A popular cliché in the football world goes something like: It's not how you start, but how you finish (just ask the 2009 Denver Broncos, 2007 New England Patriots and 2010 Green Bay Packers). After four weeks of play, the Broncos are 1-3 and near the bottom of their division, but the season is far from over.
Denver has played four good football teams this season. Through the first four weeks of play, the Broncos opponents have gone 11-5.
Against the Oakland Raiders in week one, Broncos fans were disgusted to see quarterback Kyle Orton sacked five times and Oakland's Darren McFadden run all over Denver's defense. The game however was no fluke for the Raiders -- who are 2-2 after falling to the New England Patriots on Sunday -- as Oakland's defensive line has played dominantly this year, recording eleven sacks (compared to their opponents two) and McFadden is leading the NFL in rushing.
When the Broncos faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals in week two, Denver got their sole win of the season against a rebuilding Bengals team. Though many fans feel Denver should have blown the Bengals away, Cincinnati is an improving team and rookie quarterback Andy Dalton has been playing extremely well. On Sunday, the Dalton-led Bengals upset the undefeated Buffalo Bills.
When the Broncos traveled to Tennessee to take on the Titans in week three, Denver simply couldn't win the game in the end. The Titans however, are standing at 3-1 atop their division behind quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who is well on his way to having a career season. It's not as if the Broncos lost to a bottom of the barrel team in week three.
On Sunday, the Broncos ran into a Green Bay Packers team that was simply the better football team. Denver was over matched from the get go and they were never expected to pull off a victory on the road in Green Bay. With that said, the Broncos, despite having four of their drives end in turnovers, scored 23 points against the Packers high-ranked defense. Had the Broncos scored 23 points against the Raiders, that game would have gone into overtime. Had the Broncos scored 23 points against the Bengals, they still would have won. The story stays the same against the Titans, Denver would have won if they had scored 23 points.
Granted, everything mentioned above doesn't change the fact that the Broncos are 1-3, but the season is not yet lost. Broncos fans have been spoiled with two World Championships, six Super Bowls appearances, eight AFC Title Games, ten AFC West Titles, seventeen Playoff Berths and twenty-four winning seasons. We can't abandon our team when the going gets tough, the Broncos are going through a rebuilding process, and there is hope for the future.
The Broncos defense will have cornerback Champ Bailey back from injury next week, along with defensive end Elvis Dumervil and linebacker D.J. Williams, who each missed at least two of the team's first three games. Joining the veterans on Denver's defense is rookie linebacker Von Miller, who has looked about as impressive as any rookie defender to come around in a long, long time.
Over the past three games, Miller has consecutively recorded at least one sack and has totaled four through the first four games, which is the most ever recorded by a Broncos rookie through the first four games of a season. Thus far, Miller has recorded sixteen tackles, four sacks, two passes defended and two forced fumbles. Each and every week Miller has improved; he is going to be the cornerstone of this defense for years to come.
On the offensive side of the ball, there are several more young players that have shown great potential. Receiver Eric Decker has been on fire, scoring five touchdowns through the first four weeks of play, which is the first time a Broncos non-running back has done so since Steve Watson in the 1981 season. Thus far, Decker has caught 20 passes for 270 yards and four receiving touchdowns. Decker looks to provide a solid receiving option for the Broncos for many years to come.
The season is still young, Denver still has twelve games left to play. Up next is a home game against the San Diego Chargers. Let's see how the Broncos fair against a division rival this week before giving up on the entire season. Starting 1-4 would be a rough start, but a 2-3 start would not be unacceptable from a rebuilding team that has had a hard schedule.
On a different note, the Broncos announced on Monday that the NFL has approved the team's request to wear its orange jerseys as the primary home jerseys beginning in 2012.