The first few weeks of the NFL season are plagued by turnovers, penalties, and mental errors. I’ve come to believe that the team that best limits those things will win an early season game even if on paper, the team should’ve lost.
That’s exactly what happened in today’s Broncos vs. Jaguars game. The Broncos led the Jags in total yards (363 to 299), number of first downs (21 to 17), total plays (61 to 56), average gain per play (6.0 yards to 5.3 yards), and time of possession (30:30 to 29:30).
All arrows were pointed in the direction of a Broncos win. The problem was the Broncos surrendered 2 turnovers, 3 sacks (21 yards lost), and 7 penalties for 70 yards lost. In comparison, the Jaguars didn’t turn the ball over, David Garrard was sacked once for a loss of 5 yards, and they had 5 penalties for 47 yards lost.
While football is a physical game, it’s very much a game of the mind as well, especially when playing in 105 degree heat. The Broncos were playing catch-up for the entire game and had two costly penalties called in the 4th quarter when Ryan McBean had back-to-back face mask penalties trying to tackle 5’7” elusive running back, Maurice Jones-Drew. Those penalties put even more dark clouds over the Broncos heads after already waiting out the 33-minute rain delay before the 4th quarter.
Jones-Drew finished the game with 98 yards on 23 carries. In comparison, the Broncos team rushing total was 89 yards, exposing a backfield that still needs time to adjust to game-speed after battling injuries throughout training camp.
David Garrard put in work with 170 yard on 16-21 and 3 TDs. Garrard’s favorite target on the day was Mike Thomas who had 6 receptions for 89 yards. Tight end Marcedes Lewis caught 2 TD passes.
The Broncos offense got rolling at the end of the first half when Kyle Orton threw an 8-yard TD strike to Jabar Gaffney. Orton had a great game going 21-33 for 295 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. His main man was Brandon Lloyd who had 5 catches for 117 yards. Eddie Royal also had a nice performance with 8 receptions for 98 yards.
Defensively, the Broncos couldn’t pressure David Garrard. Robert Ayers had the lone sack of the day. The Broncos had 1 pass deflection while the Jaguars got a good read on Orton’s passes with 5 deflections. The Jags did a good job of exposing holes in Denver’s defense at the right time. Jones-Drew kept the clock running at the end of the game by stringing together some first down runs. That didn’t give Orton enough time to get his offense on track to try and tie the game in the final minute. Orton felt rushed and threw an interception which cemented Jacksonville’s victory.
As any team will tell you after week one, there are plenty of kinks to work out in the system. Whether it’s playcalling efficiency to avoid delay of game calls, or blocking schemes to help the run game, every team will change things before week two.
As for the Broncos, they didn’t start the season the way they wanted to, but they do still have 15 more game to go. That’s an eternity in this game.
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