What a roller coaster ride.
Sunday’s Denver Broncos versus Washington Redskins game must have evoked just about every emotion there is out of Broncos fans. Everything from excitement, to worry, to jubilation, to elitist feelings circulated through Broncos country as they eventually pulled out a 45-21 victory over Robert Griffin III and company.
Once the dust settled, there were three things that stood out from the game.
1) All the Broncos’ defense needs is a lead
Please excuse his first game this season; Von Miller is back. But as usual Von, and the rest of the Broncos defense needs a lead to be at their best. As the game on Sunday progressed, the Broncos defense showed a lot of heart by hanging in there as the offense got their stuff together, but in the fourth quarter when Peyton and company finally took the lead on a 35 yard screen from Peyton Manning to Knowshon Moreno, the defense came in like a wrecking ball. After that touchdown, the Washington offense went fumble (forced by Miller), punt, interception, interception, interception (taken for a touchdown by Dominique Rogers-Cromartie), interception. That’s right, the same defense that has been ridiculed for the last three weeks caused five turnovers in six possessions as soon as they were given just a seven-point lead. When you give players like Von Miller and Shaun Phillips any taste of victory late in the game, they can pin their ears back like nobody else in the NFL and cause any quarterback to make bad decisions. Just ask RGIII and Kirk Cousins.
2) Fox must trust Manning on 4th down
Could it be that with under 10 minutes left in just the third quarter, down by 14, facing a second loss in a row, John Fox finally realized that his conservative nature just isn’t going to cut it? Fox decided, at that point in the game, instead of taking a 37-yard field goal to cut the lead to 11, going for it on 4th and 2 was the thing to to; man could he not have made a better decision. It would be hard to find somebody who wouldn’t say that Moreno taking the ball for five yards down to the 15-yard line to convert that situation was not the biggest turning point in the game. Fox showed confidence in his players and they rewarded him, eventually punching it in with a 4-yard carry from Montee Ball and sparking the beginning of an unheard of 38 unanswered points to take a comfortable victory.
This brings up a bigger issue. As it stands now, the Broncos are 4/4 on fourth down conversions, we have seen Peyton Manning demonstratively begging for Fox to let them go for fourth and shorts many times this season, only to see him hang his head as he jogged off the field to allow Britton Colquitt punt the ball away. Of course, you could look at the Broncos 100 percent conversion rate on fourth downs as an example of the coaching staff picking their spots correctly, but I look at it as this; Peyton Manning, one of the greatest football minds of all time, should be able to read a defense and devise a play that he knows can converse a short yardage situation. That being said, as the season goes on, Fox needs to trust his Hall of Famer on the field, and when Manning says the Broncos should go for it, they need to go for it. As they showed Sunday, a simple conversion like that can spark a whole new fire in the team.
3) Fans need to tone it back just a bit
It was just two weeks ago that I wrote Broncos fans had every right to boo the team going into half against the Jags. But this week, the fans took the booing one step too far. Many — if not all — times a Washington defensive player went down on the field, a chorus of boos rained down from the Mile High stands. Of course, the fans were booing because they believed they player was faking the injury to slow down the vaunted no-huddle offense, but in my opinion, jumping to that conclusion is a very slippery slope. Booing the chance of a player possibly faking the injury is not worth the reputation you will receive as a fanbase if you happen to be the ones who booed the guy who actually sustained a career, or even a season-ending injury. You just never know. So maintain the standard of excellence for you own team, but don’t go booing opposing team’s players when they go down on the field. It just looks bad.
So as the players and coaches use the bye week trying to figure out how to get leads for Von and company, and think about who needs to be making decisions on fourth-and-short; maybe the fans can get together at Mile High and talk about what they can do to class up the joint.
Follow Ryan on Twitter (@RyanKoenigsberg).