ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — At first glance, the scoreboard makes no sense. The Broncos yielded 527 yards, ninth most in franchise history, 25 first-half completions and six trips inside the 30-yard line and — they won?
Welcome to the modern NFL which holds to an old staple. Win the turnover margin, win the game. The Broncos protected the ball, snatched it away, and woke up Monday back in the playoff conversation.
These are my Denver7 takeaways from the Broncos' 24-17 upset victory over the Steelers.
Take, take take
Uneven relationships win in the NFL. Take. Take. Take some more. The Broncos allowed yards without consequence. Big Ben Roethlisberger fired 56 passes and connected on 41. Yet, he threw one touchdown. Chris Harris Jr. proved there is profit in being a prophet. He predicted that if Roethlisberger threw 40 times, the Broncos needed and could produce two picks. He was right. The Broncos intercepted a pair of passes and netted four takeaways. Big deal? They have 18 takeaways this season, compared to 17 all of last year.
Case is safe
Case Keenum is playing better, a result of play-calling that suits his skillset and his own improvement. Over the past four games, Keenum has one pick and five touchdowns. He has no interceptions over the past three. It's not a coincidence the Broncos have won two of those games.
Use the tight ends
One of the primary reasons Keenum excelled last season was Kyle Rudolph. He served as a red zone weapon and a third down security blanket. The Broncos have finally figured this out, leaning on Jeff Heuerman and Matt LaCosse in recent weeks. Heuerman and LaCosse combined for five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave put in new wrinkles. Keep. Doing. This.
Trust the kid
Phillip Lindsay represents the Broncos' best offensive player. He boasts 780 yards rushing on 135 attempts and 967 yards from scrimmage. His seven touchdowns leave him on pace for 10. He produced 110 yards on 14 carries against Pittsburgh. I believe Lindsay has earned the right to get 20 touches a game. He is not wearing down. He might. But I would not take that bet. The Broncos are 5-1 when he rushes for at least 70 yards.
Line in the sand
Among the biggest surprises outside of Lindsay? The newfangled offensive line. Flanking Connor McGovern with four tackles has made the Broncos more athletic and physical. It's a small sample size. However, the grunts have allowed two sacks in the past two games on 50 passing attempts.
Stiff upper lip
The Broncos take punches, absorb body shots and remain standing. The Steelers penetrated inside the 30-yard line six times and posted 10 points. The elasticity required can be alarming. But when it mattered most, the Broncos defense played its best.
Protect the ball
The Broncos have been outgained by 373 yards over the past two games. That they have won is related to one statistic: zero turnovers. Protect the ball, and good things can and do happen.