Sunday’s game in Chicago was encrusted in narrative. John Fox faced the team that fired him just seven months ago. Jay Cutler did battle for the first time with the franchise that kicked him to the curb in 2009. Brock Osweiler tried his hand at replacing a legend.
Chicago came into the game having won two straight and four out of their last six. Denver came in looking to break a two-game slide behind a first time starter at quarterback.
When the smoke cleared and all was said and done, the Denver Broncos came out of Chicago with a hard fought 17-15 victory.
Three takeaways from the game:
1. The Brock Osweiler Era Will Continue in Denver… At Least for One Week
By all accounts Brock Osweiler won a chance to lead this Denver Broncos team for at least one more week. Peyton Manning spent his Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina visiting Dr. Robert Anderson—the country’s top orthopedic foot specialist. Coach Gary Kubiak spent his Monday press conference announcing that Brock Osweiler will be the starter Sunday vs. the New England Patriots.
Osweiler threw the ball 27 times in Sunday’s contest. He completed 20 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he played turnover free football. For a team who has been on the wrong side of the turnover margin over the last two weeks, a clean game was just what the Denver Broncos needed.
The performance wasn’t perfect. Osweiler missed reads, stared down receivers, and took too long to unload the football. He made the little mistakes you expect a first time starter to make. He also did what it takes to win the game.
Coach Kubiak’s game plan was simple. Get his young quarterback into a rhythm, commit to running the football, win the time of possession battle and, when it comes down to it, rely on your number one defense to win you the game. Osweiler got into a rhythm, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson ran the ball effectively, The Broncos won time of possession by almost six minutes and, in the end, Denver’s number one defense won them the game.
2. Denver’s Reputation is Beginning to Influence Calls on The Field
Bears TE Martellus Bennett blankets Broncos CB Bradley Roby in the 4th Quarter of Sunday’s Game (Photo Credit: CBS)
The Denver Broncos defense has been plagued by stupid penalties all year. Now officiating crews are seeing ghosts.
No one is going to tell you the Denver Broncos played a penalty free game on Sunday in Chicago. At the same time, no one is going to tell you the Bears did either. Denver had eight penalties for 118 yards; Chicago had zero. Sometimes you can write a game like this off as a statistical aberration; this is not one of those times.
On a third-and-one fourth quarter play, Chicago was driving to score what could have been a game-tying touchdown. Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler threw a pass down the sideline towards Martellus Bennett. The pass was under thrown. Bennett came back to the ball, and in the process smothered Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby. The penalty went against Roby. You can be sure Coach Kubiak will be submitting that play, along with many others, to the NFL for review.
3. The Denver Broncos Can Run the Ball More Effectively with Brock Osweiler at Quarterback
Photo Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast – Associated Press
Brock Osweiler’s ability to throw the ball deep outside the numbers stretched the Chicago Bears defense and allowed Denver Broncos running backs Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson to find space and run the football effectively. The Denver backfield put in its best performance of the season—36 carries for 170 yards. That’s 4.7 yards per carry.
The Broncos have struggled to find a rhythm running the football in 2015. The offensive line lacks experience. The running backs are by and large unproven. The coaching staff has been less than committed to running the football. Yet on Sunday in Chicago the Denver Broncos running backs ran the ball 36 times and averaged almost five yards per carry. So what was the difference? Was it a change in coaching philosophy? Did the offensive line finally become a cohesive unit? Did C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman finally learn to run the ball with a Marshawn Lynch-esque toughness? No, no, and no. The difference was a change in quarterback. The difference was lining up with the quarterback under center. The difference was an opposing game plan that didn’t involve stacking the middle of the field with nine defenders. The difference was a respect for the deep ball not seen against the Broncos since Nov. 16, 2014 in St. Louis when the Rams laid out the blueprint for beating an aging Peyton Manning.