Led by Garett Bolles, Broncos’ O-line mauled Browns

Nov 26, 2023, 9:16 PM | Updated: Nov 27, 2023, 12:14 pm

DENVER — “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man,” Broncos right tackle Mike McGlinchey said in the locker room last Wednesday, channeling his inner Ric Flair.

McGlinchey, Garett Bolles, Quinn Meinerz, Lloyd Cushenberry and Ben Powers knew the challenge that sat in front of them Sunday. To contain a Browns defense that was on a historic pace — and to neutralize an edge rusher with 13 sacks through just 10 games. Cleveland’s defense bursted with playmakers, and no one made more than Myles Garett, who came into the game with 13 sacks.

Garrett left Empower Field at Mile High without touching Russell Wilson once before he left with a shoulder injury. And the Browns didn’t finally bring Wilson down for a sack until garbage time.

Meanwhile, the Broncos diced up the Browns on the ground, rushing for a season-high 169 yards. They ran on 63 percent of their snaps — 39 of 62 for the day. They drained the clock, controlled the tempo and jabbed at a Browns defense mostly unaccustomed to absorbing such blows. They mounted drives of at least five minutes in each of the first three quarters.

They played exactly the game you need to play against a defense like Cleveland’s — with an offense built not for explosiveness, but for power. That’s where the Broncos’ strengths now rest.

It took some time to get there, but in a 29-12 thrashing of Cleveland, the Broncos offensive line became the core of the team’s identity.

Denver won it up front. The Broncos contained Garrett to where his dominance only emerged in blips, not blasts.

Indeed, they beat “the man.”

But that’s just a mile marker. It doesn’t mean the Broncos are pre-ordained to be “the man,” to get back into the Ric Flair/Mike McGlinchey nomenclature. At least, not yet.

“Well, the thing is, the offensive line’s not about showing up one day,” McGlinchey said. “It’s not about showing up one play. Our whole world is judged by the consistency in which we do things. And we’re building that consistency. Certainly, over this win streak, we’ve done our part to play very well and help our team win games.

“But the best part about it? Nobody’s ever satisfied. We know how much better we can still get, and what we’re gonna do to improve and keep working every single day. I think our group [has] a chance to be a pretty good one, and we’re starting to show that.”

And no one is showing that more than Garett Bolles.


The 2017 first-round pick’s career has been eventful above all. And it’s doubtful any offensive lineman since the now-retired Ryan Clady is more well-known by Broncos fans — although for chunks of his first six seasons, it was for the wrong reasons — typically holding penalties, which were particularly problematic in his first three campaigns and popped up again last year when he had three holding penalties in five games before suffering a season-ending fractured ankle.

Sunday brought arguably the sternest challenge of Bolles’ career, as Garrett primarily aligns against the left tackle. And for the first time in Garrett’s career season, he didn’t record a single hit of the opposing quarterback.

“Just doing my job, man, that’s all it is,” Bolles said. He gave credit to his fellow offensive linemen for a collective effort to neutralize Garrett — and with that, defuse Cleveland’s pass rush.

But as McGlinchey saw it from the right flank, the praise flowed solely to Bolles.

“It was a great group performance, but a lot of credit goes to Garett Bolles tonight,” McGlinchey said. “He was over playing against him the whole game, and Garett kept probably the best defensive player in the world off the stat sheet tonight, which is a [heck] of an accomplishment from [Number] 72.

For Bolles’ own work, he credited “technique.”

“To beat Myles Garrett, to beat a juggernaut like that, first off, that dude’s a freak of nature,” Bolles said. “… I think he is the best defensive player in the NFL, especially as a pass rusher.”

But the thing is, Bolles is becoming one of the better left tackles in the NFL, too. His holding penalties, long a sore spot, are down; he has just one holding infraction every 5.5 games this season, the best rate of his career. He plays with steadiness and power.


And now the Broncos are getting their money’s worth from the highest-paid set of tackles in the NFL. Bolles and McGlinchey each have average per-year contract values of over $17 million. And on the interior, left guard Ben Powers was a big-ticket free-agent acquisition last March, while the Broncos used recent Day 2 draft picks on right guard Lloyd Cushenberry and right guard Quinn Meinerz.

Collectively, that group has become the Broncos’ best offensive line in a decade.

Playing together for all 11 games has helped. But so too has their camaraderie.

“We really enjoy being around each other, which obviously, I think, is a huge added bonus and makes going to work a little bit easier,” McGlinchey said. “THere’s an open discourse of what to do well, what to do better, when things are screwed up, how to fix it.”

And Bolles, the senior and longest-tenured member of the quintet, has been waiting for this sort of group for his entire career.

“I’m just very grateful to be around dudes that are hungry, that are humble, that just want to play ball,” Bolles said. “That’s just who I am. And I’m just grateful I have those guys in my room that support me and love me, and I love them, too. It’s just all five of us up front.

“We just want to play ball. Eat good food, hang out with our family and come out here and leave it out on the field. That’s just who we are. I’m just grateful to have guys that have the same vision that I do, since being here for so long. It’s just about damn time that I got guys that just want to play ball.”

And led by Bolles, they’re playing perhaps the best ball of any unit on the Broncos — and never better than Sunday, when they made a superhuman defense look mortal.


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Led by Garett Bolles, Broncos’ O-line mauled Browns