The Denver Broncos kicked off the 2021 regular season with a road game against the New York Giants. They won the game 27-13, and this was the first win in September for Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. Entering his third year as head coach, Fangio was 0-7 during the month of September but changed all that on Sunday.
After the game, Fangio was relieved to get this monkey off his back.
“I think it’s important. Obviously, the facts are the facts. We’ve had bad starts here the last two years record-wise and to get off to a good start at 1-0 playing a good team on the road in a pretty good environment in favor of the home team, I think it speaks volumes about the team we have and what we possibly can do moving forward. But it definitely was big. That would have been the story all week. Now, you guys got to throw away those stories and write a new one,” Fangio said.
Here are the top-three observations from the Broncos-Giants game.
The Von-ster Returns
We had not seen Broncos linebacker Von Miller on the field for a regular season game since 2019, but he made it back into the lineup against the Giants. It didn’t take long for Miller to make his presence felt. On the Giants second drive on offense, Miller chased quarterback Daniel Jones around the edge and secured his first sack of the day.
As the game went on, Miller continued to generate pressure on Jones. Miller was consistently in the backfield and caused incompletions by putting Jones under duress. He finished with 2.0 sacks against the Giants, and Miller was credited with three tackles and three tackles for a loss.
Miller was succinct with his postgame feelings.
“It felt great, not just the game, but the whole process leading up to the game – riding on the plane with the guys, preparing this week with the guys and the bus ride over. Just being in the locker room and being involved, being back a part of the team is super dope. It’s good to get sacks, but it’s good to get wins as well and I got both today, so it’s a good day,” Miller said.
Still a Problem
The Broncos have had a problem at inside linebacker for some time now. Instead of making changes and looking for upgrades, the team once again decided to roll forward with Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson as their starters at the position. Against the Giants – on back-to-back plays – this flaw was exposed once again.
In the second quarter on a 3rd-and-5, the Giants saw Jewell on wide receiver Sterling Shepard in coverage. Jones was able to find him quickly on an in-breaking route which moved the chains. Jewell made the tackle, pulling on Shepard’s jersey to get him down, but it was an easy throw and a play that kept the drive alive.
On the next play, Johnson failed to get proper depth when dropping back into coverage and Shepard was able to get open behind him and turn the ball upfield for a 37-yard touchdown. Rookie cornerback Pat Surtain was in trail coverage and was not able to get to Shepard either, but he should have been helped by Johnson getting proper depth. Because that didn’t happen, Jones was able to find the mismatch and spacing he needed for the score.
Inside linebacker is still a problem for Denver. Jewell and Johnson are great against the run – but this is a pass-happy league where teams are looking for the mismatch. When Jewell and Johnson are on the field, they are the players opponents will target with receivers and tight ends. Perhaps playing more Justin Strnad will finally help solve this problem for the Broncos.
Melvin Gordon began the game as the starter for the Broncos, but he did end up splitting time with rookie Javonte Williams. The Broncos did a masterful job of using both backs. Gordon used his speed in space and worked well as a receiver out of the backfield. Williams used his power to soften up the Giants tough defensive front.
As a team, the Broncos ran for 165 yards with Gordon and Williams accounting for most of that production. Williams looked good in his first pro game. He ran with good burst, and he certainly was tough to bring down as he ran a team-high 14 times for 45 yards with a long carry of just 12 yards.
Gordon had fewer carries than Williams, but he had many more yards.
With time running down near the end of the fourth quarter, Gordon put the exclamation point on the game. After Williams punished the Giants defense some more, Gordon took a handoff and raced 70 yards for a touchdown. Gordon finished the day with 11 carries for 101 yards and one rushing touchdown.
In college at Wisconsin, Gordon was known as a speed back and it was his big-play ability that helped him become a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft. That speed was mostly gone during his time with the San Diego and Los Angeles Chargers. Even last year with the Broncos, Gordon was more of a slasher who tried to win with power between the tackles.
This year, Gordon looks to be back to his old self – and that is as a speed back. The explosive plays from Gordon could be more frequent than they were in 2020. We got a taste of how he can produce on limited touches in the Giants game.
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