OAKLAND • Daniel Graham grew up in Denver, where he has listened to lively Broncos chatter for much of his life.
He stands 6-foot-3, weighs 257 pounds and plays tight end for the Broncos, but his size and status do nothing to silence the chatter. All summer, he endured hometown doubters.
“Some fans never left us,” Graham said in his hushed voice. “And some fans didn’t believe.”
To those fans who didn’t believe — and we know who you are — it’s time to awaken to the charms of a Broncos team that has a chance to be good, if not great.
The Broncos mauled the Oakland Raiders, 23-3, Sunday afternoon, continuing a methodical march to a 3-0 record.
Denver boasts a one-game lead over the Chargers in the AFC West and ranks atop the NFL’s most important scoring statistic: scoring defense. No other defense is even close.
Sure, the Broncos wins over the Bengals, Browns and Raiders have failed to deliver edge-of-your-seat drama. And, yes, the Raiders and Browns rank near the bottom of the NFL’s 32 teams.
But the Bengals, the Broncos first victim, are soaring. The Broncos were blessed with a gift from above in their victory at Cincinnati, but nothing was lucky about their stifling of the Bengals potent offense.
Denver is holding opponents to 5.3 points per game. When playing other defenses, the Bengals, Browns and Raiders average 18.3 points.
Is this 3-0 start a mirage?
My answer is no. The Broncos face a brutal five-game stretch, with battles against the Cowboys, Patriots, Chargers, Ravens and Steelers, but this defense is no illusion.
And the defenders are not delusional.
Cornerback Andre Goodman laughed as he considered the brutal road awaiting his teammates.
“We know that we are going to have to play better to compete against the big boys,” Goodman said. “We do understand that.”
Here’s the other truth to understand.
Goodman plays for a violent, wise, resourceful, veteran unit. This defense will keep the Broncos within striking distance. This defense will not be humiliated.
Here’s my prediction:
The Broncos will win two games in the five-game stretch and head into the final half with five wins and three losses. That’s not sensational, but five wins will offer a joyous jolt to hundreds of thousands of fans who had braced for a depressing season.
Graham heard from several dozen of the grumps. He enjoys visiting with friends at his barber shop, the Cuttin’ Room in Aurora. Most of the men gathered there had low hopes for the Broncos, and didn’t mind sharing their doubts with Graham.
They talked about the Broncos various holes. They talked about the departure of Jay Cutler and the circus that is Brandon Marshall and a defense that ranked near the bottom of the NFL in 2009 and …
You get the picture. The skepticism ran deep.
Graham listened patiently before offering a calm rebuke.
“I was telling people all summer, ‘We have a good team,’ ” Graham said with a faint smile.
The skeptics he listened to all summer are surprised. Graham looked around the Broncos quiet, happy locker room.
“We’re not surprised,” he said.
Contact the writer at 476-4895. Check out David’s blog at http://daveramseysez.freedomblogging.com