INDIANAPOLIS — These Broncos should have come with an elf on the shelf.
Season ticket-holders? You get an elf on the shelf. Couch potatoes? You get an elf on the shelf. That way, when you watch the Broncos play, like we all did Thursday, you will be less inclined to swear when they do foolish things like earn a delay-of-game penalty on a field goal attempt. (Or miss the field goal attempt.) Santa’s watching, you know, and who wants to upset the big guy?
But now the Broncos are playing nice. They won again, 25-13, against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was their first road win in over a calendar year, since Dec. 4, 2016 at Jacksonville. Yes, it had been that long.
Better yet? The Broncos are coming up with answers at the tail end of a season that was stuffed like a stocking with quizzical looks. They came up with three answers, at the least, against the sad-sack Colts: Vance Joseph will be back in 2018 (if that was a question), Brock Osweiler fits the profile of an ideal backup quarterback in 2018 (but not the starter; let’s no go crazy, folks) and Colorado native Bill Musgrave should return as offensive coordinator in 2018.
Nearing the end, it’s a start.
“I was like a little kid having fun tonight,” Osweiler said from the postgame podium.
You can debate until the cookies and milk are gone if winning now is a good idea. With back-to-back wins, the Broncos pretty much assured themselves of falling out of the top 10 of the NFL draft. They had the fifth pick entering Thursday. They could tumble into the teens after this weekend. But it’s no small thing that Osweiler readily accepted his role as the backup to Trevor Siemian, who left the game with a shoulder injury and is done for the season, according to 9News reporter Mike Klis. And it’s no small thing that Osweiler performed like a man on a mission to stick around, throwing a pair of touchdown passes in the best show by a Broncos quarterback since Peyton Manning was more than a 9-foot-1 statue outside the stadium he made possible. (It seems that way, at least.) Quality backups who don’t crumble under pressure are a valuable commodity. Ask the Packers this year. Ask the Raiders of last year.
“He’s a quarterback we trust,” wide receiver Cody Latimer said of Osweiler.
If the Broncos had crumbled beneath the pressure of an eight-game losing streak, it would have been a fair question to ask why Joseph would be retained. But they haven’t. They’ve won a pair of 50-50 games against the Jets and Colts, even if those are two teams going nowhere fast.
They did it by doing what they should have been doing all along, with a steady running game and proud defense. Thursday it was C.J. Anderson rushing for 158 yards on 30 carries. Even the running plays that didn’t count looked pretty sweet: Devontae Booker hurdled a defender, but another penalty flag brought it back.
“I saw that he wasn’t going to tackle me high,” Booker told me. “So I jumped over him.”
Simple, right? This was always supposed to be simple. The Broncos just made it harder than it needed to be.
Musgrave is from Grand Junction. That’s worth an extra brownie point right away. And since he’s taken over play-calling duties for the scapegoated Mike McCoy, the Broncos look like the outfit we thought they would be, one that runs the ball and stops the run and plays boring but effective football.
Besides, that Super Bowl 50 team did the same thing, and it wasn’t so boring, now was it?
“I love coach Musgrave,” Osweiler said. “I’ve told him that many times this year.”
Here, step into a time machine. If someone had told you the key play to a Broncos game in December would involve Osweiler hitting oft-injured tight end Jeff Heuerman for a 54-yard touchdown, would you believe it? That happened, and the Broncos won in Indianapolis for the first time in 14 years and for the first time at Lucas Oil Stadium, ever.
But when the night starts with the Colts’ mascot officiating a wedding, you have a pretty good idea things are about to get weird. And there we were Thursday night: “Blue,” the rotund, Dinger-looking mascot, stood alongside a happy couple as they exchanged vows in the north end zone at Lucas Oil Stadium. She said “I do,” he said “I do,” and here’s a Christmas wish the newest Indiana couple lis happily ever after.
And the Broncos now are married to Joseph for the foreseeable future. With consecutive wins, Joseph is assured of not being a one-year wonder why? It’s like the Broncos are back where they started in August: a team with big questions. Yes, it didn't happen until Dec. 15.
'Tis the season, I guess. Beats a lump of coal.