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(Graphic by K.J. Rigli/Bonneville Denver)
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Mile High Monday: Wolfe shines, pistol debut and Scangarello’s best day

(Graphic by K.J. Rigli/Bonneville Denver)

The Broncos beat the Browns at home on Sunday by a score of 24-19. With a new quarterback, who had never taken and NFL snap in the regular season, the Broncos offense looked better and showed an element of danger they had sorely been missing most of this season.

The Broncos now have a 3-6 record and a bye coming up in Week 10. They may not be going to the playoffs, but it will be interesting to see what kind of flashes they can show for the future.

I like when this team wins a game at home. It’s more fun to be around the team, and the fan base is certainly in a better mood when things are looking up.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ – even if it’s a little cold! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

***

Bark at the Moon

Derek Wolfe is playing some good football during the last few games. In fact, Wolfe has compiled five sacks in the last four games of the season.

“I’m healthy. I think Vic’s defense and defensive calls are top notch. He’s making good calls in the right situations and putting me in the right situations, as well. Today, I just came free; they didn’t block me. That’s the easiest way to get (to the quarterback). The hard part is bringing them down. I missed a lot like that last year, but being able to bring them to the ground this year definitely feels good,” Wolfe said.

In 2019, Wolfe has battled through some nagging injuries but he’s playing at a level most didn’t expect at this point in his career. When Fangio was hired as the team’s head coach, Wolfe seemed to be one of the happiest Broncos players at Fangio’s introductory press conference. Perhaps it was because he knew how well he would fit into the new defense.

Set to be a free agent in 2020, Wolfe is certainly making himself quite a bit of money this year with his performance. We’ll see if his strong play is pushing his price out of range for the Broncos.

***

Pistol Grip

The Broncos did a good job of changing up formations to get the most out of new starting quarterback Brandon Allen. We saw the offense use the pistol formation quite a bit to help Allen in his first start.

The pistol formation is a variation of the shotgun formation. But instead of standing seven yards back (like the shotgun), a quarterback is standing at four yards deep instead.

A running back is lined up behind the quarterback, unlike the shotgun when a back is standing next to the quarterback. This doesn’t tip off which way the run play is going to go like it does in the shotgun. Running the ball out of the pistol can go either direction and there is no “tell” to which way the play is going. In the shotgun, the running back almost always runs to the opposite side of where he is lining up and defenders are able to easily guess where the play is going.

After the game, Fangio was asked how much more difficult the pistol is to defend when compared to a traditional under-center formation.

“It’s not that difficult (to defend) really. It’s just instead of being in the gun offset where sometimes your run game can be a little bit limited, now if you want to be not under center, being in the pistol the back can go either way, but it’s nothing major,” Fangio said.

The Broncos didn’t run the ball that much against the Browns. Entering this game, the Browns were No. 29 against the run and gave up an average around 143 rushing yards per game. As a team, the Broncos only ran the ball 20 times, but they finished with 127 yards. That’s a healthy 6.4 yards per carry and many of the big plays were out of the pistol formation. The Broncos even ran a play out of the wildcat formation, with Phillip Lindsay taking a direct snap, that sealed the game.

Kudos to the Broncos for changing things up in Week 9. Their changes clearly paid off.

***

Rhythm is Gonna Get Ya

I have regularly been critical of Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello this season. I believe in this offense, and I know the West Coast system can move the ball and put up points – just see what similar systems are doing with the Vikings, Rams and 49ers.

While I believe in the system, I have my doubts about whether or not Scangarello is the right guy for the job. The main reason is the fact that he never really got the the offense into a rhythm during the first eight games of the season. There have been flashes, mostly during the scripted plays early in the game, but Scangarello never seemed to be setting up plays to use later on as each contest went on.

I did give a caveat when criticizing Scangarello, and that was the lack of bootlegs and rollouts with Joe Flacco at quarterback. I was hoping to see bootlegs and rollouts implemented this week against the Browns due to the athleticism of the Broncos new starting quarterback, Brandon Allen. While Flacco was more of a straight drop-back passer, Allen has the ability to move the pocket and rollout to find receivers down field.

After the Broncos win, I asked Allen what he thought of Scangarello’s game plan.

“It was a great game plan by Rich. I thought he did a lot of things that tailored to my strengths, called a lot of pass concepts that let me get through quickly and then if nothing’s there, the ability to use my legs and run,” Allen said.

This game plan had the Broncos in a rhythm, and it seemed like plays were actually being set up by previous plays or previous formations. I was happy to see Scangarello mold his play-calling to fit more of what Allen does best. Allen was also asked after the game just how much he had to do with putting together the game plan during the week of practice.

“Rich had me very involved with the game plan. He put together the plan himself and then he said, ‘Hey, if there’s anything you’re not comfortable with, anything you run in practice and you can’t see the way it looks, just let me know and I’m not gonna call it.’ I thought he did a great job of, like I said, tailoring it to my strengths, and he was calling plays that I was very comfortable running and I could see well on the field,” Allen said.

This is the first time I felt Scangarello called a complete game. Let’s see if he can build on this positive momentum as the rest of the regular season rolls on.

***

Country Boy Can Survive

I was out of time to find a Halloween costume last week. I work a lot and don’t have a ton of time during football season to go shopping – especially for a costume I would likely wear once and then throw away. Because of my time crunch, I wasn’t going to dress up for Halloween and then I had an idea.

I would just go as a cowboy.

I had a public appearance at Twin Peaks on Thursday night, and I hosted a podcast afterwards where my co-hosts from Footballguys.com were going to be in costume. I didn’t want to be the odd man out with no costume, so I dusted off my straw hat, Wrangler jeans and cowboys boots (with roping spurs!).

I grew up in the country and did not own a pair of shoes until I played football in seventh grade. That means I was around 12 years old and couldn’t tie my shoes (embarrassing, trust me!) because I never had to. I grew up roping calves and steers on the ranch, and I also tried my hand riding bucking horses, steers and bulls.

I am a cowboy at heart, but since I’ve been in the city for 20 years, I rarely get to wear my Western gear. Halloween gave me the opportunity to show a side of me that most don’t know me for – especially because I’m a big fan of heavy metal music.

My teenage daughters actually joked with me for choosing a lazy costume, because it’s not really a costume at all – my cowboy gear is just something I wear if I ever go back home to the ranch.

What did you dress up as for Halloween? Shoot me a message or picture on social media!