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Broncos get win, then add TE Davis

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — With the Denver Broncos’ first world championship team looking on, the 2015 Broncos finally looked like a complete team capable of winning a Lombardi Trophy of its own in their 29-10 win over the Green Bay Packers.

The defense dismantled Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, holding them to just 2.0 yards per pass play thanks to three sacks for 27 yards. Rodgers averaged 3.5 yards on his 22 attempts as he settled for checkdowns and swing passes, which Denver’s defenders quickly defused, preventing yardage after the catch.

The offense finally found the effective balance it sought, and rampaged to a 500-yard performance that moved the Broncos from dead last in average per play to 18th. With the No. 1 defense in total yardage, yardage per play and passing yardage at the team’s disposal, the Broncos need only a league-average offense to have a potential title-winning mix; after Sunday’s performance, they could have that.

But all that wasn’t enough. Even the best performance all season by their tight ends wasn’t enough, so the Broncos traded for Vernon Davis on Monday.

Denver sent sixth-round picks in the 2016 and 2017 drafts to the 49ers for Davis, with the Broncos also receiving a 2016 seventh-round pick as part of the deal.

Davis might prove to be a rental, since his contract expires after the season and the Broncos expect to have 2015 third-round pick Jeff Heuerman back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. But he should provide an immediate upgrade to a position group that had disappointed in terms of its receiving production so far this season.

“I think he’s a great mix with the tight ends that we already have,” general manager John Elway said. “I think the addition was not a subtraction or we were worried because of the performance of the tight ends. We just thought with the opportunity to add Vernon, to be able to add him to our roster and as a weapon on the offensive side was an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up.”

And if he can solve the Broncos’ red-zone woes, he might be the final piece of the puzzle.

REPORT CARD VS. PACKERS

–PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus. It would have been nice for Peyton Manning if he could have snapped his streak of games with an interception, but an errant pass intended for Andre Caldwell in the fourth quarter prevented that. But the wayward throw was inconsequential; the Broncos led 29-10 by that point and the rest of Manning’s work was easily his best of the season, as he completed 21 of 29 passes for 340 yards.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus. The Broncos’ offensive line built off their overtime success against Cleveland, driving the Packers off the line of scrimmage consistently and giving Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson room to run. The duo combined for 161 yards on 33 carries, and one of them has broken the 100-yard mark in three of the last four games. The Broncos’ running game — finally — appears to be on track.

–PASS DEFENSE: A-plus. With three sacks factored in, the Broncos held the Packers to just 50 net passing yards on 25 pass plays — a piddling 2.0 yards-per-play average that seems unfathomable for an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. Outstanding downfield coverage prevented Rodgers from finding the deep passes to stretch the defense that he normally feasts upon. The pass rush didn’t break Rodgers, but it rattled him, and with the downfield coverage holding up, it eventually led to the strip-sack fumble for a safety that effectively ended the game.

–RUN DEFENSE: B. For the Broncos, it was an average performance against the run, although pretty much everyone would take allowing 90 yards on 21 carries. If not for two Rodgers scrambles out of the pass rush for 31 yards, the Broncos would have held the Packers to just 59 yards on 19 carries — which would have been a 3.1-yard average. With mobile quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Alex Smith next on the docket, this is an area the Broncos must improve.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B. Brandon McManus was once again perfect, and Britton Colquitt dropped two of his three punts inside the Green Bay 20-yard line. But the Broncos continue to struggle on returns, with Emmanuel Sanders averaging just 4.0 yards on his three punt returns against the Packers.

–COACHING: A. The bye week paid dividends. Manning got extra rest, but the additional practice work that came from taking part in his first Wednesday practice since September helped the offense get back on track. Wade Phillips’ defense threw some different looks at the Packers, using a three-cornerback alignment with T.J. Ward as the single high safety, forcing the Broncos’ cornerbacks into man coverage. Because the Broncos’ corners are so good in man coverage, they had the freedom to use that alignment while maintaining a base 3-4 package, which helped stop the run.


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