In a recent interview, with the Denver Post, John Elway, the Denver Broncos Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager, opined that he believes that the Broncos have shown real competitive gumption thus far.
"Mental toughness, we've shown that," Elway said. "Mental toughness is not worrying about losing, it's figuring out how to make the plays to win. The competitiveness and the gumption this team has, to me has shown a lot."
The Duke of Denver is right. In the first 3 weeks of regular season play, the Broncos have displayed real toughness and resolve. As much as some Broncos fans would like to see the team blow out every opponent, in the NFL, that's a rarity. In the Broncos two wins, they got out to a lead, and left it in the hands of the defense to protect it.
The destiny of those two games came down to the final possession of the opponent. Both times, the Broncos stopped them, when it mattered most, when all of the chips were down. In week 1, rookie cornerback, Bradley Roby, came up big and broke up an Andrew Luck pass on 4th down to clinch the game. In week 2, Alex Smith had the Chiefs on the Broncos 5 yard line. A touchdown would have tied the game. But the behemoth defensive tackle, Terrance Knighton, got his big paw up in the air and deflected the pass. A turnover on downs. Game over.
Last week vs the Seattle Seahawks, at Century Link Field, the Broncos showed real mental and physical toughness. On both sides of the ball, they went blow-for-blow, in a colossal, pugilistic showdown, with the defending league champs. And on more than one occasion, the Broncos had the opportunity to steal one from the Seahawks.
Down 5 points, with 2:25 left in the game, and a 3rd-and-11, what might have happened, had Peyton Manning chosen to throw the ball to the wide open Emmanuel Sanders, rather than try to float one down the seam to a bracketed Wes Welker, that was picked off by Kam Chancellor? It would have given the Broncos 1st-and-10 from about the 11-yard line and 2 full minutes to get in the endzone for the go-ahead score. They could have taken their time, called the right play, and punched it in. Game over.
Woulda, shoulda, coulda, right? My point, is that despite being down 14 points in the 4th quarter, the Broncos showed real toughness and resolve to even put themselves in the situation where they could have won the game, with little time left. Instead, the Broncos defense stopped Seattle on a short field, and forced the field goal. That put it at an 8-point game. 20-12, with 59 seconds remaining. And no timeouts.
Manning showed true grit himself on the subsequent 80-yard drive, going 5/6. He was driven and spry in the pocket and he willed the team to score. That still left a 2-point spread to cover. They had to convert the attempt. And they did.
The Broncos forced the Seahawks into overtime, after the pride of the Pacific Northwest surely felt that they had that game in the bag. John Elway is on the money. This team has shown true grit; a definite improvement in that area, over the 2013 Denver Broncos. I firmly believe that last year's team would have found a way to lose all 3 of these games, because last year's defense was a different animal. I wouldn't quite call them a finesse defense, but they were in that ballpark.
Elway went on to say that he can see a few areas that the Broncos can improve on.
"I do know that we have to start doing the little things within each side of the ball better than we have been," Elway said. "A little bit more disciplined. We're not consistent, because we're not doing the little things right all the time. I'm talking about things like whether the depth on your route is deep enough, or setting the right way, knowing where your help is. Just little things."
Here at MHH, we've been talking about the Broncos needing to put together a full 60-minute performance since week 1. And when they finally work out all of the kinks, and all of the new faces begin to gel with the old, the Denver Broncos are going to be a scary visage to behold.