(Denver, CO) Thirteen overtime games in ten weeks is indicative of the parity party going on in the NFL right now. Or, you can look at what the Broncos did last Sunday and say the same thing. A last place team manhandles a first place team, walks away with a 49-29 victory leaving everyone scratching their head. But that is how the Denver Broncos answered the bell after their bye week to start the second half of the season.
It was a game riddled with irony as the Broncos returned with a vengeance. Career highs, season lows and everything in between marked the return of the Broncos to Invesco Field after their trip from abroad.
The two teams were polar opposites going into Sunday’s game. The Kansas City Chiefs first in the NFL in rushing were stopped dead in their tracks with 51-yards rushing on the day. The Broncos, last in the NFL in rushing were led by running back Knowshon Moreno who posted his first +100. yard game after one and a half seasons as a pro.
A switch in defensive alignment meant a switch in personnel for the desperate Broncos. Joe Mays started in place of Mario Haggan while Haggan was moved to outside linebacker going from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive scheme. Haggan went from 3 sacks in 97 games in his career to 3 sacks in one half of Sunday’s game.
Complimenting the Broncos defense, the offense scored five straight touchdowns before the Chiefs got off the bus for their first score with 1:28 left in the second quarter. The Broncos led 35-0 before the first half and became the first team since 1950 to have a first half lead of +35 points and a first half deficit of at least 35 points in two separate games in the same season.
“Finally, we started fast, which is something we’ve talked about a lot,” Head Coach Josh McDaniels said. “That was a really good thing for our football team tonight, to be able to play from ahead and then just build on a lead as the game went along.”
While it was a deep hole to climb out of the Chiefs fought back nonetheless. Chiefs QB Matt Cassel threw for a career high 469 yards on the afternoon to nine different receivers. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe hauled in 13 catches and two touchdowns in the loss for the Chiefs.
Kyle Orton also found nine different receivers for the Broncos with a quarterback rating for 131.5 for 296 yards and a career best four touchdown passes. Orton was also named AFC Offensive Player of the Week by the NFL.
“The energy was great with the crowd, and it was just great to come out and play better and put a better product out there for the fans,” said Orton. “You had four losses in a row, so you feel good about yourself after this one. We have a long way to go, but certainly happy with this win.”
Tim Tebow added to the Broncos quarterback production posting two touchdowns including his first passing touchdown in the NFL, a 3-yard toss to Spencer Larson. “It was exciting just to be out there and be able to contribute to the team and feel like a part of it and help them,” Tebow said. “To be able to throw a pass was a lot of fun as well.”
The win provided a much needed boost to a deflated Broncos team returning from a defeat to the last place San Francisco 49’ers in London, England. The Broncos got a two-week break to re-focus and finish the second half of the season. “I think we just wanted to come out and show the fans that we’re not giving up,” said Brandon Lloyd. “We’re still in this.”
With four divisional games remaining the 3-6 Broncos will need to duplicate Sunday’s effort for any chance to bounce back from a losing season – that chance will come soon enough when they travel to San Diego to take on the 4-5 Chargers on Monday Night Football.
“We won one game and it’s going to be the same mentality next week,” said Ryan Harris. “We just have to win one game. We can’t win six, we can’t win seven. We can’t win four at a time. All we can do is one at a time. I think that kind of let’s us hone in our focus and block out some of the negative things that can come from looking down the stretch.”
Kansas City Head Coach Todd Haley may have been a bit of a sore sport after the Broncos shellacking of the Chiefs. The coach refused the hand of McDaniels in the customary hand shake after the game. Haley later apologized.
“It sounds like it’s become a big deal and I do want to apologize for me not shaking Josh’s hand after the game,” he said. “I do believe in doing what’s right and that was not right. Probably let the emotions of the situation get me too much. And I apologize. I apologize to the fans and to Denver and to Josh.”
For the Chiefs it is their second straight loss after losing in overtime to the Oakland Raiders, 23-20 last week. Both the Raiders and Chargers were off Sunday and that gave both teams the opportunity to see what changes the Broncos made since coming off of their bye. The Broncos still have two games with the Chargers and one more each against the Raiders and Chiefs.
In a side note: the Raiders record 59 points scored against the Broncos in three quarters October 24th was duplicated last Monday night when the Philadelphia Eagles led by Michael Vick also posted 59 points in the first three quarters against Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins.