The Denver Broncos game last Sunday versus the defending champion Seattle Seahawks brought out a lot of opinions from fans. While no one was “happy” about losing the most hyped-up game to this point in the season, some were proud of the grit the Broncos showed.
The Broncos were trailing most of the game and when all hope looked lost, down eight with under a minute left to play, the Broncos pulled off the best offensive drive of the season to tie the game.
As we know, the Broncos eventually lost in overtime, never getting a chance to get the ball – yes, how petty of me to complain about a horrible overtime system. Sans the overtime drive, the Broncos defense played great overall. They played like I thought they could before the season started. That in and of itself is a great sign.
Non-coincidentally, it seemed like for a lot of the game the defensive backs had man responsibilities instead of being put in zone. I talked about this issue last week. In it, I expressed the downfalls to playing man. We saw that one play on Sunday when Aqib Talib was beat deep for a touchdown by Ricardo Lockette.
This is a risk I’m willing to take with this defense. That was one of the rare big plays they gave up on Sunday, allowing 20 points, a low score considering how many horrible positions the offense kept putting them in. I’ll take this performance over the 2nd half mess versus the Chiefs in week 2.
Also, I think the thing that helped the defense this week was Jack Del Rio letting the players play. Maybe I’m wrong – I’m not an expert on reading defenses ala Peyton Manning – but it looked like the defensive backs had man responsibilities more so than in the past couple weeks. I also saw one play where they all played press coverage. That’s what I want to see with this defense.
Sep 21, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) fights for yards while Denver Broncos strong safety T.J. Ward (43) tries to tackle during the second half at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Denver 26-20. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
The offense was the polar opposite; the opposite of how the defensive played this week and the opposite of how the offense usually plays.
There were times of tremendous chemistry, especially between Manning and Emmanuel Sanders. Their chemistry was so on point at times that the ball was out before Sanders even hit his break and it was still an accurate throw.
The line also showed great teamwork. I remember Manny Ramirez handling a stunt very well and the offensive line creating a wall for Manning.
But there were also signs of the inconsistency that Head Coach John Fox talked about after the game.
Despite great moments from the Manning-Sanders battery, they did have one play in the 3rd quarter where a miscommunication cost them a first down; either Sanders didn’t expect the ball to be thrown to him or they both had different ideas on how/when he was going to come off his break.
There were also a couple times where the offense looked lost. On one redzone run to Montee Ball, it looked like half the line was pass blocking and the other was run blocking.
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And there was one play that summed up a lot of the day for the offense.
In the 2nd quarter on a 3rd and 10 at the Broncos 32 with just under six minutes left in the quarter, the Broncos decided to take their ball and head home (or the sideline).
The Broncos lined up as usual. On this play, Julius Thomas was split out wide right and waved his arms in the air at Manning as if to say, “What am I doing on this play?” The three other receivers in the game – Demaryius Thomas, Sanders, and Wes Welker – were all late off the snap. The offensive lineman looked lazy and didn’t give much effort. Manning handed the ball off to C.J. Anderson on a draw and gave him a little push as if to say, “Just run and let’s get out of here.”
Manning wanted to get off the field on that play. No one can tell me any different. This isn’t a good look.
You can tell me all you want about how “at least they didn’t get blown out like last time” or how scoring 20 points against this defense is an accomplishment. But I don’t buy it. The Broncos offense either didn’t know what this defense was all about (unlikely) or they knew exactly what they were about and pulled punches.
In my eyes, the offense was pulling punches. That’s why it’s hard for me to be proud of this performance even though they didn’t get blown out and despite them scoring an improbable touchdown with 59 seconds left at their own 20, capped off by a two-point conversion. Yea, that drive was gritty – which is what I think we all want more of from this team. But throughout the game there was evidence of the Broncos just not even trying to advance on this defense, giving their own defense a bigger task throughout the game.
It sucks heading into the bye week off a crushing loss. But hopefully Manning, the coaching staff, and the rest of the Broncos can regroup and come up with a way to be more consistent week-to-week. I have faith.
Sep 21, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) celebrates his two-point conversation catch against Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports