The Denver Broncos escaped week 1 with a win. The game was all but wrapped up late in the 2nd quarter when Andrew Luck led the Colts down for a score. Still, with a 24-7 half time lead, the Broncos were stomping an opponent with a depleted defense on their home field. They should have easily put this one away. The offense came out of the break lackadaisically- almost reminiscent of the urgency they showed in the Super Bowl. For fans, the second half was nearly entirely frustrating (aside from some big plays by the defense). It’s easy to blame the players for not getting the job done, but the coordinators were largely responsible for the collapse in this one. Before we get too crazy, I want to remind everyone (including myself) that it’s only week one- it’s a learning experience. Even for the league’s best. Even so, let’s get into it.
Adam Gase became incredibly conservative in the second half. For whatever reason, the Broncos couldn’t run the football with efficiency. Monte Ball wasn’t getting it done and neither was the run blocking. The former MVP was coming off an amazing first half, and his momentum was stonewalled by the play calling. The Denver Broncos need to stay aggressive. The offense is best when it plays like it’s losing. Fast-paced and as far away as possible from the “safe football” fans see in the waning moments of games; it almost seemed as if the Broncos thought the game was going to end in 5-10 minutes… for the entire second half. When a team has a roster as talented as the Broncos do this year, it is foolish to try to stifle it until the game has a bow on it. I’m not saying Adam Gase isn’t a good coordinator; he’s clearly one of the best in the league. I’m also not suggesting we abandon smart football. But a 17 point lead against a strong team is not enough to get complacent. The defense was called upon to make sure Denver walked away 1-0. The offseason moves have given the Broncos the “identity” of a team with a killer instinct. They are capable. They just need to go out there and get it done. Next week when the division-rival Chiefs come to town, I hope to see Adam Gase and Peyton Manning put the pedal to the floor and finish them with authority.
Now for Jack Del Rio. I want to start by saying that, in general, the defense played very well. But I’m not as ecstatic as many people out there. In all reality, some of the articles are overzealous. Let’s pump the breaks for just a second. The stat line was good. Five tackles for loss, three sacks, two interceptions, and what seemed like about a dozen batted balls by the secondary. The problem area to me was the defensive line. Trent Richardson, for the first time since his rookie season, looked strong out of the backfield. He had plenty of holes and the Broncos had a hard time bringing him quickly; had Denver not gained such a large lead so early on, the Colts would have likely out-performed the Broncos on the ground. But I can deal with the rush D. It wasn’t that bad. And it’s a lot easier to overlook their shortcomings after those impressive goal line stops. The real issue was the pass rush.
Von Miller graded out well as a LB during the game, but he had virtually no effect whatsoever when rushing the passer. That’s what Von Miller does, and hopefully he can can get back on track next week. On the other side, DeMarcus Ware was stood up again and again. He did have a few plays that flashed his brilliant talent off the edge. But, for the most part, Anthony Castonzo won the battle on Sunday night. As I said before, it was only one game. It was, however, disheartening that the Broncos didn’t get after Andrew Luck like many thought they would; especially when it was known by everyone that the young quarterback would be dropping back to pass for the rest of night. Okay. I’m slowly making my way back to my main point: Jack Del Rio. The back-end of the defense was amazing Sunday night. Chris Harris was brilliant. Aquib Talib was nearly every bit of what we hoped he would be when he signed this offseason. Roby hardly looked like a rookie. And Rahim Moore… let’s just say that game ball was deserved. My question is this: Why didn’t Jack dial-up any blitzes in the second half? (or at least some stunts) Nate Irving was able to get a sack in the first half being an extra pass rusher up the middle. Just one blitzer can make all the difference for an offense’s timing. Del Rio decided not to blitz down the stretch, and the Colts were able to get it going. As I said before, the Denver secondary was fantastic. But the best DBs in the world can’t guard even pedestrian wide-outs forever. Andrew Luck looked about as comfortable as he would in a red jersey on a Friday afternoon practice in the pocket. Now he may not be on Peyton Manning’s level, but Andrew luck is pretty dang good. Certainly good enough to pick apart defenses when he has all day to throw the football. After what we saw in coverage, I would hope that Jack Del Rio is looking at the game tape right now thinking about how he can get some creative pressure on the Alex Smith this week. With the right personnel groupings and play calls, the Orange Crush could make some miserable afternoons for a lot of quarterbacks in this league.