By Rich Kurtzman
There’s an age-old saying in the NFL; It’s not how you start, but how you finish.
The Denver Broncos are proving it true so far this season.
Denver’s gone through a ton of changes this year—a new quarterback, his complicated offense and a new cast of characters to work with, a different defense with a new coordinator, draftees and free agents trying to find their niche—and the result have been some bumps in the road.
Most recently, the newest Bronco—Trindon Holliday—fumbled away the Chargers’ first punt while rookie Omar Bolden fumbled a kickoff and handed San Diego 10 free points. On the ensuing drive, Eric Decker tripped himself up instead of scoring a touchdown and Peyton Manning tossed a pick-six to put the Broncos behind 17-0. But it’s a trend that’s run throughout the 2012 season.
Three early interceptions by Manning and a fumble by Knowshon buried the Broncos in Atlanta. Against Houston, huge pass plays burned Denver early, while Demaryius Thomas’ fumble on a 43-yard pass play stole the Broncos’ momentum against New England. In those games, they fought hard and came close, but were unable to come all the way back and win. They stand as the Broncos’ only three losses of the year, to teams with a combined record of 14-4. In those losing efforts, Denver came up short by an average of 7.3 points per game, showing they can hang with some of the best teams in the league.
Versus the Steelers and Chargers, Manning and Co. did come back to win, while they devastated the Raiders early and often in the biggest blowout of Oakland in 50 years.
The numbers are somewhat astounding.
The AFC West leading Broncos have been beaten 38-15 in the first quarter and bludgeoned 61-27 in the second. It amounts to being blown out 99-42 in the first half, or an average deficit of 9.5 points per game at halftime.
It’s truly the tale of two teams—of two halves—and Denver is domineering, out-scoring opponents 79-6 in the all-important fourth quarter. The stat is telling of a team that knows how to finish games, one that can mount a comeback against all odds, just as we saw Monday night. This is a team that won’t quit, no matter how slowly they start or how many turnovers they commit.
If the Broncos can find a way to come out with a sense of urgency and consistency to start games, they could find themselves on the positive end of more blowouts this season. It seems probable considering the team is growing as cohesive units, both offensively and defensively. Yes, Manning and have gotten most of the credit for the comebacks, but most of them couldn’t have happened without Denver’s D stepping up when it mattered most. The prime example was last week’s win against San Diego, and the team will need both squads playing well if they want to overcome those top-tier teams.
And if the Broncos are lucky, they’ll continue that late-game dominance with late-season wins.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.