CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Four games into the season, the Broncos create mayhem and mystery.
The defense under first-year coordinator Joe Woods added nuance, developing a nasty penchant for stopping the run. Four straight Pro Bowl backs have fizzled against Denver. So good are the Broncos, they have limited opponents to fewer yards on the ground in four weeks than they permitted at Oakland last season.
Offensively, the Broncos' eschew subtle. With a new man blocking scheme, Denver has collected 572 rushing yards, tied for second best, while reeling off 4.4 per clip (10th overall).
Stop the run. Run the ball. That plays in the NFL. And it has left all of the Broncos' goals within reach as they enter the bye week. But improvement is necessary with the schedule road heavy down the stretch.
My Denver7 takeaways at the quarterpole:
1) Party like it's 2015.
After a one-year interruption, the Broncos possess a championship-caliber defense. They are causing problems with the girth upfront. The Broncos have allowed 203 yards on a league-best 2.4 yards per attempt. Opponents have yet to score a rushing touchdown. Gap assignments have been on point.
"We have been relentless," nose guard Domata Peko said. "I knew when we were in San Francisco (in preseason) that we were going to be good."
2) Growth of Baby No Fly Zone
To become a card-carrying member of the No Fly Zone, it takes more than a game day jersey. You have to make plays to belong to the league's best secondary. Justin Simmons and Will Parks, it's fair to say, are no longer teething. Too cautious the first three games, Simmons played with athleticism and aggressiveness against the Raiders, sealing the victory with a pick in the best game of his career. Parks continues to make an impact in the box and on special teams. He's becoming a physical force.
3) Too chunky
The Broncos' defensive blemish, like a scratch on a Ferrari, remains big plays. The Broncos allowed huge passing plays to the Chargers and Raiders, creating doubt about an outcome that should have been salted away earlier.
"Minor details. We can clean that up," Parks said. "We know we can even be better."
4) Protect the line
The number jars the senses. The Broncos have allowed 13 sacks in four games. They faced multiple elite pass rushers, but that total creates concern. Right tackle Menelik Watson, coach Vance Joseph said, has "played well the last two weeks." Rookie Garett Bolles is competing, and improving. But Trevor Siemian has not performed well under intense pressure. The line, along with Siemian, must be better in those situations.
5) Stay grounded
Keep your feet on the ground, and head, um, not in the clouds. The Broncos' running the ball well sets them up to win later in the season. They are averaging 143 yards per game (third best) and 33 carries (fourth). C.J. Anderson continues to provide a bullish presence. Jamaal Charles is progressing every week. The Broncos have the weapons, and the depth to stay grounded.
6) Trevor seeing red
Siemian has been decent, but too careless with the ball. He knows that. His seven touchdowns rank fifth, but his four picks sit at eighth. There needs to be a greater variance. Quarterbacks make their money on third down. The Broncos have converted 28 of 60 attempts. That works. The red zone statistics don't. They have eight touchdowns in 16 chances, a 50 percent threshold that ranks in the bottom third.
7) McManus McNails
Brandon McManus earned his three-year contract extension. But there's no room for an extended slump. He has already missed as many field goals at home (three) as he did last year. The Broncos will play close games. That much is known. Kicking can't be a concern.