The Denver Broncos still can’t get over the hump against elite football teams. In New England yesterday, they once again staked their opponent an early lead and saw their comeback hopes collapse under the weight of their own mistakes. Denver has a lot to work on in the wake of their 31-21 loss, but they also have some things to build on going forward. The biggest game of the season so far is looming so the Broncos need to pick up the pieces in a hurry.
Here are some thoughts on the Broncos loss to the Patriots:
- In a surprise to most Denver fans, the Patriots won this game by running the football. They outgained the Broncos by a staggering 251 to 70 yards rushing. That allowed New England to dominate the time of possession by a 35:49 to 24:11 margin and control the pace of the game. They accomplished that despite employing a “Super No Huddle” where it seemed like the Patriots were sprinting to the line of scrimmage after every play. New England had a masterful game plan, as they usually do, and Denver could not make the necessary adjustments to contain their offense.
- It seems we have gotten to the point where the questioning of Peyton Manning can stop for good. He can make the throws, take the hits, and lead this team like no one else we’ve seen in a long time. Manning finished with 345-yards passing and 3 touchdowns against no interceptions.
- Despite Manning’s effectiveness throwing the ball, it looks like he is not yet completely on the same page with Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy in regards to the offensive scheme. It still feels like McCoy refuses to take the brakes off the offense. Furthermore, the play calling was atrocious in several big spots yesterday. The most notable example occurred when the Broncos turned it over on downs early in the fourth quarter. On third-and-1 at the New England 47 the Broncos ran Ronnie Hillman to the right side of the line. Then on fourth-and-1 they threw it to Willis McGahee in the right flat. McGahee, who was wide open, flat out dropped the ball and the Denver comeback lost a ton of momentum. The Broncos not only predictably ran it up the gut on the third down play, but they called on Hillman for the tough rushing yard and McGahee for the pass play. Mismanagement of the offensive personnel is beyond maddening, and mistakes like those just can’t happen when playing teams like the Patriots.
- As an old college coach of mine use to say, the defense was sieve-like. The Patriots set a franchise record with 35 first downs in the game. You heard that right; 35 first downs! The Denver defense also allowed 11 third down conversions and 444 total yards, and New England ran 23 more plays than Denver did on the day. Any way you slice it the defense just didn’t play well enough for Denver to win.
- The defense deserves criticism, but there were a couple of bright spots that should be mentioned. The most glaring was Von Miller. He racked up 7 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss and a pass deflection. He also made a massive stop right before the half to hold the Patriots to a field goal when Denver was still in the game. There is blame to go around for yesterday’s performance, but I’m not going to give any to Miller.
- The most frustrating part of the game was the unforced errors. Demaryius Thomas fumbled the ball away after a massive 43-yard gain on the opening drive of the game. For the second week in a row Thomas took points off the scoreboard with a hideous fumble. McGahee had a huge drop on the 4th down pass late in the game, and then he fumbled the ball away on Denver’s final possession which ended all hope. Those turnovers at big spots are nearly unforgivable. If Denver wants to become an elite team, which I believe they are capable of doing, they simply cannot give the ball away at critical moments.
- The Broncos have played 3 of the very best teams in football over the first 5 weeks of the season. Although it would have been big to steal a win from one of them, all is not lost. Denver has probably played the toughest schedule in the league so far and 2-3 is right about where they should be. If the Broncos can bounce back with a win against San Diego next week they will find themselves in first place in the AFC West. Denver needs to learn from their mistakes yesterday but let the loss go quickly. The most important game of the season is coming up on Monday Night Football, and as stated before in this column, Denver will be sitting pretty if they can find a way to get to 3-3 for the bye week.
- When Denver played in San Diego last season the stadium was jam packed with Broncos fans. I expect it to be even more so this year with Manning coming to town. If you are in the area, get to Qualcomm Stadium and help Denver get this massive victory. Go Broncos!