you set the defense and the Orange Rush up like that, you improve your success rate.
For a team to lose two of its best players and leaders, it would be naive to say it won’t catch up with them. You can’t replace experience or production like Harris and Sanders. But as noted earlier, this is where that confidence and preparation comes in. There’s no doubt this sucks, but it’s a chance for the younger players to step up and contribute. I mentioned that nothing seems to faze this team, and that’s about to get tested Sunday and over the remaining part of the Broncos’ schedule.
What should help the younger guys is the veterans John Elway brought in, Andrew Holmes and Jamar Taylor. The good thing about Holmes is he played for Musgrave so he knows the system. That’s huge at this point. How quickly Holmes can build a rapport with Keenum is the key. Taylor adds depth and experience. The way you’ll know he’s contributing is if you don’t hear his name, unless it’s positive.
The West Coast awaits
The Broncos need to do what they’ve done the last three weeks — feed the Denver Pitbull, pressure the quarterback with the Orange Rush and win the turnover battle. In other words, play complementary football. The Broncos also have to keep that chip on their shoulder, put in the work during the week and execute on Sunday. That’s how Denver overcomes the injuries and remains in the AFC playoff picture. Broncos win 27-10.
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