The Denver Broncos picked up their first win in just over a month on Thursday night, by going into Arizona and dominating the Cardinals from start to finish. Denver’s defense ran back two interceptions for touchdowns in the first quarter, which was a fast start that the Broncos did not look back from until the final whistle, which coincided with a 45-10 Broncos win.
The win came at the right time for a Broncos team that was riding a four-game losing streak and falling closer and closer to the bottom of the pack in the AFC playoff race. Not only did the Broncos need to win the game, they needed to win like they did. They were playing one of the worst teams in the league, and though the Broncos have been playing like they belong in the same class as the Cardinals lately, the talent on their roster suggests otherwise. If the Broncos are really a team that can bounce back from four straight losses and contend for a playoff spot, they needed to go into Arizona and embarrass the Cardinals on their home field. They did just that.
Arizona never had a shot to win this game, and Denver’s defense let them know that very early, by scoring a defensive touchdown via a Todd Davis pick-six on the second play of the game. A touchdown drive capped by a trick-play touchdown pass from Emmanuel Sanders to Courtland Sutton followed by another pick-six, this time by Chris Harris Jr., put the Broncos up 21-3 before the teams even switched sides for the second quarter.
Cardinals’ rookie quarterback Josh Rosen was under constant duress from a Broncos pass rush that finally seems to be playing to their style. Bradley Chubb and Von Miller each logged two sacks, both of which by Miller resulted in Josh Rosen fumbles recovered by the Broncos. Chubb, the fifth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, now has five sacks in the last two games. Miller, meanwhile, put himself in the league lead in sacks with 7.5. In all, the Broncos defense sacked Rosen six times and forced five turnovers, their most takeaways of the season.
Offensively, it was all about efficiency from quarterback Case Keenum – who completed 67% of his passes for only 161 yards – and putting the game into the hands of Denver’s two young running backs in Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. The duo combined for 127 yards and two scores on 27 carries. It was only the second time this season the two combined for 25 or more carries, and the Broncos are now 2-0 in those games.
Offensive coordinator and play-caller Bill Musgrave mixed around all different kinds of offensive concepts on Thursday night, from screen passes to deep play-action passes, one of which turned into a 64-yard touchdown to a wide open Emmanuel Sanders, who hauled in his third receiving touchdown of the year. Sanders has been maybe the most versatile piece of the Broncos offense this season, as he has now scored at least one rushing, receiving, and passing touchdown this season. He became the first Broncos player since John Elway to throw and catch a touchdown in the same game. Sanders led the Broncos in all three major receiving categories in the game with six catches for 102 yards and a touchdown.
“It feels good, you know I work my butt off, it just feels good to see all that hard work paying off,” Sanders said after the game about his heavy and creative involvement in the offense this year. “The pain that I dealt with, with my ankle, getting myself back to this point again. It’s very humbling.”
Looking forward, the Broncos won’t play again until Sunday, October 28th when they travel to Kansas City for a grudge-match with the AFC West-leading Chiefs, who came back to beat the Broncos in Denver in Week Four.
That game is essentially a must-win for the Broncos if they hope to contend for their first AFC West title since 2015. If Denver can play the way they did on Thursday night on both sides of the ball, and especially if they can take advantage of Kansas City’s lackluster run defense, they might just have a shot to pull themselves back into the division race.