A bit of “Mile High Magic” has returned for the red-hot Broncos
Nov 20, 2023, 5:53 AM
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
The Denver Broncos are .500 with a 5-5 record after starting the 2023 season at 1-5. They’ve won four games in a row, and on Sunday night they beat the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 21-20.
Broncos head coach Sean Payton knows how to push the buttons on his team. After the offense struggled to find a rhythm, Payton got them in a groove late which led to a touchdown pass from quarterback Russell Wilson to wide receiver Courtland Sutton to essentially secure the victory.
After the game, Payton talked about how tough this win was.
“Look, obviously a crazy game in a lot of ways. Man, it was good for us to come out of there with a win. This is one of those games if you just looked at the stat line, you would see Minnesota did a number of things better than us. We really struggled offensively I thought on third down. When you have those numbers on third down, you’re not going to have the rushing attempts or the rushing yards. All of a sudden, it’s halftime because you’re not having the snaps. So our third-down numbers were poor, but the one thing we did—we took the ball away three times and we didn’t turn it over. So that kind of becomes a little bit of the trump card in a game like this.” Payton said.
Here are three observations from the Broncos win over the Vikings in Week 11.
Run All Over You
The Vikings had a clear plan against the Broncos’ defense. They were running the ball early and often with RB Alexander Mattison with great success. The offense was going three-and-out on most every drive early on, and that didn’t help the defense. They were constantly on the field as the Vikings controlled the time of possession on the ground.
This is a problem we’ve seen since Week 1. The Broncos have won four games in a row, but teams who commit to the run can move the ball. It’s how we saw the Washington Commanders come back against them in Week 2, and it was looking like the Vikings would grab the lead and keep the lead by running the ball.
The Broncos utilize a “bend but don’t break” defense under DC Vance Joseph, but they were breaking as the Vikings built a lead. It was only 10-9 at halftime, but a third quarter touchdown made the score 17-9 as the Vikings looked like they would not be stopped on the ground. The offense was only kicking field goals, but they stuck around enough to keep things close.
Payton knows his defense keeps improving over the course of the season, despite their struggles against the run.
“Listen, they’ve been—to their credit, with each win you gain more confidence. That seems like a long time ago, fortunately. Guys have bowed up, rolled up their sleeves and gone to work. That’s all you can do in this league. You find out a lot about people. I feel like we, organizationally, as a staff and as a team, you get to see the grit. I kept talking about that groove and a rut. There’s such a fine line. But I’m proud of the fight and the way these guys are prepared.” Payton said.
The Plan for Perine
The Broncos didn’t run the ball much against the Vikings, but that doesn’t mean their running backs were not involved. Javonte Williams led the team in rushing, but his usage was way down this week. Over the last two games, Williams has ran the ball 47 times collectively. On Sunday, Williams only ran the ball 11 times for 37 yards.
The Broncos could not stop the Vikings on the ground, and they could not get their ground game going. However, they utilized short passes as long handoffs to move the ball late in the game. A big part of the offense when they needed to score a touchdown to win was backup RB Samaje Perine.
He ended up catching seven passes for 60 yards against the Vikings. While the Vikings defense was trying to get after QB Russell Wilson, he kept finding Perine on underneath routes to move the chains. Perine may not be happy with his role so far this season (as he wanted more work than he got with the Bengals), but in Week 11 Payton showed how important a back like Perine can be for this offense.
Wilson talked about the key to winning late.
“First of all, I think it’s belief. Second of all, I think it’s execution. Third of all, it’s having a mentality that we’re going to win the game. I think that’s the key. I think that for me, it’s all about my teammates. It’s guys making great plays. It’s Samaje (Perine) making a big first down the past several weeks. It’s the (offensive) line giving me enough time to make decisions. We’re just checking the play and everybody being poised. It’s guys making—I think about Jerry Jeudy making a key third-down last game against the Bills right over the ball—deep over the ball that kept the drive alive. It’s just those things. Guys like Courtland Sutton being the best version of Courtland Sutton. He’s dominant and he’s playing like an All-Pro, Pro-Bowl player. That’s who he is. That’s who he is every day. It’s just being us. It’s just being the best version of us when the game is on the line and having that clutch gene.” Wilson said.
Mile High Magic is Back!
I didn’t have this on my 2023 Broncos bingo card, but I can say after another big win for the Broncos that the “Mile High Magic” is back! The Broncos lost their home-field advantage over the last seven years of mediocrity after Super Bowl 50. It’s felt better this season, and after big wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and this come-from-behind win over the Vikings, it feels like the magic is back.
The Broncos lead the league in fourth-quarter comebacks, so that means you’ll be a bit uneasy watching their games. However, as the team believes in themselves, the fans are starting to believe in their team again. The boo birds were out early as the Broncos’ offense kept having to punt, and they showed they have high hopes for the team.
As the game kept going, the Broncos fans kept getting louder and louder. The Vikings had to go away from their rushing attack, and it became difficult for them to hear as the Broncos were moving to win.
Wilson appreciates what he felt from the fans in the stands.
“Hopefully we have a lot more bigger games. The fans make a difference. We feel it. We feel it as players. The emotion of the game. Obviously, I have been fortunate to go to the Nuggets’ game and watch how our fans engage and all of that — the energy in the stadium and the arena. Watching those guys and how true champions—who they are inspires us as players. The fans do that same thing for us right here in this stadium. I think it makes a difference. We feel it. It made a huge difference tonight and I know how much winning matters. Every day it’s a process, and we’re going to continue to enjoy the process and keep working at it.” Wilson said.