Alright, so I obviously didn’t have much to do on Sunday, because I was watching the NFL Replay of the Broncos/Bears game. Yes, that game. I wrote up a short little game summary with my thoughts on today’s team in relation to that team in bold. If you don’t want to read it, you don’t have to, but some Broncos fighting for spots this off-season showed some things in that game – guys like Hamza Abdullah and Andre Hall included.
The Bears had lost three straight at home and the Broncos had won two straight after dropping four of five. This particular game was crucial for the Broncos even if they wanted to keep up with the Chargers. Lovie Smith even likened it to a playoff game.
The Bears had a little running game going in the first. Benson would crash into a DT and fall forward. The DEs like Engelberger had to make the stops early. Otherwise, the Bears were also able to open up some holes, mainly on that right side.
Bailey and Abdullah later combined to make a good force out of Mushin Muhammad. Bailey played it very well and Abdullah made up some ground to help out. That could be a team Bronco fans might have to get used to next season.
After a Robbie Gould field goal, Cutler continued his early struggles with accuracy. Then, Devin Hester misjudged a Bronco punt. Hester got a hand on the ball, but fumbled it to see Nick Ferguson fall on top of the football. I personally think it was that kick that set Denver up to get overconfident. Denver was now in scoring territory. The Broncos pounded Hall to the left side for a bunch of consecutive runs as Denver moved further into the red zone.
Cutler tried to force a pass into three Bears and a lot of traffic, and the Broncos had to settle for an Elam field goal. A great opportunity was wasted.
Karl Paymah came up big on Chicago’s first play of the following drive. Paymah did a great job fighting off Berrian, getting the position, and using his arms to stay with the receiver. Grossman made a poor decision, but it’s good to know the Broncos have players like Paymah in back-up roles.
Cutler continued to have some accuracy problems, but eventually found an open Stokely and hit his man Scheffler at the end of the quarter.
The Broncos pulled a typical Shanahan move on fourth and five and went for it, passing up a forty-seven yard field goal. Cutler made a big time play to Marshall, firing a bullet for the first on a slant route. Then it happened.
Cutler ran an option play to Andre Hall and it worked! I love the options in college, but Cutler did a great job selling this play. First, Cutler faked left and then began to roll to the right, pitching to Hall who had a wide-open field to work with. I hope to see more like that in the future from the Broncos.
Benson broke a HUGE run on the following drive, when the Bears put Hester out at wide receiver. That was the end of the season for Benson with an injured left ankle. It was Abdullah's hit that stopped the run prematurely. Cedric had been churning pretty well to that point in the contest, so who knows what he would have done if he never went out?
Mike Bell came in for a play, ran straight up the middle and POP! Bell lost the ball on a huge hit by Lance Briggs. That’s something that may carry over into the battle this off-season and affect your opinions of Mike. Bell was a "huge factor last season, but somewhat of a non-factor this season" said CBS commentator Dan Dierdorf after the play.
On the ensuing possession, Rex Grossman tossed a deep TD to Greg Olsen, beating out Paymah AND Foxworth on the play. True, the play was called back due to holding, but that holding did not affect the coverage at all. After the penalty, the Bears put three more on the board.
The Bears were able to find running backs open on the flat with screens or dumps. Kenny Peterson made a few big tackles in the game and didn’t look too bad. After a Chicago punt, Cutler dumped a screen to Hall on the right side. Hall made some great cuts and juked out three guys by himself in the open field. Hall also received some great blocks and took the pass all the way downfield to the ten-yard line. HOWEVER, Hall needed to go end zone with the run. The Broncos struggled in the end zone and could not score with three downs and goal to go. An Elam field goal ended the half with the score 13-6. It seemed like Cutler tried a lot to force the balls in the red zone (close to the goal line in particular). It may have been the Chicago defense on that day, but hopefully Cutler has matured enough to help lead this offense to more TDs in goal line territory.
STATISTIC AT THE HALF
The Broncos did not convert on ANY third downs: a scary thought.
Hall was stuffed on Denver’s first drive of the half on third down. The Bears’ defense played tough, and may well have been one of the reasons for the lack of any first downs on third down to that point.
After the failed third down, Devin Hester got himself into the game. Recall punter Todd Sauerbrun’s quote? "We’re not going to play chicken sh*t ball. We’re not going to kick away from Hester…we have guys on our coverage team that are paid to make big tackles." You mean like yourself Mr. Sauerbrun? Laid out on the ground watching Hester leap over you. Glad guys like Todd aren’t around anymore.
Now the score was tied and Cutler fell victim to the grass. Brandon Marshall slipped on the grass for the second time of the game. With Marshall on the ground, Charles Tillman laid out for a pick. The conditions affected a lot of the game, but Cutler cannot use stuff like that as an excuse. Sure it was tough, but you still have to go out and play football. I have a feeling that as Cutler matures and grows, he’ll learn to make better decisions when the conditions are tough. It’s hard to blame the pick on him when his receiver slipped and the weather was bad, but you have to bounce back and be careful out there.
Abdullah played pretty well, making an open field tackle on a scramble by Rex Grossman that seemed end zone bound. Following the scramble, the Bears elected to go for it. However, Coach Shanahan made a great challenge and it turns out Abdullah caused Grossman to fumble with his tackle and his team recovered. Plays like those give me a little more confidence in the guy at safety. I’m also glad to have a head coach like Shanahan who isn’t afraid to throw the red flag or be aggressive and go for it on fourth down like he did in this particular game.
Andre Hall played a VERY determined game in a starting role against the Bears defense. It’s one of the reasons why I consider Hall very much in the race for a spot on this team. He nearly scored again on a pitch to the left side, which he navigated inside the ten-yard line. The Broncos finished up the play with a Cecil Sapp TD run that was a recipient of a great block on Lance Briggs by Eric Pears.
Hester did it again later on to the tune of the announcers screaming "Unbelievable, Unbelievable!" Maybe the decision to kick to Hester wasn’t Sauerbrun’s, but the decision of where to kick it was. Sauerbrun kicked RIGHT DOWN THE MIDDLE to Devin Hester! Lock up touchdown. My stand on this today? Let’s go Paulescu, Kern, or Baugher! Please be smart with the ball when punting and not cocky!
The Broncos answered right back with a right-side sixty-eight yard bomb deep to Marshall beating Ricky Manning Jr. Cutler showed he wasn’t rattled by a Hester TD and showed the big play possibilities of the Denver offense. I hope Marshall can recover from his recent injury, because his surprising speed for a tall guy can really beat mismatches with certain corners. A healthy Marshall with the added receiver depth will make this offense something special.
At the end of three, the Broncos were up 27-20.
Tony Scheffler made a GREAT catch, even while he was interfered with by Adam Archuleta. Archuleta was all over Scheffler on the catch.
Scheffler beat out Ricky Manning, Cutler once again forced a LASER into coverage, and Tony Scheffler somehow came down with the touchdown. Scheffler was sideways when the ball hit his hands and got a little luck when the ball caromed off his body. He did make a great adjustment to bring the ball in while hitting the turf. It’s catches like that that show why Cutler trusts this guy so much and why Scheff is the "receiving" tight end. Unfortunately, he has to get over his injuries first.
Tim Crowder then forced a Rex Grossman fumble, which the Broncos recovered. However, Cutler tried to launch a few balls deep that didn’t find any receivers. Sauerbrun’s ensuing punt was blocked, continuing the bad day for Todd. After the game Todd complained how he was going to finally punt the ball out of bounds, but couldn’t do anything about the block. The Bears had a plan to send one guy in for pressure every time, because they knew Sauerbrun didn’t get the ball out as fast as other punters. That blocked punt really rattled the team and led to a Chicago rush TD which the Bears offensive line helped push into the end zone. Hopefully the Broncos have added enough depth this off-season and will make the most out of the punting competition. I think special teams was clearly the reason Denver lost that game. The ST play can sometimes have a ripple effect on the rest of the team, especially when it gives up so many TDs and turnovers.
The Broncos had the ball with three minutes and change to go, up 34-27. However, the Broncos had been TERRIBLE on third downs and continued the trend, while Cutler was sacked on a key third down, rolling to his blind side.
Then, of course, there was that final Chicago TD drive, which I will neglect to mention. Paymah did make a great play on third and goal to prevent a Berrian touchdown. Then Champ Bailey got beat by Berrian on a diving catch. Oh well.
Overtime was another story that doesn't need to be re-told.
Sorry to rehash the memories, but I was wondering what you thought of the game and how it relates to the Broncos today. Any mistakes you think would be corrected if Denver was to play that same situation today? Hopefully the game "summary" helped bring back problems or gripes you had after that game. Anything else anybody wants to get out before we close that chapter of recent Bronco history pre-2008?