A great win and a great way to spend the day after stuffing yourself with turkey. This was a real nail-biter and it was great to see somebody like Ron Dayne come through when the team needed a big boost at a critical time.
Overall, the Denver Broncos looked like a team that was playing twice with only a three-day layoff. They came out flat and took a while to get going (and yet again, a great defensive play seemed to spark the team). I think it was also obvious that three days didn't give the coaches time to put in a really fancy game plan for the offense, as the offense seemed to be fairly vanilla today. Still, this was a gut-check type of game, and the Broncos overcame some mistakes in a hostile environment on the road to pull out an important victory.
With next week's game in KC, it's going to be great for the team to have a nine-day layoff now. That's a game that I think the Broncos have a great chance of winning, and a win there will likely take some of the importance off the final game in San Diego.
The Dallas Cowboys have a very good defense, probably the best the Broncos have played all year, and, I suspect, the best they'll probably face all year (Indy's is improved, but still vulnerable, for example). Jake Plummer's no-INT streak was too good to last, and it came on a play where he just plain shouldn't have thrown the ball, rather than anything the Cowboys did defensively. Coach Mike Shanahan was doing some rather energetic counseling of Plummer after the INT.
The big problem today was that the offensive line simply had trouble handling the Dallas pass rush. The 'Boys got way to much pressure on Plummer with mostly only a four-man rush, and that put both Plummer and the running game in a position they've not been in during too many games this year. It also didn't help that the offense had a real knack for that drive-killing penalty at precisely the wrong time over and over today.
Kudos obviously go to Dayne and his two great runs (the touchdown and the long run in OT). I thought that yet again the tight ends showed great hands. Jeb Putzier is worth every penny of his salary, as is Alexander.
This defense was just plain worn out as the game went on. Dallas ran something like 31 more plays than the Broncos, and when that was heaped on a defense that played only 4 days previously, it just ran them down. Towards the end, they were getting beaten regularly, yet they still had the fortitude to step it up on a few critical plays when they badly needed to.
They got the big turnover when they really needed it, but this was a day where the lack of a decent pass rush hurt them. Where Plummer was harried all game, Dallas quarterback Drew Bledsoe often seemed to have time to read a newspaper before having to throw the ball. And when Bledsoe has that kind of time, the DB's end up getting burned. That happened over and over: this was a game where Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth got a lesson from a veteran quarterback with decent receivers. That could pay dividends in the future, as there's nothing like the school of hard knocks to get an education.
Special Teams: A
This is beginning to sound like a broken record, but punter Todd Sauerbrun has been a tremendous improvement for this team. He did a great job of pinning the Cowboys back, and in a game like this where field position was such an important asset, he did his job very well.
I think this was a tough game to coach and prepare for, simply because of the VERY short week (and half of one of the three days was spent traveling, besides). All in all, I thought the game plan on both sides of the ball was as good as could be expected.
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