7 takeaways from Broncos’ 30-16 win over Cowboys

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The Denver Broncos got a big win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, upsetting one of the NFC’s top teams on the road. Here are our seven primary takeaways from the 30-16 victory.

This is what the defense is capable of

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Denver’s defense had a rough three-game stretch from Weeks 4-6 and then allowed the Cleveland Browns to run all over them in Week 7. Broncos coach Vic Fangio has made changes since then, and the team has a pair of new starting inside linebackers in Kenny Young and Baron Browning.

The revamped squad came to play on Sunday, shutting down one of the best offenses in the NFL. Dallas went 0-for-4 on fourth down attempts, and Denver totaled five quarterback hits, two sacks and an interception.

“Those guys had the right mindset, which you have to when you’re playing against an offense that is that good,” Fangio said after the game. “I mean, they were ranked in the top three in damn near every category that there was. I don’t remember seeing such a good offense that was balanced like they were, watching them all week.

“And for us to come in here and do that, it’s just kudos to the players. They had the right mindset. They bought in to what we had to do to have a chance to slow them down, and we did more than slow them down.”

No Von Miller, no problem

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Miller will certainly be missed in Denver, but the team’s edge rushes stepped up big time in Week 9. Jonathon Cooper, a seventh-round draft pick, led the team with four tackles (including two behind the line of scrimmage), two quarterback hits and two sacks.

With Malik Reed sidelined with a hip injury and Bradley Chubb still on injured reserve, Stephen Weatherly started across from Cooper and he also generated pressure. The Broncos still have a strong group of talented pass rushers, even after trading away Miller.

The 2021 draft class came to play

(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Broncos general manager George Paton had to feel good about the performance of his first draft class on Sunday.

Cornerback Pat Surtain, the team’s first-round pick, played well before leaving the contest with a knee injury. We can only hope it’s not serious.

Running back Javonte Williams, a second-round pick, rushed for 100 yards for the first time in his career.

Guard Quinn Meinerz, a third-round pick, stepped in for an injured Graham Glasgow and received glowing reviews after the game.

Browning, a fellow third-round pick, started in the place of an injured Josey Jewell and totaled six tackles (second-most) and a QB hit. He’s probably a locked-in starter going forward.

Safety Caden Sterns, a fifth-round pick, recorded an interception. That’s his second interception this season. Sterns has also broken up four passes and he has recorded two sacks, and he’s only playing as a rotational defensive back!

Cooper, who started in the place of Miller, recorded the first two sacks of his NFL career. He’s looking like a late-round gem.

It’s still early, but this draft class looks impressive!

The run game was huge, opening up the pass game

(Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Melvin Gordon and Williams are capable of dominating a game when given opportunities, imagine that! Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur finally went into a game with a run-heavy approach and Denver dominated the Cowboys’ defense.

Gordon finished the day with 21 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown and Williams totaled 111 rushing yards on 17 carries. Some fans and pundits will point out that it’s obviously easier to run when you have a lead, but the Broncos were running early and often, even when the game was close. They should take a similar approach every week.

It wasn’t just Gordon and Williams getting it done in the ground game, though. The offensive line — including multiple backups — had a huge day. Calvin Anderson stepped in for Garett Bolles at left tackle, Meinerz filled in for Glasgow at right guard and Cam Fleming stepped in for Bobby Massie at right tackle. Even with three backups on the line, the Broncos’ rushing attack controlled the game (Denver won the time of possession battle 41:12 to 18:48).

“Those guys [Gordon and Williams] just stayed patient,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said after the win. “We knew that we could scheme up some good runs for us as an offensive unit …. You saw Javonte and Melvin just mixing it up today, a one-two punch, the defense didn’t really know what was coming. We did a great job just getting them going on the edge, guys were perimeter blocking, it was a team effort.”

The Broncos’ productive run game also helped open up the passing game, and Bridgewater was able to connected with wide receiver Tim Patrick on a 44-yard touchdown pass in part because the defense was focused on stopping the run.

Broncos -- and their fans -- own the Cowboys

(Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Broncos fans made Sunday look and feel like a home game for Denver with orange jerseys all over the stadium. That helped the Broncos claim their seventh-straight victory against Dallas.

The Cowboys haven’t beaten Denver since the 1995 season.

There are still coaching concerns in Denver

(Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Sunday was a big step in the right direction, and Fangio’s defense played great, but there were still some coaching concerns.

Fangio threw yet another questionable red flag, and he’s now 4-of-12 on challenges in his career. The Broncos also had another display of poor clock management, wasting 30 seconds when they had an opportunity to try to score before halftime.

With 1:39 remaining until the half, Denver completed a nine-yard pass to Courtland Sutton. The Broncos then opted not to call a timeout and didn’t run a second play until 1:08. Following a short run, Bridgewater then connected with tight end Albert Okwuegbunam on a 17-yard pass that moved Denver up to their own 40-yard line.

By that time, the clocked had ticked down to 0:27 before the Broncos finally called timeout. Denver ran four more plays after that but ultimately ran out of time while trying to get within field goal range. Had the team used better clock management, that big completion to “Albert O” might have sparked a scoring drive just before half.

Denver also had yet another blunder on special teams, and they were very fortunate that it did not lead to great field position for the Cowboys. The Broncos were backed up at their own 17-yard line in the third quarter and had a punt blocked. Fortunately, Dallas touched the ball beyond the line of scrimmage — which counted as a change of possession — and Denver then recovered the ball, which gave them a new set of downs.

If not for a terrible mistake by the Cowboys, that play would have given Dallas great field position. The Broncos also allowed several big returns on kickoffs. After the game, Fangio made it clear that he wasn’t pleased with special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, although he didn’t specifically mention the coach by name.

“We want to be a good football team, meaning play good defense and have a good offense,” Fangio said. “Our special teams took the day off today. That one crazy play helped us a little bit. So, [if] we get all three phases going, no matter who we’ve got playing, we’ve got a chance.”

Denver obviously still won the game, but these kind of coaching mishaps could add up at inopportune times for the Broncos, and if they want to push for a playoff berth, the team’s coaching staff needs to improve their in-game management.

Injuries are piling up for the Broncos

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Denver got a big win in Week 9, but it came with a price.

The Broncos went into the game already without Bradley Chubb, Josey Jewell, Alexander Johnson, Bryce Callahan, Garett Bolles, Mike Purcell, Noah Fant and Reed, then they lost Bobby Massie (ankle), Graham Glasgow (leg), McTelvin Agim (knee), Okwuegbunam (knee) and Surtain (knee) to injuries on Sunday.

Broncos fans can only hope the injuries added to Denver’s growing list on Sunday are not serious.

After playing the Philadelphia Eagles this week, the Broncos will have a bye in Week 11, and that week off will be much-needed for Denver’s banged-up roster.

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