The Colorado Springs Gazette final



DENVER • Russ, Tim. Tim, Russ.

With a limited quarterback who spreads an unwavering message of positivity, complete with his favorite Bible verses and outspoken faith, the Broncos are winning games in a most unconventional manner.

Sound familiar?

“First of all, God gets the glory,” Russell Wilson said after the Broncos came from behind to steal a 21-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday night at Empower Field at Mile High.

No one’s going to confuse these Broncos with world beaters. Shoot, they went 2-for-12 on third down and 1-for-5 in the red zone. They didn’t score a touchdown until 1:03 remained in regulation, a 15-yard scoring pass from Wilson to Courtland Sutton. Somehow they still won.

Yep, sounds familiar. Tim Tebow’s one-year wonder was the ultimate experience in no…. no… yes! The 2011 Broncos rode Tebow Time and a wave of improbable wins into an unlikely postseason berth. Is history repeating itself?

The Broncos now are 5-5 and in the No. 10 spot in the AFC. The No. 7 Steelers are 6-4.

What in Tebow’s name is going on around these hills?

“This is one of those games if you just looked at the stat line you would see Minnesota did a number of things better than us,” Payton said after.

The Broncos have won four straight games for the first time since the opening month of the 2016 season. The defense has allowed only 17 points per win and forced 12 turnovers over the last three games. Then something bizarre happens near game’s end and they celebrate.

Sunday night, the bizarre was the Broncos scoring a touchdown. Denied of a touchdown on their previous four trips into the red zone, the Broncos had a first down at the Vikings’ 15.

The pocket collapsing into him, Wilson found enough room to loft a prayer toward Sutton, who utilized his college basketball skills to reach high for the catch. The South Stands erupted.

“That was a gutsy drive,” Payton said.

Wilson’s 35th fourth-quarter comeback tied John Elway for the 10th-most in NFL history. He played nothing like Elway to do it, rarely launching the ball downfield, instead opting for small chunks of yardage. Russ was not Dangeruss. He was Saferuss, or Conservativeruss. For his first time as a Bronco, he’s Winningruss.

Russ’s Broncos opened the season 1-5 and probably must finish 5-2 (10-7 overall) to make the playoffs.

Tebow’s Broncos opened the season 1-4 and finished 7-4 (8-8 overall) to make the playoffs.

The quarterbacks, of course, are not the same, but they are winning sans style points. Wilson had played four in a row without throwing for 200 yards. He threw for 259 yards on Sunday.

“Four wins in a row, yeah, I think we’ve got some momentum going,” Payton said.

Even while the Broncos offense sputtered along, turning three turnovers into only nine points, the crowd at Mile High never lost belief. It felt like Broncos Country had seen wins over Kansas City, finally, and the Buffalo Bills, and felt the momentum turn. It all felt quite familiar.

The Broncos defense is forcing turnovers at an astounding rate. Again it was new cornerback Ja’quan Mcmillian who opened the floodgates. “J-mac” recovered a fumble on the third snap of the game. Last week in an upset over the Bills, he recovered one on the first snap. Mcmillian is the first Bronco with fumble recoveries in back-to-back games since Von Miller in 2015.

The Broncos aren’t winning pretty, but they are winning nonetheless.

The Broncos have forced a turnover in seven straight games, the team’s longest streak since the Super Bowl 50 champs and their successors had a streak of 11 straight from 2015-16.

“We really struggled offensively,” Payton said.

Tebow had the late, great Demaryius Thomas as a bigplay threat in a run-heavy offense.

Wilson’s found Courtland Sutton, who was mentored by DT, as his primary scoring threat. Sutton has scored in five straight games, the latest a game-winner with 1:03 remaining.

“I just heard the crowd go crazy and knew he caught it,” Wilson said.

In his postgame address with media, Wilson cited “belief” no fewer than a dozen times.

“There’s going to be a big play in this game that’s going to win it for us. I just kept telling the guys that,” he said.

Sound familiar?





The Gazette, Colorado Springs