POSTGAME GRADES

Javonte Williams, Broncos ground game have something good cooking

Nov 28, 2023, 11:08 PM | Updated: Nov 29, 2023, 4:15 am

Even against the top defense in football, Javonte Williams and the Broncos could find room to run and move the chains.

And while this hasn’t been the type of season that Williams expected in his return from an October 2022 knee injury — a per-carry average of 3.8 yards and a statistical success rate of 41.4 percent are career lows for the third-year veteran — he has been enough to allow the Broncos to persist with their ground-and-pound philosophy that has helped power their 5-game winning streak.

Javonte Williams hasn’t averaged more than 4.0 yards per attempt since Oct. 22 — although he would have reached that milestone if not for the Chiefs clamping down on him in the fourth quarter of Denver’s 24-9 throttling of Kansas City in Week 8. But he’s helping keep the Broncos offense on schedule, and that is more than enough.

OFFENSE

OVERALL GRADE: B

You have to acknowledge the level of competition, and in this case, having that sort of success against the Browns is praise-worthy indeed.

PASSING OFFENSE: B

This passing game as a complement to the ground attack is old-school in its foundation, but featured some lovely play design, never more evident than on the third-quarter 13-yard pass from Wilson to Lil’Jordan Humphrey that kick-started a field-goal drive.

The pass protection was excellent; given the competition from Cleveland’s front seven, it was the best of the season. Wilson missed a pair of makable swing passes, but didn’t make the big miscue, and his scrambling led to the touchdown pass to Adam Trautman that effectively put the game away. Wilson’s receiving targets are getting better at breaking off their routes and reacting on the scramble drill, and this should lead to more opportunities in the next six weeks.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus

Balance and persistence were keys to the game, although Wilson’s scrambles also helped things along, ultimately boosting the final run tally. Wilson had seven non-kneeldown carries for 38 yards, good for a 5.4-yard average, and his 19-yard scramble down the left side set up his 2-yard touchdown run. Javonte Williams had some bursts, although his effectiveness did tail off after halftime.

DEFENSE

OVERALL GRADE: B

The hiccups were few — although Cleveland briefly threatened to gash the Broncos on the ground before getting cute with its play-calling.

PASSING DEFENSE: B-plus

The pass rush cranked up late as Cleveland went into comeback mode; the Broncos hit backup quarterback P.J. Walker on five of his 18 dropbacks. Coverage was tight throughout the game. ESPN’s QBR metric gave Russell Wilson his highest QBR of his two Broncos seasons, although passer rating was less kind. QBR accounts for scrambling, which helped Wilson’s performance.

RUSHING DEFENSE: C-plus

It was a surprise that the Browns did not persist with the run game. Cleveland found plenty of lanes in the first half, and when the third quarter ended, the Browns had 102 yards on 20 carries, good for a solid 5.1-yard average. The Browns went away from the run once they fell behind by two scores, but they would have been best served to persist; it was their only real chance to get back in the game. The Broncos continue to concede more open space in the box than they would like.

SPECIAL TEAMS

OVERALL GRADE: B-plus

The thing that may keep Marvin Mims Jr. from a historic statistical double on punt- and kickoff-return average is a lack of opportunities. Expect teams to blast kickoffs into and out of the end zone and more directional punting as they look to avoid giving Mims a chance for the type of explosive returns he had earlier this season, particularly in Buffalo on Nov. 13.

Riley Dixon didn’t have great hang times — on three of his four punts, he came in below 4.0 seconds — but only one punt was returned, and his final punt was fair-caught at the Cleveland 5-yard line. With 42 yards net and gross on that punt, Dixon did his job well.

Wil Lutz was perfect, although his longest kick was from just 34 yards.

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Javonte Williams, Broncos ground game have something good cooking