Rick Jussel Column September 21, 2008

Denver should be 3-0 today

Thank you, Ed Hochuli.

His botched call near the end of the Denver vs. San Diego game on Sunday at New Mile High was one for the ages. It turned out well for the Broncos, poorly for the Chargers.

But don’t let that one incident overshadow what was indeed a game for the ages — the long-gone era of the early American Football League, to be more exact.

Sunday, it was Babe Parilli of the Boston Patriots matching bomb for bomb with Al Dorow of the New York Titans.

It was Frank Tripucka and his vertically striped mustard-and-copper-colored Denver Bronco socks trying to hurl more TD passes in 60 minutes than George Blanda of the Houston Oilers.

It was Cookie Gilchrist of the Buffalo Bills breaking tackle after tackle on his way to touchdown after touchdown in Dallas against the Texans.

  If you are lucky enough to remember those bygone days, you remember many games like Sunday’s 39-38 Denver Bronco win over the San Diego Chargers — truly an early season classic.

The early AFL was great football, entertaining football, because it had to be. The teams in those days did anything and everything to attract a crowd.

Football has outgrown those days. The crowds are built in, the season ticket lists endless, not just in Denver, but in every city that boasts a National Football League team. Thus, for the most part in the past decade, entertainment has taken a back seat to conservation because coaches want to remain employed.

They go into shells and are afraid to take risks.

So, Mike Shanahan goes AFL on us, goes for the two points to win, not the one point to tie (Shanahan is, after all, relatively safe and secure in Denver), and the Broncos are 2-0 and two games up on the Chargers.

I believe I said something like “if Denver can score 30 points, they have a chance of winning” in my previewing the affair against the Chargers.

I actually said, “That will be the Bronco task today: Score in the 30s and it’s a win. Score in the low 20s and it’s a fifth straight loss to the Chargers.”

I underestimated by roughly a dozen points on each side.

And I underestimated the Broncos, period.

True, they have some work to do defensively, but it’s also true that the Broncos right now are the best offensive team in football. If the same unit (read: quarterback Jay Cutler and his receiving corps) is healthy at the end of the season, look out.

The offense is going to have to be awesome because the defense is going to be severely tested.

There are going to be more shootouts like we saw Sunday — quite possibly starting today at home against the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints are 1-1 so far, defeating Tampa Bay at home and losing on the road last week to the Washington Redskins 29-24 after holding a 9-point lead in the final quarter.

To think about how today’s contest might play out, think about Denver’s win over the Chargers.

The Broncos went way up early, then the Chargers, with LaDainian Tomlinson sitting out with a sore toe, turned Darren Sproles loose. The Chargers scored once on a 103-yard kick return by Sproles and again on a 66-yard screen pass to the speedy back.

  The big difference in this one and the one we saw last weekend?

New Orleans’ defense.

  Think the Broncos might take notice the Saints are hurting in the D-backfield?

Book it, Dano.

Shanahan and his coaching staff will not let the Broncos take the weekend off. They’ll pay attention even after being super-stoked for the Chargers.

Those are the reasons I’ll take my 1-1 record picking with or against Denver (also 1-1 vs. the spread) and say the Broncos, a 5-point pick, win this one, 31-23.


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