We’ve all heard the old cliche – “Defense wins championships.” If that’s all that mattered, based on what we saw in the Broncos game on Monday, we should plan on buying plane tickets to Miami in February.
Bradley Chubb dominated six-time Pro Bowler Joe Staley at the line of scrimmage, singlehandedly causing a Jimmy Garappolo interception and a strip sack fumble that was recovered by the 49ers. Shelby Harris caused havoc in the interior and made a couple really nice plays in the backfield. De’Vante Bausby and Isaac Yiadom flashed in the secondary. Notice I didn’t even mention Von Miller or Chris Harris Jr., who will surely be two of the most-impactful pieces on that side of the ball.
Unfortunately, there’s more to winning than defense alone. Against San Francisco, Denver’s first-team offense had three possessions, two of which came on a short field, and only managed a field goal. Last week, the starters moved the ball down the field on their only drive, but stalled in the red zone and were held to just three points.
Theo Riddick, Andy Janovich and Noah Fant – all guys who should play a key role in the offense are dealing with injuries. The run game just hasn’t gotten going in the preseason, thanks in part to a struggling offensive line. Basically, it’s more of the same thing Broncos fans have seen over the past few years.
The model for success is surely based on the 2015 season, when the Broncos won a Super Bowl on the backs of Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and “The No Fly Zone.” That offense was below average that year, but at least proved they could score in key moments. To this point, that’s not what we’ve seen from Joe Flacco and Company.
I’ll admit, the sample size is small. There’s an argument to be made that maybe new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello isn’t showing all his cards. But I’m not sold on that.
I’m a firm believer that you don’t just flip a switch and all of a sudden make a bad offense look good. What you see in preseason (from the starters at least) is typically what you’re going to get. If anything, it might be better than the regular season product. The opposing defense doesn’t trick up their game plan and often the first 11 guys on the field aren’t even all starters. For reference, San Francisco sat their best two edge rushers and their top interior lineman this week. Plus, all those false starts and holds we’ve seen so far don’t just magically stop once you hit Week 1.
So the big question is, can this Broncos defense do enough to balance out the inevitable struggles of the offense? For a game or two, maybe. Not enough to make this team a real contender across a 17-week season. Even the best defenses wear down. If the offense can’t stay on the field and put the ball in the end zone when they have the chance, you’re not going to find success.
Saturday will be an important test for Scangarello and the Broncos, as they take on the Rams in their “dress rehearsal” game. Hopefully, they’ll prove me wrong and put the ball in the end zone for the first time in four weeks.
That’ll make us all feel better, right? I’m sure the defense, who will surely be up to their task, would appreciate it.
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