There’s good news? You bet! Despite the failings of the Broncos as they go into Atlanta to try and upset the heavily favored Falcons, there is a lot of good news to report. Not surprisingly, a lot of the good news is coming out of our offense.
Last Thursday showed that the Broncos continue to have the potential to put 40 points on the board week after week. Despite some issues of getting in sync and the normal progression of a young QB, the Broncos are at or near the top of the AFC in several key categories.
Let’s start with an AFC leading 3556 total yards. It is obviously based on the continuing bombardment coming out of the arm of Jay Cutler. Without comparing him to anyone, much less to history, seeing a young man not yet in his third full season leading the AFC in passing yards tells you a lot. Ryan in Atlanta can depend on a stingy defense that knows how to take away the ball and the pounding runs of Michael Turner and Co. Jay can't. Our rushing offense has produced 965 yards, not terrible and not great.
Jay? Well, he depends on rookie wonder With Cheese, a cagy veteran in B. Stokely and the intermittent brilliance of Marshall, his favorite target, but he has spread the ball around more and more and seems to be learning his offense well. He doesn’t have much else to depend on, and it’s not inappropriate to consider how he’d be doing in a more balanced team. This is a lot to drop on a young QB, but overall Jay is handling it well. Several interceptions have happened because someone, usually Marshall, ran the wrong route. Jay has 18 touchdowns to his credit and 11 interceptions. His passing yards lead the AFC, at 2616.
Here is nfl.com’s report of the Atlanta stats:
23rd in total defense at 347.6 ypg 22nd in passing yards allowed at 228.4 ypg, and 21st in rushing yards allowed at 119.1 ypg Total yards against? We’re at second to last in the AFC, atop woeful Kansas City, who gave us a serious pounding. Rookie mistakes…yet, look at what our young wunderkind has done.
Denver is -11 in the turnover department. Atlanta is at +4. That bothers me a lot. While I think that the turnover question is quite possibly our biggest failing, the answer may be Cutler’s ability to shake off mistakes and come back strong. I saw Jay mature last week. After a fairly poor showing in the first half, other than an excellent touchdown drive, Jay got mad, got going, and found ways to win. The interception based on Marshall missing the route? Didn't fluster Cutler. Isn’t that his fifth 4th quarter or OT win? Not bad for a QB in his second full season whose tailback is a fullback and whose fullback is a LB.
Is Jay our whole team? Heck No. We have a lot of excellent rookie talent and great depth at a lot of positions, despite a cursed injury roster. We have the veteran play of the best slot man in football, good TEs, and a front line who have pass coverage down to a science.
Atlanta rushes the passer well, but two of their own DT – Kindal Moorehead and Grady Jackson, are banged up and Moorehead did not practice yesterday. DE John Abrahams is also sporting a neck injury. Far more importantly, their solid LT, Sam Baker, did not practice and may not play, and tackle Todd Weiner has a bad knee. They have weaknesses to exploit.
This game may come down to poise. Ryan has 250 attempts for 1909 yards. He’s driving a well established machine, not tearing up the league (Note – the Sporting News, which I used for much of this, lists Ryan’s passing yards at 1909, but their total passing yards at 1829). The Atlanta offense does have a massive 1420 yards rushing. We will have to stop the run. Michael Turner, who accounts for 890 of them, has a bad hand but it’s not likely to stop him. Our guys up from will have to. Atlanta will get its yards – we will probably bend, but we don’t have to break. At times, we have stopped long drives with big plays. This would be a good week to continue that trend.
I think that Cutler probably has to have another game of 30 to 40 points. That’s a big burden, and he may try to force things as young QBs do. But he has the skills and the weapons to hammer out another huge win on the road. The only potential bad news is that it may have to be on his young but able shoulders.
Per NFL.com, Atlanta is: 6th in total offense, 361 ypg 19th in passing - 203.2 ypg 2nd in rushing- 157.8 ypg, and 13th in points per game at 23.4 ppg 23rd in total defense at 347.6 ypg. 22nd in passing yards allowed at 228.4 ypg, and 21st in rushing yards allowed at 119.1 ypg
Denver is: 2nd in total offense, 395.1 ypg 3rd in passing - 287.9 ypg 18th in rushing- 107.2 ypg, and 9th in points per game at 24.9 ppg 29th in total defense at 389.1 ypg 28th in passing yards allowed at 242.8 ypg, and 27th in rushing yards allowed at 146.3 ypg
We match up surprisingly well. I agree with all the Gun Young and others have posted. We need to stop Turner; with Baker hurt, we should be able to rush and hamper Ryan. That’s very important. But the final word is probably going to come from Mr. Cutler. I hope he’s going to eat a solid blood-sugar appropriate breakfast on Sunday. We’re going to need him. But the good news is that Cutler can get it done.