For the fourth straight year, the Denver Broncos will be watching the playoffs from home. But at least their 7-9 season ended on a high note, with Drew Lock leading the team to four wins in the last five games to provide a glimmer of hope heading into 2020.
Even more good news for the Orange and Blue: This weekend’s slate of wild-card games further proved Vic Fangio and company are building with a winning formula.
If there was any question whether the old football adage, “Defense wins championships,” still applies, the results Saturday and Sunday certainly suggest it does. The Tennessee Titans needed only 20 points to beat the New England Patriots, the Seattle Seahawks knocked off the Philadelphia Eagles with just 17 and the Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings scored 22 and 26, respectively, in overtime victories.
In all four games, the focus was on making timely stops more than it was on scoring in bunches. That’s good news for the Broncos, who finished the year bottom five in the league with just 17.6 points per game.
Obviously, you have to score to win. But when the big games roll around, a defense-first mentality has proven to be successful.
Broncos Country spent all year criticizing offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and the Denver offense. Just six weeks ago, plenty of people questioned whether a change needed to be made this offseason, if not flat out calling for a new coordinator. Others asked if it was time to move on from the “Shanahan offense” that’s become so familiar around here.
Based on the teams heading into this weekend’s divisional round, it’s good none of that happened. Scangarello and his scheme are exactly what works in today’s NFL.
Three of the eight remaining contenders have ties to Mike Shanahan’s concepts, to varying degrees. Gary Kubiak in Minnesota, Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco and Matt LeFleur in Green Bay all run a similar style offense to the one we’ll see at Mile High next season. If Scangarello can put the pieces together and match their success, it could lead to positive results.
Believe it or not, the foundation for success is in place on both sides of the ball here in Denver. The Broncos have their quarterback, have talented young pieces — like Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay and Bradley Chubb — to build around and the front office has both the draft picks and cap flexibility to bring in even more talent in 2020.
So, while you watch the NFL playoffs on your living room couch, just know the Broncos should be playing football in January next season.