For Broncos, results create belief, and belief creates results

Nov 20, 2023, 1:38 AM


(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

DENVER — The Broncos do not win this game in September.

And we know that simply because we saw it.

When the season kicked off and the Broncos faced the Las Vegas Raiders and Washington Commanders, a hint of adversity sent them reeling. Against the Commanders, a fourth-and-goal touchdown — punctuated by a hit that resulted in the ejection of Kareem Jackson — sent the Broncos spiraling. By the time they found their balance again, Washington’s 32-3 blitz was complete, and the damage was done.

It’s different now.

So, when the Minnesota Vikings, leading 17-9, are driving to a score that could push their lead to double digits near the end of the third quarter, the response isn’t a retreat — it’s to attack and create discomfort. Lo and behold, Vikings running back Alexander Mattison fumbles at the Denver 35-yard line, and Josey Jewell recovers.

The next Vikings drive ends in a Ja’Quan McMillian interception forced by pressure from Jewell. But the Vikings still led, because the offense merely mustered a pair of field goals. And Denver’s defense retook the field, mustered a red-zone stop and gave the offense one final chance at redemption — which it seized with its only touchdown of the night to steal a 21-20 win.

Against the Raiders, against the Commanders … and even in Week 5 when they faced the New York Jets, that sort of resilience didn’t exist.

So, would they have won this game in September?

“It’s hard for me to say that,” right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “It certainly doesn’t feel like we’re the same team now that we were then. And I think that’s a testament to who we are and who we’re becoming.”

“I think there’s growing pains,” safety Justin Simmons reflected. “I think in order to learn how to win, you have to learn how to not lose games.

“Two months ago, I think, it’s the same team. We just didn’t execute the details. And I think that showed. And we were able to execute the details today.”


Part of it came down to belief.

“Belief. You can never be caught up in the noise. Good or bad,” Simmons said. “And, obviously, at 1-5, the walls are caving in, here we go again type of thing. You’ve just gotta have belief in what you’re doing and how you’re doing it and just put your head down and work.”

Belief was tough to find when the Broncos stared up at almost everyone else in the sport.

“I think we were still trying to figure ourselves out through the first six weeks of this season,” McGlinchey said. “I think we were all still trying to figure out what we wanted to accomplish, who want to be — offensively, defensively, all those things.”

For belief to take root in football, it cannot be unseen. It requires a tangible result — or evidence that they will come — before belief becomes something more than a catch phrase.

The Broncos are fairly new to this belief thing. After all, this is their first four-game winning streak since the start of Simmons’ NFL career in 2016.

“And you get a win like you did against Kansas City at home, you beat Buffalo on Monday night at their place, and … those two wins back-to-back, they make believers out of anybody,” McGlinchey said.

That provides a base for belief — even on a night like Sunday, where the Vikings controlled the tempo while the Broncos frittered way chances.

“The way that we did it — I’m kind of at a loss for words, because this is an unbelievable win. It was so gross,” McGlinchey said. “But we got it done when we needed to, and that’s all that mental toughness is: being your best on command. And we were.”


Sean Payton’s tutelage matters.

There are all of the times when he ground practice to a halt to rehearse a specific end-of-half situation. One recalls the first month of OTAs when he ditched meetings and playbook study and had his team focus on physical training. And then you add the the lengthy teaching periods during Wednesday, Thursday and Friday practices that endure far longer than similar periods under previous coaches.

All of that provided the bricks and mortar that built a team that can withstand a storm.

“He’s been great, and he has his poise about him, this attitude about him,” Simmons said. “It obviously comes off and it runs through the team. We can feel that energy. It’s contagious.”

It wasn’t visible at the time. It’s evident now. Because the Broncos can see the results.

And the most tangible result is a team that is built differently than its immediate predecessors in orange and blue.

At the end of September, the Broncos had lost 10 of their last 12 one-score games. Now they’ve won four in a row.

“Just finding a way to win,” Simmons said. “I think when you go back and maybe you look at other games, there’s just times where you just didn’t close it out — on either side of the ball. And I think the main difference here is that we’re closing it out and winning games.”

And doing that starts with believing that they can.

Yeah, it’s different around here.



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For Broncos, results create belief, and belief creates results