There was a feeling of Deja Vu at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday afternoon. It was only 6 days ago that the Broncos followed up a horrendous first half with a furious comeback that came up six points short against the Falcons, and they followed that same script to the letter against Houston yesterday. The opponent may have changed, but the sloppy and mistake-ridden football the Broncos are playing has stayed the same.
Here are some thoughts on the frustrating loss to the Texans:
- The most disheartening aspect of this two game losing streak is that the defense cannot get off the field on third downs. Houston finished the game 7 for 14 on third down conversions, but Denver couldn’t stop them in the first half. In the last two games the Broncos have tried and failed to climb out of a big hole in the fourth quarter. If the defense could make a big stop or two early in the game Denver wouldn’t need to complete a miraculous comeback. Furthermore, this defense failed to stop a key third down at the end of both games that would have given the offense the ball with a chance to win it. Someone make a play!
- Typically a defensive game plan is based upon slowing down the strength of the opponent, or at least taking away one of their weapons. So what exactly did the defense take away from Houston yesterday? Arian Foster rushed for over 100 yards and scored a receiving touchdown; Andre Johnson had 72 yards receiving and one score; and Matt Schaub finished with 290 yards, 4 touchdowns and a rating of 115.3. Outside of an early safety by Elvis Dumervil and a late interception by Wesley Woodyard, the defense didn’t slow the Texans down at all.
- Peyton Manning threw for 330 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions for a quarterback rating of 83.0. The final numbers are decent, but the offense is failing to produce as expected and Manning has to take responsibility for that. Of course there are others who can share in the blame. The injuries to the offensive line, Mike McCoy’s refusal to loosen the reigns, and the drops by the wide receivers. The list goes on and on. This offense needs to figure things out and put together a complete game.
- Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy made questionable decisions all afternoon, but the most reprehensible was the back to back runs near the goal line on Denver’s final scoring drive. Those two plays ran a minute or so off the clock. Not only that, the run game had been stifled all game and Manning was picking apart the defense in the fourth quarter. Why go away from what was working, and where is the sense of urgency? When Denver finally regained possession of the ball there was only 20 seconds left and the game was over. If Manning had that extra minute to work with I would have liked his chances on a potential game-winning drive.
- Denver has lost back-to-back games and the fan base is frustrated. But in the big picture they have fallen just six points short against two of the best teams in the league. Both the Falcons and the Texans are veteran clubs who are loaded with talent. They also both have a quarterback who has been at the helm for several seasons. Denver will get to that level, but it’s going to take some time for Manning to get in sync with this offense and for the team as a whole to gel. If they can get through this brutal six game opening stretch of their schedule at 3-3 they will be in great shape later in the season. Denver needs to play better, but the doom and gloom scenarios on social media are premature to say the least. Furthermore, the Manning critics may have some ammo to work with right now, but the notion that signing him was a mistake is beyond ridiculous. He will have the last laugh when all is said and done.
- Despite a 20 point deficit in the second half, the Denver fans had Mile High rocking up until all hope was lost. The crowd did Broncos Country proud and they once again showed that Denver has the best fans in the league. Hopefully the team can return the favor next weekend.
- The Broncos find themselves in a must win situation on Sunday against the Raiders. With every team in the AFC West at either 2-1 or 1-2 there is still a lot to be decided in the final 13 weeks of the season. Denver must hold court at home against their division opponents if they have their sights set on the playoffs. Go Broncos!