DENVER — As the Broncos earned their fifth consecutive win, there were plenty of reasons to be pleased.
Denver forced three turnovers, ran for a season-high 169 yards and responded well to adversity in the second half.
"There were a lot of things we did today that I was pleased with," Head Coach Sean Payton said, "and we felt like we beat a good football team."
The Broncos found particular success in the red zone, as Denver's offense scored three touchdowns inside the 20-yard line and the defense limited Cleveland's ability to score points.
Denver marched into the red zone on two of its first three drives and scored touchdowns on both red-zone opportunities. Later in the game, the Broncos added another touchdown on their fourth red-zone trip. Denver added field goals on its other two opportunities, which resulted in 27 points in five red-zone trips.
Prior to Sunday's game, the Browns allowed opponents to reach the red-zone about twice per game. In Denver's win, the Broncos raced past that mark and used efficient play — and one impressive catch — to find success.
Defensively, Denver held the Browns to field goals on its two first-half red-zone opportunities. Though the Browns scored a touchdown in the second half, they had just one possession inside Denver's 20-yard line.
The discrepancy in red-zone trips — and the efficiency with which the two teams were able to score — had a major impact on the game. As the Broncos scored touchdowns and the Browns settled for field goals, Denver built a lead that put pressure on a predominantly run-first attack.
"When you get a team that rushes the ball so well, it's much harder to play them from behind than with a lead, and that kind of forces them to flip the script a little bit," Payton said. "Now that's easier said than done, but we were lucky to do that, and that was something we wanted to do."
The Broncos' offense was just 1-of-5 in the red zone against Minnesota and ranked 22nd in the league entering Sunday. Against a stout Cleveland defense, the Broncos found far more success.
A SIGNIFICANT PLAY
Even after D.J. Jones' critical third-quarter fumble recovery, the Broncos needed a spectacular play from Wilson and tight end Adam Trautman to push their lead to two possessions early in the fourth quarter.
Wilson caught the shotgun snap, hung in the pocket and drifted to his left before reversing course and sprinting out to his right. He drilled the pass into the front right corner of the end zone, where Trautman made a sliding catch.
The officials initially ruled the pass incomplete, and Trautman was also unaware he caught the ball.
"I had no idea," Trautman said. "Honestly, I thought my knee was out. I mean, I can't really see — I'm focusing on the ball — but then I saw Coach Payton put his hands up for a touchdown. I guess I missed the first replay on the [video] board, but I saw the second one and I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm in!' So yeah, it was awesome."
Payton quickly threw the challenge flag, as he got a good initial look and also saw the replay on the videoboard.
"There was not a lot of gray area there and a lot to gain with it," Payton said.
The Broncos won the challenge and took a 12-point lead, which forced the Browns to play catch-up on their next drive.
"That was a good play by both 'Traut' and Russ," Payton said. "That was significant at that point in the game, yeah."
A UNIQUE FINISH
The Broncos' 29-12 win over the Browns was more than an important result in the AFC playoff race.
It was also Scorigami.
Scorigami, as tracked on X (formerly known as Twitter), occurs when a game finishes with a unique final score. Denver's win was the 1081st unique score in NFL history, and it marked the second time this season Denver has been involved in a game that ended in Scorigami.
This game, though, ended far better for the Broncos than their Week 3 loss against the Dolphins.
"I like the second Scorigami," Payton said with a laugh.