Freud on the NFL: Broncos’ defense overwhelms the Raiders to stay within one game of Chiefs
1. Chiefs (4-0) … Kareem Hunt is an MVP candidate.
2. Steelers (3-1) … Quietly rising.
3. Lions (3-1) … A botched call from 4-0.
4. Packers (3-1) … In Aaron Rodgers they trust.
5. Broncos (3-1) … Good start to the season.
1. San Francisco (0-4 and 64-98) … Both teams stink.
2. Giants, the New York ones (0-4) … The boo-birds are out early.
3. Browns (0-4) … Crushed by the Bengals.
4. Dolphins (1-2) … Shutout by the Saints?
5. L.A. Chargers fans (0-4) … Do they exist?
Do I like the Broncos?
I’m ambivalent. I believe that you root for one team, and one team only, and, for me, that team is the mighty San Francisco 49ers. (OK, once mighty. OK, they stink on ice.)
There’s no such thing as having one team in each conference. There is no such thing as having favorite teams in different divisions or liking players, and, thus, liking their teams. (I did get close to liking the Chiefs in 1993-94 when his holiness, Joe Montana, wore No. 19 and had a red helmet, which was bizarre. When the Niners and Chiefs played during Week 2 of 1994, though, I was totally San Francisco.)
While I don’t like the Broncos as a fan, what I appreciate the last few years about Denver is its defense. The way the game is structured today, defense is dying art. You can’t go low on a quarterback. (Thanks, Tom Brady.) You can’t go high on a quarterback for the obvious reason. That gives defenses about 3 feet of a target. We’re in the stage that it’s almost impossible to hit a quarterback, and, if you can’t, then how do you play defense?
Pass-interference and defensive-holding rules cater to offense. Offensive holding isn’t called as much as it should be.
The NFL wants high-scoring games because they think that football fans are too stupid to appreciate a defensive duel.
So last week’s Broncos’ 16-10 win over the Raiders warmed the cockles of my heart. That and the fact, as a Niners fan, that I enjoy watching the Raiders lose.
• The great irony of the last three years is that a fan base obsessed with quarterbacks (John Elway, Tim Tebow — briefly — and Peyton effing Manning, as the T-shirts said), enjoyed its third Super Bowl title, thanks to defense. Manning was done like dinner when the Broncos won Super Bowl 50.
The Broncos defense was a terror against the Panthers in that Super Bowl, and, it’s back to terror status after experiencing brief problems against the run last season.
Week 4’s Broncos-Raiders game was a defensive dismantling of the first order. Oakland had a whopping 254 yards of offense. The Raiders essentially had one successful offensive play — Derek Carr to Johnny Holton for 64 yards and their only score of the game.
The Raiders ran for all of 24 yards. Remember, in last year’s first game between the two teams, Oakland brought out the six-man offensive-line front and rammed the ball down Denver’s throat. That left the rest of the NFL a blueprint of how to beat the Broncos’ defense for the rest of the year.
Ever before Carr suffered a back injury — that may change Oakland’s season — he was running for his life.
Game ball goes to the defense.
• In fairness to the offense, the Raiders’ defense brought it as well. My major concern was that the Broncos didn’t put this one away. This gets us back to sevens, not threes. The Broncos got down to the Raiders’ 11 during the first quarter and had to settle for a field goal and a 10-0 lead.
One has to stomp a team when it’s down. If you’ve watched the last two “Monday Night Football” games, then you know the Cardinals were up 10-0 on the Cowboys and the Redskins 10-0 on the Chiefs. Both Arizona and Washington had chances to go up 14-0 and didn’t and lost. If the Broncos want to put themselves into the elite category of the NFL, the offense has to be better in the red zone.
And Brandon McManus needs to stop missing chippies, particularly in the thin air of Denver.
• C.J. Anderson had 20 carries for 95 yards. How much did the Broncos miss him last year? A lot. The Broncos are fourth in the league in rushing attempts and 3-0 when they have 30 carries or more per game. The return of Devontae Booker adds more good depth at the position.
• A ground game also takes pressure off Trevor Siemian. Again, he doesn’t have to be superb like he was against the Cowboys during Week 2. He just has to avoid being a hindrance like he was during the Week 3 loss at Buffalo. Siemian had a nice bounce back after Buffalo against the Raiders. The kid did what he needed to do against Oakland.
• Denver has a bye this weekend and then hosts the New York Football Giants on Sunday, Oct. 15. NBC must be thrilled by this matchup.
• In a week when we saw some serious turbulence — ahem, Patriots — the Chiefs continue to be scary. New England hits the worry list with its loss at home to the Panthers.
• The Bills, Eagles, Rams, Panthers and Lions are probably the surprise 3-1 teams. Who’s real and who’s not? We say Lions, Panthers and Rams in that order.
• Non-surprising 3-1 teams not named the Broncos include the Falcons, Steelers and Packers. Watch the Steelers. Le’Veon Bell is cranking.
• I don’t like the new 10-minute overtime rule. The 49ers held the ball for the first 7:32 of OT, kicking a field goal. That left Arizona with all of 2:28 to reply. Of course, the Cardinals did score a touchdown — they were playing the Niners, naturally. But would that be a fair scenario in a meaningful game?
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.