Paul E. Anna: High Points
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
So have you jumped on the bandwagon yet?
That would be the Denver Broncos bandwagon. The Monday-night whooping the Broncos put on the hated Oakland Raiders will no doubt get Bronco fans in the mood for some football. It was as good a performance by the boys in Blue and Orange as has been seen in quite some time.
Frankly, before Monday, I had concerns about this season. Had I not seen the 41-14 win (at one point the Broncos were up 27-0) from the Black Hole, I doubt I would be feeling any more confident in their prospects for the year. But the Broncos dominated in every phase of the game, and what were once weaknesses now appear to be strengths.
Jay Cutler not only threw ropes, he commanded the offense brilliantly looking to be vastly improved over last year. Maybe it is the medication he is taking to control his diabetes, or perhaps it is just the extra experience he has over last year ” whatever, his level of comfort makes him look like a different guy.
And, perhaps most telling was the way he ran the team. After a dropped pass he barked at the receiver. When he needed to scramble he did with authority. His performance led one to believe that he may be on his way to becoming all that head coach Mike Shanahan had hoped when he was drafted three years ago.
The other big offensive revelation came in the person of Eddie Royal. The Broncos’ second-round draft choice out of Virginia Tech had a huge night, catching nine passes for 146 yards and scoring the first TD of his career. He also ran for twice for 9 yards, and returned a kickoff and a pair of punts to put an all-purpose total of 185 yards on his debut stat sheet. And while one could chalk up the performance to the overmatched Oakland defense, much of his work came at the expense of DeAngelo Hall, a cornerback who also attended Virginia Tech and is considered one of the better cover corners in the game.
Defensively the Broncos shut out the Raiders for three quarters and allowed just 307 total yards. If there was a quibble it may have been the run defense as Oakland’s Justin Fargas and rookie Darren McFadden combined for 143 yards on the ground.
That might be the weak link in the chain for the Broncos defense. The backfield seems strong again, what with Champ Bailey and Dre Bly at the corners and newcomer Marlin McCree taking over for John Lynch, while Nate Webster appears to be rejuvenated at the middle-linebacker spot.
This week the Broncos play their home opener against the San Diego Chargers, who desperately need a win after falling to the Carolina Panthers last week with two seconds to play. The Chargers have lost their best defender, Shawne Merriman, for the season and as of Wednesday their best offensive player, LaDainian Tomlinson, was not practicing due to a toe injury.
The Broncos have not beaten the Chargers in two years and last year were thrashed at home 41-3 by San Diego. But if they can muster a victory they will be alone atop the AFC West and their prospects will be better than at any time in recent memory.
One win in and 15 games to go.
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