Nov 29, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos and New England Patriots fans cheer in the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 30-24 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
With the Denver Broncos in a current slump, I have asked Dr. Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann back to the Broncos Fanzone and get her takes on the state of the Broncos and the Monday Night Matchup.
Broncos Country, the team is in a slump right now. After two second half meltdowns, the Broncos sit at 10-4 on the year. No scoring in the second half has allowed the Raiders and Steelers to mound comebacks and hand the Broncos two straight losses.
I am sure that after two weeks of this, we can all agree that coaching is the biggest reason behind the lack of “kicking and screaming” in the second half. It has been quite a difficult thing to see.
Now the Cincinnati Bengals come to town and the final first round bye in the AFC is up for grabs. These two teams will fight for it for at least this game, if not for two weeks.
Looking ahead to this game, I have decided to bring back an old friend for this Broncos Fanzone segment. Ten weeks ago, when the Broncos were in the midst of Cleveland Browns week, I talked to Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann of Mile High Report.
Now she is back for this week’s segment. With how the Broncos have performed the last two weeks, having her insight to the recent struggles was in the cards. You can read her the first interview here.
Since I have mentioned struggles, the first thing that we talked about what is the cause of the second half collapses. Smart as she is, she told me I had answered my own question. But it got her thinking as to why the collapses were happening. I was intrigued to hear her answer to this.
“This is a complex answer that I’m sure I can’t answer completely, but a few things come to mind.”
“First, I think it’s not so much “a lack of adjustment” as it is a failure to anticipate a need to. When Brock is successful in the first half with a relatively simple game plan, Kubiak and Co. may not necessarily see “a need to adjust.”
However, two games in a row the coaches have failed to make adjustments in-game in the third quarter (or to anticipate that this is likely to happen) when the opposing team has clearly made defensive adjustments to confuse Brock and the offense.”
“Second, Brock is not experienced enough to pick those things up pre-snap and therefore he ends up looking like a different – and rather inept – quarterback. This is no knock on Brock (hahahaha…let’s make that a thing, shall we?) because I think he’s doing admirably well, especially given the circumstances.”
“But the last two games against the Raiders and Steelers, Brock has been able to do well in the first half but not the second, and I think much of that can be chalked up to experience and good defenses with good defensive coordinators figuring out his relatively small toolbox at this point and taking advantage of their ability to confuse him with different looks from half to half.”
“So the real breakdown is that the coaches have failed to consider that their opponents are going to do this and coming up with different plays/game plan to mitigate this problem. A reader on Mile High Report who is far smarter than I and has way more experience playing football than I (somehow my five years of flag football don’t measure up here), made a great suggestion that I will pass on (and Kubiak and Dennison, listen up!)”
1. Simplify his reads by rolling him out more often. He’s mobile too, so this play works pretty well with him
2. Provide him more “levels” concepts so that he has a short and deep receiver on the same side of the coverage. This makes the defense declare its coverage sooner (easier for the QB to read)
Couldn’t agree more Laurie. And I do think that should be taken into effect. With the lead, coaches do not think there is need for an adjustment. But if the opponent starts catching up and going with plays that are working, should the coaching staff change things up to prevent a comeback?
Second, Kubiak needs to help Osweiler adjust when he does get confused. As I have said for the past few weeks, this is a 60 minute game. Not 15, not 30, not 45. Not even 57 minutes.(As Broncos fans should know with Tebow)
Kubiak. I am looking at you. Keep your foot on the gas pedal and adjust whatever you need to in the driver’s seat and good things will come.
We can all agree that injuries are a part of the game. The Broncos have had their fair share of injuries. But with this recent losing streak, I asked Laurie if she could have any player come back from injury that could be the difference maker in the game, who would that be?
Nov 15, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos strong safety David Bruton (30) poses for a photo before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
“I wish I could say David Bruton because he is a fighter and a leader, and even though he’s not a starting safety, every time he has been out on the field, he’s been gunning to make a play. Playing through a broken fibula last week is proof of that.”
“But since Bruton is out on IR, I’m going with both our starting safeties – Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward. It was evident last week that we were missing our starters in the backfield and I’m sure Chris Harris Jr. will appreciate having those two back.”
High-five Laurie! I would have said the exact same thing. As some may know, I was in Pittsburgh for last weekend’s game. As the game went on and how Antonio Brown and the other Steelers wide outs were catching passes in the middle of the field, I only had one thing on my mind.
The Broncos clearly miss having Ward and Stewart out on the field.
Without those guys playing center field, Big Ben was able to dink and dunk all over the field. And without the ball hawking, crunch hitting of Ward and Stewart out there, it was difficult to watch the Broncos secondary get picked apart.
Hopefully we will get to see one or both of them on the field this weekend.
With Brock Osweiler starting his sixth game of the season on Monday night, I asked Laurie what her thoughts were on the signal caller and to evaluate his performance.
Dec 20, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak (L) talks with quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) on the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 34-27. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
“Evaluating Brock is tough because while he has been studying the NFL offense under Peyton
Manning for three years (and therefore should be the second smartest QB in the league, right E?), we need to really think of him as a rookie.”
“With that in mind – as well as the drama with which he has been called to action – I think he has been cool-headed and promising. Football-wise, he clearly has some raw talent – he has zip on the ball, he can run (which I find amazing, given the fact that he’s 10 feet tall), and he can make a lot of different throws.”
“But he’s young and inexperienced, and I think what we’ve seen the last two weeks against good defenses in the Raiders and the Steelers, is Oz’s inexperience at adjusting to a defensive scheme specifically designed to rattle him. I think he’ll get better at this but I think we are clearly missing Peyton’s ability in this department.”
I really liked the rookie approach to the question. And it is true. When he played his first game in Chicago, it was his first NFL start. After being in the league for as long as he has, it was nice to see him get a start.
I believe the adjustments for Brock will come with time. Having Manning’s brain could really help Osweiler adjust to those defensive changes. But we can’t have it all now can we?
He will get better in time. I am a firm believer in the kid. (Which is weird for me to say that since I am only one year older than him)
So, Laurie, what do you believe will be the biggest difference in Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals?
“I’m confident in this game. Coming off two tough losses and now playing at home against a team without its starting QB, I feel good about our chances (but for the record, I’ve thought since the beginning of the season, that the Pittsburgh game would be tougher than Cincy). The difference will be that the Broncos are playing for broke and should have most of our defensive weapons back.”
Even though the Broncos and Bengals have a lot to play for, I would have to say the Broncos need this win more than the Bengals due. They are reeling, they don’t like it, and I would imagine playing in front of the home crowd at Mile High will give them the boost they need to get the train back on the tracks.
Last question. As always, any bold predictions and a final score?
“Bold prediction: three INTs, two of which are pick-sixes by the Broncos defense Final score: Broncos 30, Bengals 21”
Love it Laurie. And thank you for coming back to do this. I am certain I would enjoy having you back on. Go Broncos!