By Jeremy Samora
Finally, we started a game with tenacity and determination!
While going the entire first half of the season scoring only seven points in the first quarter, the Broncos finally put together a solid effort. This is how the Broncos are meant to play – if we can get out to an early lead, it is tough to beat us through the air.
While everyone else was touting our successes this week, Matt Cassel showed us that we have glaring weaknesses in our aging secondary. Allowing four touchdowns through the air with the talent we have in the secondary is hard to stomach. I am not out to bash the Broncos by any means, but I have failed to watch a single game during the McDaniels’ project where the Broncos put together an entire game.
I am proud of what we did this week, but at what cost? Our front seven aren’t getting it done. Our secondary is constantly reacting to the running game, which I understand considering our opponent this week, but we can’t walk away from this win thinking the season is anew. It isn’t and here is my breakdown as I saw it.
I saw a solid effort from our offensive line but I still don’t believe that Ryan Clady is 100%. We showed a few different run formations, not all effective, but I liked what I saw. Getting back to the zone blocking scheme is an improvement. Can we keep it up? I didn’t see Kyle Orton get touched but a couple times and that was after he had thrown the ball. This is why we drafted these guys and why we let Ben Hamilton go.
Knowshon Moreno actually played like he did through the first half of last year. I noticed his cuts were a little slow, especially cutting back to the left, leading me to believe that his hamstring might still be a little sore. Coming out of the cuts, he seemed to be off balance, almost as if he was expecting more output from his cutting leg. Moreno decided he wasn’t going to take no for an answer along the goal line on our opening drive and that, for me, might have been the play of the game. He was hit on the five- yard line, threw off a defender, and muscled his way into the paint.
Orton made solid decisions throughout the entire game. There were a few questionable throws – the fourth and four for instance. Looking back at the tape, Jabar Gaffney was open past the sticks but the percentage of throwing back across the body isn’t as high, so I’ll give it to him. The throws during this game were on target and on time, with most of this credit going to the offensive line. Give a receiver just a couple extra seconds and it is awfully hard to cover any route.
Run Defense- Holding a team that has two tough backs, both with unique skills and different running styles to only 51 yards is a testament to our preparation. When you play a team that really only has one feature back with one style of running it is a little easier to prepare as a team. The decision to not play Dexter McCluster didn’t officially come down until late Saturday, so I am positive the Broncos watched plenty of film on how to stop him. Jamaal Charles took the bulk of the calls and hit a wall. I really liked the way Kevin Vikerson played coming back from injury. Every time the Chiefs tried to run the ball, there was a swarm of orange jerseys. Point of contact was followed by a solid tackle. You should have noticed the penetration of our front three continually through the game, clogging the holes, forcing the backs to second guess or attempt to pop it to the outside.
Red Zone Offense- In the past weeks I have watched debacle after debacle with the Broncos’ red zone offense. We would hand the ball off over and over to our running backs and they would turn their back before they even hit the line. This week we stuck with what works - throwing the ball. Our receivers are arguably the best core group in the NFL. They bring the hurt on so many levels. Today we threw touchdowns to four different receivers. Let’s do this each week, right? When we got it inside the 5-yard line, only three times did we try to punch it in and the one time we did break into the paint (Tim Tebow TD). Maybe now when we watch the game film this week, we might notice that our red zone offense isn’t built on our running game.
Special teams- Matt Prater missed a long field goal. I seriously thought he had more of a leg then that. I am not sure that kick would have been good from 50 yards. With the wind at his back and at Invesco, that was a kick he should have made. Why is this on my “maintain”, you ask? Simple. We tried to put points on the board and stay aggressive. Matt may want to take that kick back, but our special teams played well. The Chiefs started inside the 20-yard line three times during the game, four if you count the muffed kick. We punted twice and both times it was great coverage. If it wasn’t for the blown call by the back judge, one of the kicks would have been downed on the 1-yard line. Prater added to his total touchbacks with another two again this week. I think he is on pace to have a career best this year.
Consistent pressure – Consistent pressure. I can’t say it enough. Too often, fans watch a game and see a sack and cheer, but when the sack is meaningless, and on the following play, the quarterback can sit down and have tea before he throws the ball, there is a problem. Only once did I see a sack followed by a solid effort and that was only because there was a fumble that was scooped up for a quick six. Getting pressure on first and second down is great, but if our secondary gets victimized on third down or second and long, then the sack was pointless.
Coaching Scheme- We played good in the run game and I don’t doubt for a second that the defensive line was more worried about the run game then trying to get to Cassel. But at some point, when Cassel crosses 300 yards passing and has four touchdowns, the play calling needs to change. It was apparent when Cassel threw for 469 yards that the Chiefs were going to throw the ball, A LOT. That sounds like more what we will see next week. The Chargers have the hottest quarterback in the league right now and they can burn you on each and every play. If we play like this next week, we are in trouble. When we have only one week to prepare for a game, we flat-out don’t play well. Until proven otherwise, I don’t have faith in our game preparation and I am cautiously optimistic for next week. Any time the owner is down on the field and not up in a press box, there is a sense of unease on the sidelines. I am curious to see how the McDaniels project reacts to this kind of pressure. If it works, maybe Pat Bowlen should consider renting out his press box and make walking up and down the sidelines a regular routine.
Smart football- We can’t keep making plays just to have them taken back with penalties. McDaniels preaches how we need to be a smart, physical team, but we haven’t played at all like what he tries to sell to the public. We have lost games this year because of penalties, late penalties that even the most unaware of football fans can see. The more intense fans will notice a pass interference call on second and long that gives the offense a first down. That happened twice in today’s game. Penalties are a part of the game that just burns me as I watch them. When it is second and long and a little dump pass gets tossed out into your area and you are in great shape to make an easy open field tackle, and you resort to interfering, I just want to scream. When you pull an unnecessary roughness penalty, directly in front of the line judge, AFTER the play is dead, it is too much to stomach. We will see where we are next week in these areas and I will reevaluate our effort immediately after the game.
I leave you, the fans, with just a few questions to ask yourself and post for the world to see. I surfed the net and listened to the “experts” on what needs to change in the Mile High City. I have heard everything from “our defense is old” to “it is just coaching”. What I want are your objective opinions on what we as a team need to change. Is our defense too old to be playing the amount of repetitions they play each week? Are our problems on the offensive line due to lack of cohesion or youth? Does Laurence Maroney not getting any looks during the game mean that he is headed out the door?
Thanks for taking the time to post your opinions and, as always, I leave you with a hearty GO BRONCOS!! I will see you all next week.
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