There's no such thing as an easy, leisurely win in the NFL, but the Broncos' 34-12 triumph over the Browns (5-10) came close to it.
Only Denver's own mistakes -- particularly an end-zone interception thrown by QB Peyton Manning 14 seconds before halftime -- kept the game competitive into the second half. And when the Browns drew within eight points after driving to a field goal on the opening possession of the third quarter, the Broncos responded with a steady, 80-yard march punctuated by Manning's 33-yard completion to Jacob Tamme, his second of two long passes to the former Colts tight end.
The Broncos have managed to avoid becoming too comfortable during their 10-game winning streak, but they have found a comfort zone. They steadily produce around 31 points most weeks -- they've scored within six points of 31 in 12 of their 15 games -- and haven't played a game decided by less than a touchdown during their sprint, which has them at 12-3.
This was the Broncos' smoothest offensive effort since Week 8, a 34-14 win over New Orleans that was also the last time the offense accounted for four touchdowns. Manning threw away from Browns CB Joe Haden, which allowed him to balance his passes to WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker; Thomas had more receptions and yardage but Decker had more touchdowns (two to Thomas' one). The offensive line had one of its best games of the season -- and perhaps its best without injured RG Chris Kuper. It had its sixth sackless game of the season, but just its second with Manny Ramirez starting at right guard. QB Brock Osweiler got into a game for the fourth time this year, but he has only been asked to hand off or take a knee. At some point, the Broncos need to begin learning what they have in the raw rookie -- especially since he has been the only backup on the active game-day roster this year, with Caleb Hanie a healthy scratch each game. As of now, if something happens to Manning, Osweiler's first NFL throw in a game that counts would be in the postseason. That's a proposition to give Broncos fans a nightmare before Christmas. Previous game's grade: A-
Patience was the watchword Sunday, as it took until the second half for the Broncos to finally wear down the Browns' offensive line. All six of the Broncos' sacks came after they took a 21-6 lead, by which point Browns LT Joe Thomas and RT Mitchell Schwartz appeared fatigued and were beaten by edge rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, who combined for 3.5 of the Broncos' six sacks of Cleveland QBs Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy. The Broncos held an opponent below 100 rushing yards for the ninth time during their 10-game winning streak, but that was because the Browns abandoned the running game -- and RB Trent Richardson in particular -- way too early. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry, but was only handed the football nine times. The Broncos will need to tighten up the run defense next week against Kansas City's Jamaal Charles, the only running back to gain more than 100 yards against Denver in its last 10 games. Previous game's grade: B-
Special teams: B-
RB Lance Ball was Johnny-on-the-spot in the fourth quarter, recovering a muffed Josh Cribbs punt return to set up a Jacob Hester touchdown run two plays later. But both of the Broncos' punt retainers, Trindon Holliday and Jim Leonhard, muffed punt returns. Although the Broncos recovered them both, this is the kind of shortcoming that could prove costly in January. K Matt Prater, who had hit just 3-of-7 field-goal attempts from 40-49 yards, drilled a confidence-boosting 41-yarder to close the scoring, and P Britton Colquitt rebounded from a shaky game at Baltimore to post a net average of 45.3 yards, his fourth-best of the season. Previous game's grade: D+
Focus hasn't been a problem for the Broncos this year, and that remained the case Sunday. Where the coaches have succeeded is in emphasizing the right points in practice to keep complacency from setting into the locker room. Earlier this month, they focused on the running game in practice, and the offense responded with back-to-back 100-yard games for RB Knowshon Moreno. Last week, it was encouraging the defense to finish better, and the defense hounded the Browns in the fourth quarter. A three-game run in which the Broncos were outscored 33-6 in the fourth quarter turned into a 13-6 advantage Sunday. Previous game's grade: A-
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