Broncos Stand 2-0 after Defense-Led Home-Opening Win over Browns

Scott GollContributor ISeptember 21, 2009

DENVER - SEPTEMBER 20:  Running back Knowshon Moreno #27 of the Denver Broncos eludes a tackle by linebacker David Bowens #96 of the Cleveland Browns during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on September 20, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Browns 27-6.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

After a 2008 season that started as an inferno, and ended colder than an Antarctic winter, Broncos fans have learned that guarded optimism is a way of life in the post-Mike Shanahan/Jay Cutler era.

Yet after a fairly impressive 27-6 win over Cleveland, there are some reasons to believe the 2009 Broncos may not be the debacle many expected this team to be.

The offense was pretty efficient, amassing almost 450 total yards. Kyle Orton wasn't good (no surprise: 19-of-37), but was not intercepted and was involved enough to even out a good ground attack.

Knowshon Moreno carried 17 times for 75 yards, and Correll Buckhalter added 76 yards including a 45-yard TD scamper midway through the fourth quarter to seal the game.

Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokley turned out to the be the big receiving targets, while last year's No. 1 and No. 2 receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, combined for just six catches and 54 yards.

The offensive efficiency, and the defense's outstanding effort, helped cover up the fact that kicker Matt Prater again was abominable, missing a pair of field goals from inside 40 yards while the game was still close.

The real story of the day was Denver's defense. Yes. You read that correctly. The revamped squad, under the 3-4 scheme, seems to have turned the corner.

Of course, after last season, anything outside of falling off a cliff with lead boots, would have been an improvement, but there are signs that the Denver defense could be at the very least, respectable, if not more.

With Andra Davis (10 tackles vs. Cleveland) and converted lineman Elvis Dumervil (4 sacks, all in the 2nd half) providing a formidable linebacker tandem, along with Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey holding watch over the opposing passing game, there could be a quality defense in the making.

The jury is still out though, on what this squad can do against a high-quality offensive team. Neither the Bengals nor Browns are reminiscent of a 400-point offense, to put it mildly. Last year, however, even 200-point offenses found ways to put up points with regularity against the Broncos, so some optimism is warranted.

With a trip to Oakland coming this weekend, the possibility of a 3-0 start for Denver is not unreasonable. The schedule gets much, much harder thereafter (consecutive games against: Dallas, New England, San Diego, Baltimore, & Pittsburgh).

The Broncos will need that 3-0 start, and at least 2-3 wins in that following five-game span, to prove to naysayers that this is a different kind of Denver team than the 2008 disaster was.