The Donatell Diary: Denver Saved Their Best for Week 9

Nov 7, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys guard Connor Williams (52) and center Tyler Biadasz (63) block Denver Broncos defensive end Aaron Patrick (94) during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Denver’s Week 9 performance was, without question, their best. The defense did a tremendous job of slowing down the 6-1 Cowboys, holding onto a shutout until late in the fourth quarter when the game was already won. Indeed, the 30-16 score doesn’t do justice to the performance. Ed Donatell and his Denver defense played their best game of the year.

Readers who haven’t been following along or who’d like a refresher can feel free to read the reports on the Broncos’ defensive performance in Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, and Week 8. It’s now time to take on Week 9.

The Positives

The game took place in Dallas.

Initially, it looked like Dallas was well-positioned for offensive success. The opening kickoff return was brought beyond the 50-yard line, so Dak Prescott had a nice starting position. Dallas, wisely, immediately targeted the flats, but it was incomplete. Later on in the drive, Ezekiel Elliott failed to convert on a 4th & 1. Justin Simmons made a great play, moving through the OL to get Zeke in the backfield. Harrison Smith is going to make a lot of plays this season.

Von Miller and Bradley Chubb were both out. The Denver pass rush still did a great job. The sack numbers weren’t enormous – 2 – but the pressure was consistent. Jonathan Cooper and Stephen Weatherly both did well in this one.

The Cowboy attempted 4 fourth downs. They failed on all 4. On the final one, Caden Sterns snagged an interception.

Tony Pollard was much more explosive than Elliott, so the Cowboys would have been wise to find ways to get their backup RB more involved. By the end of the game, though, he only had 4 carries and 1 catch (the catch went for 32 yards). It was strange to see how little he was used.

At the end of the opening half, the game broadcast showed that Dallas had a mere 45 rushing yards and 64 passing yards. They had put 0 points on the board.

With a little more than 5 minutes left in the 4th, Dallas still had 0 points. Prescott was 8/24 for 102 yards and an interception. In others words, his final stats – 19/39 for 232 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT – were misleading. Denver did an excellent job all game.

The Negatives

At times, Denver benefited from the Cowboys’ self-inflicted wounds. Instead of great coverage presenting issues, Amari Cooper simply dropped a pass. At another point, Tony Pollard just let the ball go through his hands. These moments – especially when an offense is struggling to get things moving – are critical. A chance at positive momentum gets undone be an error on what ought to be a routine play.

Moreover, the Cowboys’ game plan left a little to be desired. There were quite a few shots down the field. In so doing, the Cowboys sometimes overlooked tried and true ways of hurting this defense. Teams that have been successful have often done so by getting the ball to the flats, having screens go for large gains, and then by relying on horizontal routes.

Now, these things aren’t meant to be overly negative. Can we really fault Denver for Dallas being too focused on getting the ball down the field rather than across the field? By no means. The other main negative I can come up with was that the game broadcast was showing highlights of the Ravens/Vikings game. Again, can’t really fault Denver for these bad memories.

Overall, a strong road performance.

The Send Off

With the win against Dallas, the Broncos climbed up to 5-4. Don’t forget that their 3-0 beginning had sunk to being 3-4, so it’s not insignificant that they found a way to get back into contention.

Plus, the main criticism of Denver – that all of their wins came against poor opponents – got overturned in this one. The Broncos took down one of the NFC’s best teams.

In Week 10, the Broncos take on the Philadelphia Eagles.

[brid autoplay=”true” video=”1015302″ player=”26281″ title=”WATCH%20New%20York%20Jets%20QB%20Zach%20Wilson%20aims%20for%20major%20improvement%20as%20a%20sophomore” duration=”354″ description=”Wilson showed the same flashes of greatness reminiscent of what sparked his Joe Burrow-like rise at BYU at times, but also went through some of the same types of rookie growing pains that so many other first-year quarterbacks trying to make the jump with a struggling team do.” uploaddate=”2022-05-19″ thumbnailurl=”undefined” contentUrl=”″ width=”16″ height=”9″]