Vic Fangio deserves a ton of credit for the Broncos new attitude
The Denver Broncos started their 2021 regular season by continuing the momentum they started in preseason. The Broncos dominated the Giants for four quarters in what was one of their most complete victories in the last four seasons.
Teddy Bridgewater was outstanding and was the star of the game. Bridgewater’s play gives Broncos fans tangible hope for the organization’s first trip to the postseason since winning Super Bowl 50.
While Bridgewater was the star, there was somebody that was even more impressive against the Giants – head coach Vic Fangio. Fangio’s time in Denver has been plagued by slow starts to the season. Prior to last Sunday, Fangio was winless in September.
The win against the Giants snapped the September losing streak for Fangio and the Broncos, but that wasn’t the big takeaway from last Sunday. The big takeaway was the manner in which the Fangio-led Broncos bullied their opponent for the entire game.
Fangio, for good reason, has faced criticism for the Broncos performance under his watch. His first two seasons were full of late-game collapses, lack of discipline, clock management, game management and attention to all aspects of the roster.
The Broncos training camp was described as flat and uninspired. But once the preseason games started, the Broncos flipped a switch. The Broncos game against the Giants was evidence the preseason performance was more than just preseason.
The Broncos that played the Giants were disciplined, prepared and mentally tough. Against the Giants, the Broncos were the antithesis of the teams from Fangio’s first two seasons.
Credit goes the head coach. The players on the Broncos roster believed they would win. One reason is because Vic Fangio coached the game with faith in his players.
The Broncos dominated the first half, yet found themselves trailing the Giants 7-3 seconds before halftime. With less than a minute left and facing a fourth down around midfield, Fangio opted to go for it.
The Broncos converted the fourth down. This conversion led to a touchdown and a Broncos halftime lead. Fangio’s confidence in his players paid off. The Broncos, inept in past seasons, were energized by their coaches’ gamble.
What was most intriguing about Fangio’s roll of the dice was that he was completely aware of the moment. Fangio’s game management has been under scrutiny since the beginning of his tenure in Denver. At times, Fangio has seemed lost and unable to focus on the game.
That has changed.
After the win, Fangio referenced that he wanted to run the fourth down play at about 50 second remaining in the half and he called time out at about 48 seconds. Fangio’s growth as a coach is evident in this situation. He knew the time and scenario and most importantly knew how he wanted to proceed. Fangio was decisive.
Fangio was well aware of the time on the clock, when he wanted the timeout and the game situation. By dialing himself into all facets of the game, Fangio was able to make a decision that benefitted his team.
Fangio would once again decide to go for it on fourth down in the third quarter. This time, the result was a touchdown by Albert Okwuegbunam.
Last season, at Kansas City, the Broncos had been having success moving the ball against the Chiefs. In the fourth quarter, the Broncos were looking to take the lead with a touchdown. K.J. Hamler dropped a third down pass making it fourth down. Fangio opted to punt. The Chiefs were able to consume most of the clock which gave the Broncos a very limited chance to win. Almost immediately, Fangio’s decision making was questioned. He was too conservative and didn’t seem to trust his players at the moment.
Whether it be the presence of Teddy Bridgewater or a more concerted effort to focus on the entire game, Fangio has confidence in his team.
In Fangio’s first two years in Denver, his team lacked identity and Fangio’s attention seem to center on the defense. This season, Fangio’s team is playing as one, they are playing aggressive and they are making big plays. It appears Fangio has been better prioritizing the entire team versus just what he knows best.
The Giants game had multiple examples of mental toughness. After giving up a touchdown in the second quarter, the Broncos defense kept the Giants from scoring until a meaningless score on the last play of the game.
In the third quarter, the Giants were starting to build momentum and were driving towards scoring position. Josey Jewell forced a fumble and the Broncos recovered. As the Giants were driving and gaining yards, the defense stayed calm. They continued to stay disciplined and made a play. Timely momentum swinging turnovers have been absent during the last two seasons in Denver. This one was a game changer and kept the Giants from getting back in the game.
After Albert Okwuegbunam fumbled in the first quarter inside the five-yard line, Okwuegbunam atoned for his early mistake and scored on fourth down to cap off an eight minute Broncos drive. Okwuegbunam’s confidence didn’t crumble.
This Broncos team is resilient.
Fangio’s 2021 Broncos played the preseason with a sense of urgency. They dominated their opponents. They played like every play mattered.
This attitude carried over to Week 1 against the Giants. The Broncos were relentless. Making big plays on offense and defense. The Broncos didn’t falter when the Giants made plays, they simply bounced back. There was no excuse making or pouting. The Broncos team plays like they believe they can beat anyone. Will they win the Super Bowl? More than likely, they won’t. But Vic Fangio has his team playing like a team that nobody wants to play.
Yes, the victory over the Giants was “one game” and we “need to see more,” but last Sunday wasn’t a fluke. In 2020, even when the Broncos managed to win, they still looked like a bad team. Last Sunday, the Broncos were dominant.
That credit goes to their head coach who focused on improving his team’s play and instilling the belief in his players. With this approach the Broncos will be able to compete and once again give fans a reason to tune in.