The Denver Broncos came into Sunday night’s contest with the undefeated New England Patriots with nothing to lose. With the Sheriff once again relegated to a role off the field, it was Brock Osweiler’s team to lead. If the Week 11 victory in Chicago served to earn the young deputy his star, Sunday’s battle with the Patriots would test his potential to take the reins of the Denver Broncos on a more permanent basis.
The game started slow for the Broncos and they quickly found themselves down 14-0. The offense sputtered, and the defense struggled to contain New England’s star tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Denver didn’t panic. They didn’t hang their heads. They didn’t abandon the game plan. They stayed committed to running the football, and Ronnie Hillman cut the Patriots lead to 14-7 going into the half.
Brock Osweiler held his composure, took some advice from Peyton Manning, and thanks to a 48-yard overtime scamper by running back C.J. Anderson, led his first fourth quarter or overtime come-from-behind win vs. one of the league’s best teams.
Three takeaways from Sunday night’s game:
Brock Osweiler Has Played Himself Into a Potential Quarterback Controversy in Denver
Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy – USA TODAY Sports
If it was 2013 and Peyton Manning had thrown for 1,143 yards in his first 3 games with 12 touchdowns and no interceptions the conversation would be different. It is week 13. Peyton Manning has averaged 242 yards, one touchdown, and almost two interceptions per game. He’s injured. Brock Osweiler has started two games and played better than Manning. It’s undeniable.
What the Denver coaching staff will do once Peyton Manning is healthy, only Gary Kubiak knows. Brock Osweiler is 2-0 with only one interception in his two starts. At very least, Osweiler has given the Broncos an opportunity to let Manning fully recover from his torn plantar fascia. At most? Young Osweiler has earned an opportunity to prove he’s the man to take the job from a future Hall of Fame signal caller.
It’s time to talk contract when it comes to Brock Osweiler. John Elway has set his team up for success on almost every front. He’s signed the best cornerbacks at a discount, he’s signed great safeties at a discount, he’s signed great pass rushers, great linebackers, great wide receivers.
Now the czar of Denver Broncos football has a contract quandary. Should he overpay Von Miller before he hits the open market so he can use the franchise tag on Brock Osweiler? Should he pay Brock Osweiler for years to come based on such a small sample size? The next few weeks will go a long way in deciding who gets paid and when.
C.J. Anderson Has Earned the Starting Role at Running Back
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With 153 total yards including a 48-yard game-winning overtime touchdown, C.J. Anderson has reemerged to take back the starting job in the Denver Broncos backfield. Anderson has struggled with injury for the bulk of the 2015 season. He went down in the preseason with an ankle injury, and then again in Week 1 with a foot injury. Now, having regained his health, Anderson has begun to look like the dominant back we saw late in 2014.
Anderson has compiled 316 yards on 50 carries since coming of the Week 7 bye. That’s 6.3 yards per carry. During that same timeframe, Ronnie Hillman has rushed for 264 yards on 72 carries—3.6 yards per carry. These numbers alone should sway the Denver coaching staff to swing the bulk of the workload Anderson’s way, but when his pass blocking ability and aptitude catching the ball out of the backfield are plugged into the equation, it’s a no-brainer.
As long as C.J. Anderson remains healthy, he should remain the featured back in the Broncos system with Hillman filling the role of change-of-pace back.
The Denver Broncos are a Force to be Reckoned With
It took the bulk of the regular season for the Denver offense to start clicking, but if the Broncos can continue to run the football efficiently and dominate the time of possession, they might just be the scariest team in football.
The team ranks first in passing defense, first in total defense, first in sacks, first in yards per play allowed, and are tied for second in rushing defense. With an offense on the rise and the best overall defense in football, the Broncos are in position to make a run towards a first-round bye and now with the tiebreaker over New England in hand, there’s a legitimate opportunity for home-field throughout.