Denver Broncos struggle early, then score 38 unanswered to avoid upset

The Broncos won on Sunday, but lately they haven't looked like the invincible force that blew through the NFL for the first six weeks of the season. Maybe they got a bit of that confidence back during a great second half on Sunday.

Denver finally woke up after Washington took a 21-7 lead in the third quarter on an interception return for a touchdown by DeAngelo Hall. The final score of 45-21 looked familiar (yes, Denver scored 38 unanswered points). The Broncos are still 7-1 and a very good football team, one of the top few in the NFL, but one bolstered by a really weak first-half schedule.

Through the first 30-plus minutes, there were a few reasons to be concerned about the Broncos, especially coming off last week's loss to Indianapolis.

The defense played its best game this season, but the offense had its issues against Washington, which has arguably the worst defense in the NFL. Denver's offensive line is a problem. Orlando Franklin returned at right tackle, but he didn't look right. The downgrade from Ryan Clady from Chris Clark at left tackle has been a huge blow. The Broncos turned it on in the second half, mostly because Redskins' horrendous defense couldn't play four good quarters. Peyton Manning had four touchdown passes, but also three interceptions and lost a fumble behind a porous line. Perhaps the sluggish first half can be excused because of the fantastic second half after Hall's touchdown. They did score 31 fourth-quarter points after entering the final quarter trailing 21-14, so it obviously wasn't all bad. We'll see.

The best development for the Broncos is the defense played very well. Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III had a bad game, was drilled to the turf on a fourth-quarter interception and came up holding his knee. Kirk Cousins came in the game after that. Before that Griffin was ineffective, mostly because the Broncos had a great pass rush. Von Miller's return has helped everyone around him. Griffin completed 15-of-30 passes for 132 yards and was under pressure all day.

If the offense looks like it did for most of the second half, there's no reason for worry. If the offense continues to play at its peak and the defense plays like it did on Sunday, the Broncos could be very special this season.

Perhaps it's picking nits to worry about how the 7-1 Broncos played in the first two-plus quarters of a 24-point win, but anything less than a Super Bowl for the Broncos won't be good enough. There have been more than a few moments the last two weeks when they haven't played at that level.

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next