QUOTE: “Truth only reveals itself when one gives up all preconceived ideas.” — Shoseki
The truth revealed itself Monday night in San Diego, and there’s no denying the Denver Broncos. Denver now has won two road games in the AFC West, beating the Raiders and the Chargers and taking a commanding lead in the division. It would be hard to imagine this Broncos team not be able to finish the job and officially win the West.
They’re for real — and last night proved it to me. I’ve always been concerned about their age and lack of real speed in the secondary, but after playing well the past two weeks against some very good passing teams, I’m a believer. Not allowing the Chargers a third-down conversion in the second half was impressive, as is giving up only three points in the second half all season. This is the fourth consecutive game their defense has held an opponent to zero third-down conversions (0/23) in the second half. The Broncos have allowed only two second-half third-down conversions this season (one each in Week 1 and Week 2). These numbers are a credit to their defensive staff for being able to make the right halftime adjustments. And as we all know, football is a game of adjustments.
How did the Broncos make this incredible turnaround? Well, for one, they hired the right coach to replace Mike Shanahan in Josh McDaniels. Despite the Jay Cutler trade, which I was not a fan of, McDaniels has done a remarkable job keeping some of the team’s very good players and not running everyone out of town just because they were drafted by Shanahan. (By the way, this is what’s going on now in Kansas City, where the Chiefs are going to rid themselves of all of Carl Peterson’s picks, whether they were good or bad.) As I’ve written many times, the key to successfully running a “Belichickian” program is not in how well you can keep a secret or shield injuries from the media; it lies in the ability to evaluate — your own talent and the potential new talent.
No better example of this is Tony Scheffler, who was rumored to be on the trading market last offseason but remained with the team and is a great mismatch player. Scheffler is able to spread out and win most matchups with safeties or out-physical smaller corners for the ball. His value is greatly enhanced because the Broncos have Daniel Graham to be the “on the line” tight end, forcing teams to respect their run game. If Scheffler was in the game alone, most teams would just go to their nickel defense and attempt to shift the matchup to their favor — much like what happens in New York with Dustin Keller.
The Broncos now can rest during the bye week and get ready for Baltimore in two weeks. Knowing McDaniels, he won’t take a break. He’ll be make sure he tends to all the details so he can improve his football team.
At this point in the season, injuries are going to take their toll on teams and might shift the balance of power. For example, losing Antwan Odom will be hard for the Bengals to overcome, as it will be for the Falcons losing corner Brian Williams. The Falcons were thin at corner to start the season, so this injury makes a tough situation worse.
Kris Jenkins tearing his ACL is a heartbreaker for the Jets. He was a rock inside, and no matter who they sign or trade for, short of the Browns’ Shaun Rogers, they’ll be hard-pressed to find an answer.
Speaking of Rogers, if Browns owner Randy Lerner lets his coach Eric Mangini trade another player to the Jets, he doesn’t care about his own team. At some point, he has to rein in the control he’s given to Mangini, and maybe the first step is bringing in former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar. Kosar was at practice last week and will report directly to the owner, not to the head coach, which might help Lerner realize that he’s given power to someone who doesn’t know how to handle the executive part of the job.
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