DENVER — Vic Fangio doesn't expect the Pro Football Hall of Fame to start sculpting Brandon Allen's bronze bust quite yet, but he liked what he saw from the first-time starter in the Broncos' 25-19 win over the Browns.
“He did well,” Head Coach Vic Fangio said Sunday. “I thought he ran the offense well, showed a little mobility, made some good throws, missed a few too. We’re not ready to put him in Canton yet, but overall [we’re] pleased with the way he played.”
Allen, in his first regular-season snaps of his career, finished 12-for-20 for 193 yards, two touchdowns and a 125.6 quarterback rating.
After an opening three-and-out, Allen and the Broncos scored touchdowns on two of their next three drives.
“I don’t know if it was an emotional thing, but I think I was just a little amped to start the game,” Allen said. “I missed a few easy throws that I know I can hit. I think just being able to calm down, and once I got going a little bit in the game, just to settle the emotions, if anything, was beneficial for me.”
Once Allen found his rhythm — and he did on the ensuing 63-yard touchdown drive on which he went 5-for-6 through the air and also ran for a first down — the offense started to click.
Allen made big plays Denver had lacked, via a 75-yard pass to Noah Fant and a 22-yard end-zone shot to Courtland Sutton.
“They helped me out,” Allen said. “I made some dicey throws that Courtland bailed me out a couple times on. Noah, what an incredible play by him just to catch that ball and take it the distance. It was incredible. You can’t do any of those things without the offensive line and the way they were blocking.”
Both plays came in the first half as Denver tied its highest first-half scoring total of the season.
Allen also avoided turnovers. He had a few passes batted down and was sacked three times, but he never made a back-breaking mistake.
The first-time starter’s success likely stems in part from the time he spent with Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello this week to tailor a game plan that fit his skill set.
“Rich had me very involved with the game plan,” Allen said. “He put together the plan himself and then he said, ‘Hey, if there’s anything you’re not comfortable with, anything you run in practice and you can’t see the way it looks, just let me know and I’m not gonna call it.’ I thought he did a great job of, like I said, tailoring it to my strengths, and he was calling plays that I was very comfortable running and I could see well on the field.”
The Broncos’ offensive plan included a steady dose of running plays, a number of play-action passes, a smattering of bootlegs that got Allen in space and a few plays that relied on misdirection.
That plan, along with Allen’s execution of it, helped deliver the Broncos a win. It just took, as Von Miller said earlier in the week, a small touch of magic.
“I mean, I feel like when Lil Wayne found Drake,” Miller said after the game. “I called it at the beginning of the week. I said, ‘He’s going to give us the magic. He’s going to be ready to go.’ He was cold in college, and I just knew if he got an opportunity, he’d be good. There’s a lot of talented guys in the National Football League and it was great to have him step up for us and give us a boost. He was incredible today.”
Fangio rewarded Allen’s efforts by presenting him with a game ball during the postgame locker room speech. Allen responded by deflecting the credit.
“It was special,” Allen said, “but I couldn’t have done anything without the guys on the team. I felt our defense was really what held us in the game. I think [the Browns were] 1-of-5 in the red zone, so holding them to all those field goals gives the offense confidence that, ‘OK, we’ll get a touchdown here and they’re going to keep holding them.’ I think they played incredible, and like I said, guys like Courtland, the offensive line, Phil [Lindsay] running the ball the way he did and icing the game at the end, the game ball should’ve gone to the entire team.”
Allen, though, seemingly deserved the recognition that came with a first-career start and first career win. After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Allen has bounced from team to team.
It took four years for him to realize his vision of starting an NFL game, and while he said he imagined himself completing a few more passes, it was quite the step for a player who waited and waited for an opportunity.
“It’s tough, and there are a lot of guys that will tell you this league is tough,” Allen said. “You get cut, traded, waived or whatever. It’s all about perseverance, and like I said, getting that opportunity to see what you can do. A lot of guys don’t even get that opportunity, so I feel blessed to receive this opportunity.”
Allen, who recorded the third-highest passer rating in Broncos history for a player making his first start and helped Denver tie its highest point total of the season, made the most of that opportunity.
And while there will be no bronze bust after one game, a game ball and a win seem like a pretty good start.