Broncos up-down drill: Highs and lows for Denver against the Giants


Up: Pregame tailgating. More than three hours before kickoff, grills were fired up and music was blaring throughout the MetLife Stadium parking lots. The Giants hosted zero fans last year, a decision around the NFL that continues to boggle the mind.

Down: Fans in stadium. Did Giants fans forget there was a game on Sunday and it started at 4:25 local time? The stands were shocking empty as kickoff approached.

Up: Saquon Barkley’s return. The Giants managed Barkley’s return from last year’s ACL injury with caution, holding him out the entire preseason. He made his return against the Broncos, which was a positive sight because the NFL is better when he’s healthy.

Down: Bradley Chubb’s health. Chubb’s ankle injury, sustained in practice before the preseason finale on Aug. 28, kept him out of the season opener. Why did he play against the Rams? A projected breakout year is off to a bad start.

Up: Broncos’ jersey reps: Pre-game jersey rundown in the stands: Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Shelby Harris, Jerry Jeudy, Drew Lock, Pat Surtain II, Justin Simmons, Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant, and former players John Elway, Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware, Shannon Sharpe, Wes Welker and Phillip Lindsay.

Down: Andrew Beck’s deactivation. It was curious to make Beck a healthy scratch since he was labeled a special teams leader by coordinator Tom McMahon during the preseason. Plus, he is the only player who has any experience lined up at fullback.

Up: Von Miller’s start. Is it too early to declare the Vonster back? The Broncos’ superstar linebacker extinguished a promising opening drive for the Giants with a tackle for loss on Kadarius Toney’s jet sweep, then sacked QB Daniel Jones on third-and-2 to end New York’s next possession.

Down: Secondary slip-ups.  The Broncos’ much-ballyhooed secondary remodel got off to an inauspicious start in the first half. Free-agent Kyle Fuller was beat deep by receiver Darius Slayton on the Giants’ first possession and first-round pick Pat Surtain II whiffed on his tackle attempt on receiver Sterling Sheppard’s 37-yard touchdown. The good news? The secondary was terrific in the second half.

Down: Review booth. Why waste our time with replay reviews if the end result is the booth being unwilling to overturn weak-kneed calls on the field? Anyone with two eyes saw Logan Ryan recovered Albert Okwuegbunam’s fumble with his knee out of bounds at the Giants’ 4-yard line. Of course, the call went the other way.

Up: Riverboat Vic. Vic Fangio is coaching for his job. Some might get conservative under those circumstances. Riverboat Vic is going in the opposite direction. Three times the Broncos went for it on fourth down. Each time they converted, with the second (4th-and-2 at Giants’ 49) and third (4th-and-1 at Giants’ 4) leading to TDs.

Down: Risner vs. Williams. The Broncos’ second drive was blown up when they tried to run behind left guard Dalton Risner one-on-one against defensive tackle Leonard Williams. The one-time Pro Bowler shed Risner and swallowed up Javonte Williams for a two-yard loss at the Giants’ 13. A field goal soon followed.

Down: Injury bug bites. A year ago, the Broncos lost Von Miller before a single regular-season snap, then lost Courtland Sutton less than two quarters into his first game of the season (Week 2 at Pittsburgh). Jerry Jeudy’s ankle injury in the third quarter looked like it might fall in the same season-ending category. We can only hope it isn’t.

Up: Redemption I. we spell redemption Okwuegbunam. After fumbling away a potential scoring opportunity at the Giants’ 3 earlier in the game, Albert O made an incredible play on 4-and-1 at the Giants’ 4, catching a dump-off pass and twisting his 6-5, 258-pound frame to the pylon to cap a 16-play, 75-yard drive to start the second half.

Up: Redemption II. Tomorrow we spell redemption Kyle Fuller. The Broncos cornerback showed the mental toughness of a veteran on the Giants’ last-gasp drive late in the fourth quarter, responding to a pass interference flag that put New York at the Broncos’ 7 with two pass break-ups, including one-on-one against Kenny Golladay on fourth down.

Down: Teddy Haters. To those still disappointed in Drew Lock taking a seat in favor of Teddy Bridgewater: Could we interest you in 19-of-22 in the first half? How about 3-for-3 on fourth down, including a touchdown pass? Or maybe that clutch third-down scramble-and-throw in the third quarter is more your thing? Take your pick.

Up: Saubert springs Gordon. On a big day for the Broncos’ tight ends, it was a block from Eric Saubert that helped put the game on ice and spring Melvin Gordon for a 70-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Down: Broncos’ next two opponents. With rookie quarterbacks, Jacksonville (Trevor Lawrence) and the New York Jets (Zach Wilson) were outclassed in road losses to Houston and Carolina, respectively. That’s good news for Denver.

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