By Rich Kurtzman
There was never a doubt.
Manning’s men from the Mile High City started strong—opposite from most weeks this season—and completely controlled the game throughout. They took the opening kickoff and marched 80 yards down the field when Peyton Manning connected with Demaryius Thomas for a 22-yard touchdown. The veteran quarterback hit Decker in the back of the end zone, and the defense held Cleveland to only 137 yards of total offense in the first half and the 14-3 lead. When the second half started, the offense picked up right where they left off, converting their third 60-plus yard drive for a touchdown when Decker caught his second score on a slant pattern. Back-to-back three-and-outs were forced by the defense before they allowed a late touchdown, Jacob Hester pushed a score through the middle and Matt Prater tacked on a field goal for the 34-12 win.
Offense overall: A-
The offense was awesome throughout the game besides one major mistake, Manning’s interception in the end zone just before half. The Broncos were already up 14-3 and looking to push their lead to an almost insurmountable 18 points, when Knowshon Moreno didn’t break off his route at the goal like and the Browns picked off Manning’s pass. Still, Denver’s gunslinger enjoyed his best passing game of the year, with a season-high 339 yards and three touchdowns with that one pick. Moreno wasn’t great, but his 78 yards were good enough while nearly everything worked passing-wise. Demaryius Thomas had a game-high 102 yards, tight end Jacob Tamme caught two passes for 69 yards and six Denver receivers caught a pass all game. Also, the offensive unit started 9-11 on third down conversions, only to finish 9-15, which is still a very strong 60 percent.
Defense Overall: B+
Denver’s defense started out soft, in mainly zone coverage, which allowed Brandon Weeden to push his team down field with ease. But once the Browns got into the red zone, the Broncos stepped up and forced a field goal. They set the tone from there, forcing two punts on Cleveland’s only other drives of the first half. After the break, they were phenomenal, putting pressure on the quarterback on nearly every play. The Orange Crush crushed Weeden—a sack on him by Von Miller forced him from the game—and they finished with six sacks overall, most of which came in the second half.
Special Teams Overall: C
The Special teams were anything but special Sunday, until very late in the game. Trindon Holliday couldn’t get much going in the return game, finishing with eight yards on three returns. He muffed a punt, which was luckily recovered by Chris Harris in the third quarter. Matt Prater went 4-4 on extra points, and made his one field goal attempt of 41 yards in the fourth. The standout play from the squad was when they forced a fumble on a punt, with Lance Ball jumping on it to give the offense the ball on Cleveland’s 19 yard line.
Jon Fox was fiery all day long, pumping up his team and talking to the referees when he disagreed with questionable calls. Fox was also intelligent to coach up rookie Brock Osweiler when he came into the game late to replace Manning. Jack Del Rio was on top of his game once again, adjusting and sending much more pressure after the Browns were successful early, and also directing his defense to bring an all-out blitz against Colt McCoy on his first play, which resulted in a sack.
In all, it was a completely dominant game by the Denver Broncos for their 10th straight win.
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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.