DENVER — Entering Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns, Brandon Allen had never taken a regular-season snap.
That was hardly evident from the way the Arkansas alum led Denver’s offense to tie its highest point total of the season and a 24-19 win over the Browns.
Allen completed 12-of-20 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns and did not turn the ball over as he led the Broncos on three touchdown drives.
The defense, meanwhile, held Baker Mayfield and the Browns to four field goals in the first half and made a key fourth-down stand in the red zone in the third quarter to give the offense a chance to break the game open.
Then, with 3:19 to play in the game, the Broncos forced Mayfield to throw an incompletion on fourth-and-4 at the Denver 28-yard line to hold on to a five-point lead. Phillip Lindsay and the Broncos then salted the game away with a key first down.
Denver now enters its bye week with a 3-6 record — and a quarterback who just won his first career start.
The Broncos led just 17-12 when the Browns pushed the ball to the Denver 7-yard line with 6:07 to play in the third quarter. With a touchdown, the Browns would’ve taken their first lead of the game and put the pressure on a Denver offense that featured a first-time starter. The Broncos’ defense made sure that wouldn’t happen. Denver held the Browns short on third-and-3, and Mayfield didn’t make it to the line to gain on fourth-and-1. The Broncos took over on downs and marched 95 yards in seven plays to push the lead to 12 points. Cleveland would close the gap in the fourth quarter, but that empty red-zone possession came back to haunt the Browns as they lost by just five points.
Of course, the Broncos’ fourth-down stop just outside the red zone on the Browns’ final drive was fairly important, too.
Noah Fant has had some tough moments during his rookie season in Denver. On Sunday, though, he showed the potential that led the Broncos to select him with the 20th-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Early in the second quarter, on first-and-10 from the Denver 25-yard line, Allen found Fant on a crossing route. Fant turned upfield, broke three tackles and sprinted 75 yards for a touchdown. The passing play was the Broncos’ longest scoring play of the season and was also the eighth-longest reception by a rookie in Broncos history.
The Broncos’ red-zone defense entered Sunday ranked third in the NFL, and the defense did its part to ensure that ranking could only improve. In the first half, the Browns had the ball inside the red zone on three different possessions and were held without a touchdown each time. The Broncos then held again on the third-quarter fourth down to ensure the Browns wouldn’t gain any ground. The defensive effort meant Allen and the offense never had to play from behind during Sunday’s win. The Broncos allowed a red-zone touchdown in the fourth quarter, but the late score wasn’t enough for the Browns to come back and win.
The defense again played well, but it seems fitting to recognize the offense as they put together their highest point total of the season. In addition to Noah Fant’s 75-yard touchdown catch, he caught two more passes for 40 more yards. The performance was by far the best of Fant’s young career. Wide receiver Courtland Sutton added a highlight touchdown catch — his fourth of the season — in the first quarter, and he has nearly matched his 2018 season totals through nine games this season. He has now passed his reception total for last season and is within 15 yards of his best season yardage total. Phillip Lindsay added his longest rush of the season — a 40-yarder in the first half — and a 30-yard touchdown. He also added a key first down late in the game on a direct snap. Lindsay ended up with nine carries for 92 yards and a touchdown.