Fear The Grateful Dread.
The Broncos shut off, shut down, shut up and shut out the Tennessee Lilliputians 16-nothing Sunday.
With thanks to a couple of new dreadheads — Alexander Johnson and Mike Purcell — who are grateful to be with the Broncos and now in the starting lineup.
Backup buddies until the past two games, Johnson, the hair apparent with perhaps the best and longest dreadlocks in the league, and Purcell, with his own interesting coiffure, have become major helpmates as the Broncos prevented the Chargers and the Titans from scoring touchdowns in the past eight quarters.
Keep hair-cutting Delilahs and, especially, previously esteemed running backs away from the inside linebacker and the nose tackle.
The Chargers’ Melvin Gordon, who resumed playing Oct. 6, was restricted by the Denver D to a measly 31 yards (2.6-yard average) and a long run – Ha! – of 7 yards.
Then, Tennessee’s Derrick Henry managed only 28 yards on 15 rushing attempts (1.9-yard average), with a long gain — ha! ha! — of 6 yards.
Those two couldn’t run, and they couldn’t hide.
Combined, the Chargers and Titans finished with 74 miserable yards on the ground against the new, improved Broncos defense under head coach/defensive guru Vic Fangio. The Man in Blue said that the last “quarter and a half against Jacksonville (two weeks earlier) … obviously was embarrassing to everybody involved including me … Since that time we’ve just played better … Run defense, a good bit of it, is the mindset and technique. We’ve had a good mindset and played with better technique the last two weeks.”
In front of a bunch of former “Orange Crush” club members, who were among the top 100 Broncos of all time honored over the week, and 75,815 others on an immaculate Sunday at Mile High, the Broncos dominated and decimated the so-called Titans.
Hurried and hassled quarterback Marcus Mariota was bagged three times and intercepted twice. With a passer rating of 9.5, he completed just seven throws, then finally was replaced by Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked on four plays and intercepted on the last drive.
It was the first shutout by the Broncos since Dec. 10, 2017, vs. the woeful Jets.
“You’re not going to win any games if you can’t put points on the board,” Tannehill said. You think?
The Titans saw much too much of free agents Johnson (signed last year) and Purcell (who arrived the last week before cutdown), DeMarcus Walker, Malik Reed and cornerback Davontae Harris. Not one of them was supposed to start this season.
Fangio’s defense is clicking as the plummeting Chiefs show up Thursday. “They’re coming to our town,” Purcell said. “We have to make sure we do what we have to do and stop the run, stop the pass.”
Frankly, though, the Broncos still need an offense that will produce more than 16 points, a lowly offensive mark they have met three times this season.
A considerable stretch of the game was Punters Paradise, with the Broncos’ Colby Wadman footing eight (50.1) and former Broncos punter Brett Kern nine (47.1) for the Titans. The 17 punts tied the most in a game this season.
At his locker afterward, Johnson, who could become the Broncos’ latest linebacker in a long line of Pro Bowlers, said he felt “blessed by God that I’m playing football again,” after being dumped by the University of Tennessee football team because of sexual assault charges finally dismissed in 2018.
“I’m having a wonderful time and great fun on the field. I love it, especially when teams try to run against us. I want to run.”
Johnson made six individual tackles and assisted on three others. He finished with 1½ sacks and two quarterback hits. Purcell contributed five tackles. Including two for losses.
Fangio hasn’t been surprised by the performances of J&P.
“I’ve said all along that (Johnson) has got talent. He can be a good inside linebacker in this league. He got this opportunity, and he’s running with it. He’s a big, physical linebacker who plays hard and likes football.”
Purcell, the coach said, “is a good run defender. That’s his specialty. He’s strong; he’s instinctive, and he’s a fighter.”
The defense has become determined and dogged.
Love is in the thin air and the long hair. Chiefs, Colts and Cleveland must dread the Broncos.