GLENDALE, Ariz. — It was no secret during the Broncos’ short week of practice at UCHealth Training Center that there had to be a sense of urgency heading to Arizona. The Broncos needed to bring their best effort Thursday, and a short week and injuries couldn’t change that.
Consider that mission accomplished. The Broncos rolled up 35 points in the first half — the most Denver's posted in a first half since 2010 — en route to a 45-10 victory.
But just like players were desperate to put the four-game losing streak behind them, they’re eager to get back to work and prove this performance is the standard to which they intend to play for the rest of this season.
“The weekend will be a good time to regroup and reload,” Case Keenum said after the win. “It’s not timeout. It’s time to reload. We’re going to reload and hopefully carry this momentum moving forward.”
The Broncos were terrific in all aspects. The run defense, which has struggled in recent weeks, limited former All-Pro running back David Johnson to just 39 yards on 14 carries. The defense also picked off Josh Rosen three times and returned two of the interceptions for touchdowns. It’s the first time Denver has done taken two picks back for scores since Week 1 of 1989. The pass rush — which came to life last week with five sacks — added six more Thursday, two of which resulted in turnovers.
“To just keep on fighting and keep on hammering away, you never know what swing is going to make that breakthrough, and today was a big breakthrough for us,” nose tackle Domata Peko Sr. said after the game. “So big shout out to our coaches, our team, all the players sticking together throughout that rough patch of four losses. So when your back is against the wall, there is only one way to go, and that’s forward, and that’s what we did today. Big win for us.”
The Broncos’ offense took the field for the first time with a 7-0 lead and embarked on a six-play, 77-yard drive capped by Emmanuel Sanders’ touchdown toss to Courtland Sutton. And unlike past games, the Denver attack never slowed down, scoring on three of its six first-half drives to put the game out of reach. The defense’s early dominance put Keenum and the offense in positions to succeed.
“That made it really nice for us with great field position,” Keenum said. “Just being able to run our offense and being able to operate like we want to do. Defense played incredible tonight. Coming in like that at half time, you want to keep the pressure on. You want to keep it on your offense. We did some good things in the second half, but I think there’s a lot of things we can fix. I think we can play better, especially as an offense.”
It’s that sort of identity — an aggressive, playmaking defense coupled with a smart, opportunistic offense — that helped the Broncos get off to a 2-0 start. More importantly, it’s that sort of identity that can lead the Broncos forward. Succeeding by playing a certain brand of football can only make the belief in that brand stronger.
“Without results, without wins, it’s hard to change the culture and convince the players that it’s working,” Head Coach Vance Joseph said. “You have to win to change the culture and convince your guys it’s working. Winning in this league is hard to do. Now we’ve got three [wins], we’ve got four losses and kind of [have to] move on and say, ‘Hey, if we work this week, prepare this way, we can win football games.’ But you’re right, you have to win to get guys convinced it’s working.”
The Broncos have their first happy flight home in over 10 months. It was a well-earned win in all three phases, and that it came at a crucial juncture — on a short week following a tough loss — is all the more impressive.
During the Broncos’ losing streak, several players and coaches preached that it was still early in the season and that the team would improve over the course of the following weeks. After a win, that message doesn’t change.
“We knew what we needed to do,” left tackle Garett Bolles said. “In those four games that we lost, there were two games that we should have won. The ball didn’t bounce our way in those games, but tonight, we wanted the whole country to know who we are and what they’re up for every time they come play us.
"They all better be ready, because we’re coming.”