The Minnesota Vikings came to town threatening to ruin the Denver Bronco’s undefeated season last Sunday. They failed. The Broncos beat the Vikes 23-20 in yet another nail biter.
It’s been a game of musical chairs this season for the O line. With left tackle Ty Sambrailo out with a shoulder injury, the Broncos cranked up “Ring Around the Rosy” again. This time when the music stopped right tackle Ryan Harris shifted over to left tackle and Michael Schofield found a seat at Harris’ spot at the right side.
Schofield made the 53-man roster as the swing backup tackle, but became a third-round pick of the Broncos last year mostly based on his work at right tackle at Michigan. He worked at left tackle throughout the summer so he could get a background there, but with Harris having some experience at left tackle, the shift at two positions was deemed to be the best option.
The cobbled O line found themselves in the untenable position of having to wing it against a tough Vikings defense. All things considered they did a decent job, although they did allow 2 sacks of Manning.
The run game continues to struggle, but strangely showed a few spurts of what could be, given some time to gel. For the most part, the weakness lies in missed assignments and poor timing. Practice, practice, practice. The highlight for the run game came on a pitchout to Ronnie Hillman, who showed some speed around the left end and ran 72 yards for a touchdown. Ironically, that was the longest run for a touchdown of any team so far this season.
Manning was 17 of 27 and finished the game with 213 yards passing, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. While we are not seeing the Manning of old, he is still as cool as a cucumber and manages the offense with calm repose.
We are lucky to have two of the best receivers in the business in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Both Thomas and Sander made clutch catches to keep the offense rolling. Thomas had 9 catches for 93 yards and Sanders caught 3 for 68 yards. Manning’s only TD pass was a perfectly executed play action pass to a wide open Owen Daniels from the Vikings 8 yard line. It looked like a run play all the way and the Vikings bit on the fake, leaving Daniels all by himself in the end zone.
Those hungry dogs on defense can’t get enough quarterback meat. They sacked Viking’s quarterback Teddy Bridgewater seven times. Von Miller and Demarcus Ware continue to be a quarterback’s worst nightmare. With talented back up defensive ends rookie Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett, who could both start for any team in the NFL, to spell Miller and Ware, this could be a record breaking defense.
For the fourth straight game, the Bronco defense pulled Peyton Manning’s fat out of the fire.
The Vikes were relentless, but the Denver D would not roll over. Despite allowing the Vikings to come back twice from being 10 points down, the D managed to hold star running back Adrian Peterson to 81 yards on 16 carries, with 48 of those yards coming on a single carry that resulted in a Viking touchdown.
Late in the fourth quarter, with the Vikings driving for position to kick a field goal to tie the game at 23 and send it into overtime, the Denver D sacked Viking’s quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the seventh time, forced a fumble and recovered the loose ball to clinch the victory.
Last week John Elway wrote on Facebook, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but these victories are taking it out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’ll take them.”
So will we John. So will we.
Next week the Broncos travel to Oakland to take on the 2-2 Raiders, in an AFC West Conference game. The Raiders lost a close one to the Chicago Bears by a score of 22-20 last Sunday.