Wild-card weekend proves Broncos have winning formula

Jan 6, 2020, 6:16 AM

A general view of the field during warmups before the AFC Wild Card Playoff game between the Housto...

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

For the fourth straight year, the Denver Broncos will be watching the playoffs from home. But at least their 7-9 season ended on a high note, with Drew Lock leading the team to four wins in the last five games to provide a glimmer of hope heading into 2020.

Even more good news for the Orange and Blue: This weekend’s slate of wild-card games further proved Vic Fangio and company are building with a winning formula.

If there was any question whether the old football adage, “Defense wins championships,” still applies, the results Saturday and Sunday certainly suggest it does. The Tennessee Titans needed only 20 points to beat the New England Patriots, the Seattle Seahawks knocked off the Philadelphia Eagles with just 17 and the Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings scored 22 and 26, respectively, in overtime victories.

In all four games, the focus was on making timely stops more than it was on scoring in bunches. That’s good news for the Broncos, who finished the year bottom five in the league with just 17.6 points per game.

Obviously, you have to score to win. But when the big games roll around, a defense-first mentality has proven to be successful.

Broncos Country spent all year criticizing offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and the Denver offense. Just six weeks ago, plenty of people questioned whether a change needed to be made this offseason, if not flat out calling for a new coordinator. Others asked if it was time to move on from the “Shanahan offense” that’s become so familiar around here.

Based on the teams heading into this weekend’s divisional round, it’s good none of that happened. Scangarello and his scheme are exactly what works in today’s NFL.

Three of the eight remaining contenders have ties to Mike Shanahan’s concepts, to varying degrees. Gary Kubiak in Minnesota, Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco and Matt LeFleur in Green Bay all run a similar style offense to the one we’ll see at Mile High next season. If Scangarello can put the pieces together and match their success, it could lead to positive results.

Believe it or not, the foundation for success is in place on both sides of the ball here in Denver. The Broncos have their quarterback, have talented young pieces — like Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay and Bradley Chubb — to build around and the front office has both the draft picks and cap flexibility to bring in even more talent in 2020.

So, while you watch the NFL playoffs on your living room couch, just know the Broncos should be playing football in January next season.


Aaron Gordon #50 of the Denver Nuggets dunks the ball between LeBron James #6 and Anthony Davis...

Jake Shapiro

Lakers stars can’t get the Nuggets out of their heads

The Los Angeles Lakers started and ended their offseason by thinking about the Denver Nuggets, and we know the two feuded this summer

2 hours ago

Mike McGlinchey...

Andrew Mason

What’s the deal with the Broncos’ false starts?

They're neither "false," nor "starts," as a comedian might say, but false starts were a very real problem for the Broncos in Chicago.

2 hours ago

Bruce Brown #11 of the Denver Nuggets and Christian Braun #0 of the Denver Nuggets...

Jake Shapiro

Calvin Booth tells which Nugget he expects to replace Bruce Brown

With the Denver Nuggets hitting the court again after a short summer we're finally going to answer one of the team's biggest questions, who replaces versatile sixth man Bruce Brown's role

3 hours ago

Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets...

Jake Shapiro

Nikola Jokic says he didn’t play much basketball this summer

While parading, horse riding, rafting, drinking and dancing, Denver Nuggets star center Nikola Jokic was living it up in Serbia

6 hours ago

Josh Kroenke...

Will Petersen

Josh Kroenke on Altitude TV issue: No one more frustrated than me

"We're trying to figure out a resolution, because we want to show the best teams... and we have the Avs and the Nuggets," Josh Kroenke said

7 hours ago

Sean Payton...

Andrew Mason

Sean Payton explains why he had the sleeves cut off Sunday

As the Broncos' comeback got under way Sunday, Sean Payton had the sleeves on his jacket cut off. He explained why Monday.

8 hours ago

Wild-card weekend proves Broncos have winning formula