By Rich Kurtzman
When the Broncos saw the Saints on their schedule, they made sure not to take New Orleans lightly.
The Saints came into the game at 2-4, but Peyton Manning and his Denver teammates knew they could score early and often. It’s why the Broncos jumped all over New Orleans from the start and never let up, building a 17-7 lead and scoring 27 unanswered points to win 34-7.
Denver’s offense was awesome; only turning the ball over once, they out-gained the No. 1 passing offense in the NFL by double, 530-252 in total net yards. The Broncos’ defense was dominant in its pass coverage, forcing eight total punts by the No. 3 scoring team in the league.
All told, this was a wonderful win for the Broncos; another confidence booster and a way to carry the momentum of beating San Diego two weeks ago through the bye. Let’s take a look at the grades.
Offense Overall: A+
The Broncos went three-and-out on their first drive, but the second time they had the ball they were electric. Denver drove 98 yards on the legs of running back Willis McGahee and the arm of Peyton Manning. Manning hit Demaryius Thomas on a 41-yard pass down the seam of the field while McGahee ran for # yards on the drive, including the capping touchdown giving the Broncos the 7-0 lead. McGahee fumbled on the third drive, for the Broncos 10th fumble of the year, as one of the worst plays of the game for the offense. The next drive though, Manning hit Thomas again deep down the left side of the field, and threw it to Eric Decker in the end zone to take the 14-7 lead. They marched downfield and put a field goal on the board to lead 17-7 at half.
Denver stormed out of the locker room in the second half and went 93 yards for another touchdown, a sign that they were dominant all game long. The Broncos put up another 17 points total in the second half, hanging 34 on a New Orleans team that just couldn’t keep up. Thomas finished with 137 yards and one score while McGahee ran for 122 and a touchdown.
Defense Overall: A-
The Denver defense started out on fire, forcing a three-and-out of the Saints on their first drive. They forced a fumble of Drew Brees, but Elvis Dumervil was offsides, and then forced a punt on their second drive. But when New Orleans got the ball a third time, they scored when Darren Sproles caught a pass across the middle and ran to the end zone for 29 yards to tie the game up at seven. But they bounced back when Wesley Woodyard intercepted Brees, setting up the Broncos’ second score.
They were disciplined in their coverage as Champ Bailey blanketed Marques Colston all night and Jimmy Graham didn’t make much of an impact until the game’s final touchdown in garbage time.
In all, Denver’s D forced the Saints’ No. 1 passing offense to punt the ball eight times, turn it over once and allowed them to score only twice in a spectacular effort from the unit.
Special Teams Overall: C
Matt Prater hit his two 33-yard field goals and was great on kickoffs as per usual. Omar Bolden took a kick out of the end zone, which was a poor idea, getting tackled on the seven yard line. Trindon Holliday finally did something impressive, with a 25-yard punt return in the third quarter. Bolden made up for his kick return blunder by running down and saving a punt from going into the end zone, an amazingly athletic play that backed New Orleans up to their own two yard line.
Coaching Overall: A
John Fox was on top of his game Sunday night, leading his men to victory. He’s a cool character; part time cheerleader, part time therapist and full time football coach. He’s got the respect of his players and it shows. Fox challenged a play intelligently in the contest and won. The Saints were given an interception when a New Orleans cornerback appeared to intercept a pass, but Fox challenged the ruling and it was overturned. On offense, Mike McCoy and Manning must have seen through tape that the Saints’ right side was incredibly weak because the Broncos ran that way all game long, effectively. Defensively, the defense was disciplined and Jack Del Rio should be praised for their preparedness.
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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.