BRONCOS

The Broncos versatility allowed them to dismantle the Browns

Nov 27, 2023, 6:10 AM | Updated: 12:12 pm

The Denver Broncos are now over .500 for the first time this season. They now have a 6-5 record after beating the Cleveland Browns on Sunday by a score of 29-12.

This team believes in themselves, and that shows up on the football field. They have won five games in a row, and the Broncos still have not played their best football. The Browns are an incredibly physical team, and the Broncos handled their business at home for another victory.

After the game, Payton acknowledged what a tough opponent the Browns are.

“Let me see where to start. I think—I just finished telling the team, we felt like this was going to be a pretty physical game. We had a lot of respect for this team. They came in here, obviously, with a really good record. Both how they played defensively and how they rushed the football—we felt like the rushing numbers were going to be really important when this game ended. Credit our players on defense. (Defensive coordinator) Vance (Joseph) and his staff, we got into some heavier fronts to try to take away one of their strengths. Fortunately, we jumped ahead early on in that first half, and again, we have a game where we have three takeaways—I think that’s four weeks in a row now. We were better in the red zone. There were a lot of things we did today that I was pleased with, and we felt like we beat a good football team.” Payton said.

Here are three observations from the Broncos win over the Browns in Week 12.

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Limited Passing and More Running

The Broncos had a clear plan against the Browns – run the ball! It was a wise plan because the Browns can make quarterback uncomfortable when they drop back to pass. The Broncos were able to move the ball on the ground, and they stayed with that plan. Once they built an early lead, the Browns were out of their game. They run the ball more than any team in the NFL, but they had to abandon that because the Broncos were using the time of possession with their rushing attack and scoring consistently.

Javonte Williams is leading the way on the ground, but it was good to see Samaje Perine do more. The Broncos have a duo of power backs that can grind down a defense as the game goes on. As the calendar changes to December in the NFL, teams start to change their plan. They begin to play “playoff” football and that means running the ball more. As the Broncos push further in the playoff picture, it’s a good thing they are running as much as they need to.

Russell Wilson is being asked to limit what he does through the air – and the team is winning. He doesn’t care about stats, he just wants to get wins. On film, you could see the Browns were susceptible to RPOs and quarterbacks who can run the ball. Wilson is not the player he used to be, but he can still rack up yards on the ground. Against the Browns, Wilson has rushed 53 times this season, but over this five-game winning streak he’s ran the ball 31 times – including a season-high 11 times on Sunday.

Wilson believes in the game plan made during the week.

“Coach Payton and the offensive staff giving us packages and things that we can get to. We kind of got out there and saw a couple (of) looks that we wanted to get to. We played fast, made key plays (and) guys did a great job upfront. I thought (fullback Michael) Burton did a really good job of lead-blocking down the left sideline, when I pulled it to the left sideline. Coming back to a similar play, different but similar play. It’s a read so I can either hand it off or read the (defensive) end or whatever. I thought the guys did a great job blocking—I just cut up field and got in the end zone.” Wilson said.

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One Game at a Time

The Broncos locker room feels like it did when the team was 1-5. That may sound odd to some but let me explain. When the team was losing, the leaders in the locker room were a steady presence who did not get too down on themselves or their teammates. Now that the team is winning, the leaders in that locker room are not getting too high on their achievements.

Simply put, they’re steady behind the scenes. Even though the Broncos are the hottest team in the league and pushing for the playoffs, these players are not getting ahead of themselves. They know they’re good, and the results are now there. However, these players knew they were good even when the results were not there. They had to figure out how to win before they could win, and now winning is the culture.

They are playing meaningful football in the month of December. That’s all any of us could have asked for. Things haven’t been perfect, but the players have taken the good and the bad – to learn from both. The 50-point loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 3 was a low point, but it didn’t break this team. Instead of running from that performance and pretending it didn’t happen, the Broncos have used it as motivation. Instead of being crushed by that humiliation, the Broncos have pointed to that game to humble themselves now that they’re winning.
Perine knows they should take things one game at a time.

“It is exciting, but we can’t look that far in the future. We have to take it one game at a time. Our next opponent, Houston, is a great team who is going to give us everything they have. They have been great this year. It is going to be a battle week-in and week-out. We play them in Houston, so it is not going to be a cake walk.” Perine said.

***

It’s All About Chemistry

In life and in football, chemistry matters most. Over this five-game winning streak, Wilson has found a favorite target in Courtland Sutton. As aforementioned, the team is leaning on the ground game and that limits the number of passes thrown. Against the Browns, Wilson only threw 22 passes but the player who got the most targets (6) was Sutton. He responded with three catches for a team-high 61 yards.

Sutton had a great game even though he didn’t score a touchdown. Scoring has become regular for Sutton, and he hasn’t gone without a touchdown since Week 5 in the loss to the New York Jets. There was an offensive pass interference penalty that took a reception away from Sutton or he would have had even more yards. He has established the best chemistry with Wilson, but Sutton does not have a 100-yard game this season.

You won’t hear Sutton complain about that. Instead, you just see him put in the work. Sutton is one of the hardest workers on the team, and that work shows on game day. When Wilson needs to make a play, he knows he can trust Sutton. He builds that chemistry with Sutton during the week, and then we get to see it when the team plays.
Payton is happy with the connection between Wilson and Sutton.

“I think, sometimes, the progressions take you there. Sometimes, depending on the play—obviously, he plays ‘X,’ so when you’re getting some man-coverage looks, that’s the receiver close to you. Shoot, he has another catch they call OPI on, which—I’ll say he has another catch. I don’t know how many yards that was. Listen, he’s a leader, he’s strong, he practices his tail off and I’m happy for him.” Payton said.

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