Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson
The Denver Broncos can’t wait to show up to work each Wednesday to see what’s in store. Under first-year coach Josh McDaniels, every work week in the Rocky Mountains is different.
“We show up for work on Wednesday and McDaniels has something new for us,” defensive tackle Ronald Fields said. “We focus on the opponents more than any other team I’ve been involved in. The details of the opponent are magnified. In the meeting room, we hit the tendencies hard and then on the practice field, we get right after game situations and every Sunday, we feel like we’re going to know what is going to happen. When Sundays show up, we feel like we’re in pretty good shape.”
The culmination of Denver’s work week this time around is "Monday Night Football." The 5-0 Broncos, the surprise of the NFL this season, visit San Diego. The Chargers, 2-2, are in danger of falling 3.5 games behind the Broncos in the AFC West.
The Chargers’ challenge will be to outfox Denver and its 33-year-old wonder boy, who is the early favorite for the NFL Coach of the Year award.
McDaniels has not only received praise from outside of the organization; his players are raving about the way he has taken charge. Future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey recently said he has never been so prepared by a coach as he has by McDaniels.
Added Fields: “McDaniels brings it to a new level.”
McDaniels’ plan usually focuses on his opponent’s weaknesses with their style changing to exploit the problems of the opponent. The work week is focused on what can beat that individual opponent.
Against New England, McDaniels revealed the Wildcat offense because the Patriots had trouble with it in the past. Against Dallas, Denver exploited holes in the Cowboys' offensive line with constant blitzing. Against Oakland, the Broncos concentrated on having a strong second half because the Raiders came back late in their first two games.
As the situation goes, so goes McDaniels’ game plan.
“It’s different every week,” Denver linebacker Andra Davis said. “It changes as we go.”
On Monday night, watch for Denver to attack San Diego’s troubled pass defense and stack against the Chargers’ passing offense because their run offense is ranked last in the NFL.
Denver’s success cannot be argued. The Broncos have made the right calls and the big plays, both on offense and on defense, all season. Denver’s wins over Cincinnati, Dallas and New England all came in the final seconds of the game. Both sides of the ball are playing mistake-free football when it counts.
Denver hasn’t been perfect throughout games, but that is part of McDaniels’ preparation. Problems are corrected as the team goes.
“You have to fix your own problems in the game and Coach has made us all accountable for it,” Davis said. “Too many ‘my bads’ are going to cause you to end up [in] the ‘L’ column.”
In the past two games, Denver has fallen behind 10-0 in the first quarter. In both games, however, the Broncos completely controlled the game in the second half.
Denver is outscoring its opponents 59-7 in the second half. In the past four games, the Broncos have not allowed any points in the second half. In the past three games, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information, Denver did not allow a third-down conversion in the second half. Denver’s opponents are 2-of-31 on third down in the second half.
This team doesn’t look like a fluke, thanks to its timely play, excellent second-half adjustments and balanced performance on both sides of the ball. It gave the powerhouse Patriots everything they could handle before making one more key play than New England when it counted.
The Broncos aren’t going anywhere. But they aren’t celebrating yet. They are just showing up on Wednesdays, ready to execute McDaniels’ unique plan.
“This team, we are not taking things for granted,” safety Brian Dawkins said. “We are 5-0 and that is great, but the most important game for us is this next one. That is what we need to [do]: Approach every game the same way and put the same amount of detail into every game. If we continue to do that, continue to detail our work, continue to believe in what the coaches are telling us when we are in this position, then we have the potential to do what we need to do.”