Kansas City Chiefs 33 - Denver Broncos 19 - Making The Grade

The Broncos fell flat, there is no other way to describe it.  Before closing the book on Week 4 and looking forward, with nervous anticipation, to a visit by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, let's take one last look at the (lack of)performance by the Broncos in yesterday's loss to the Chiefs, in something I like to call, "Making The Grade"  As always, the most important "grade" is the one on the scoreboard, and for that, the Broncos earned a big, fat F.  What about the players performance?  Let's take a look....

QUARTERBACK
 

C-

Jay Cutler -- 29/49 - 361 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT

Cutler piled up the numbers, but the Broncos offense, or it's young leader, never seemed to get comfortable in the "friendly" confines of Arriwhead Stadium.  Cutler seemed to relegate to some of his bad habits as the game went on, losing his mechanics several times that led to poor throws.  He also seemed to lock on to receivers early which allowed Chiefs linebackers and defensive backs to get in position to make plays.  In two specific instances, Cutler locked on to Brandon Marshall almost immediately after the snap and in both occasions had passes intercepted.  Cutler also seemed to lose his composure a bit at the end of the game, a sign that the Chiefs defense, as well as his uneven play, had begun to frustrate him.  All quarterbacks are going to have forgettable days.  What separates the 'very good' from the 'great' is the ability to learn and grow from it as a football player.  That is Cutler's next challenge as he works towards Sunday's game with Tampa. 

RUNNING BACK
 

D-

Selvin Young - 11 carries, 49 yards, 4.5 ypc

I said it last week, and no one believed me(I am sure someone did, but most didn't) - the Broncos simply don't have the type of running game they are going to need moving forward.  A perfect example of what I am talking about was yesterday's game.  The Chiefs were playing inspired football, and the Broncos had made some mistakes.  Despite all of that, the Broncos trailed by only 3 entering the 4th quarter.  The defense, which had been on the field a majority of the first 3 quarters, had done a solid job to force the Chiefs into field goals.  If the Broncos could just run the ball a bit, settle the game down, keep the Chiefs linebackers honest, it would open of the intermediate passing game.  Plus, the Chiefs had given up over 200 yards per game on the ground.  Sounds easy, right?  For the Broncos, it wasn't.  As a team, the Broncos were only able to rush for 94 yards on 22 carries.  Take away 2-18 yards runs, 1 by Michael Pittman, the other by Selvin Young, and the totals look even worse - 20 carries/ 58 yards.  Whether this was by scheme, or lack of execution, the Broncos running game is becoming as much of a concern to me as the defense, and that is saying something.

WIDE RECEIVER
 

D

 Eddie Royal - 9 rec. / 104 yards / 11.6 avg

The Broncos receivers didn't have one of their best days, either, with each of the team's primary threats turning the ball over in their own territory.  Eddie Royal's first quarter fumble led to the Chiefs second field goal and a 6-0 lead for the home team.  Brandon Marshall's fumble, which came near the end of the 2nd quarter, when the Broncos were winning the game and driving for more points, was returned to the 1 yard line, all but guaranteeing the Chiefs of a touchdown and a half-time lead.  Those 10 points were huge in building the confidence of the Chiefs, and along with several poorly timed drops, led to an overall forgettable day for the young receiving corps of the Broncos.  Brandon Stokley had a solid day, but we come to expect that from #14.

TIGHT END
 

C-

Tony Scheffler - 1 rec. / 26 yards / 26.0  ypc

I thought, after re-watching the game last night, that the Broncos missed some opportunities to get the ball to Scheffler down the middle of the field.  As it was, when Cutler did try to get Scheffler the ball, on a backwards pass nonetheless, the ball bounced off Scheffler's helmet and out-of-bounds for a 7 yard loss.  When there is no running game, the Tight Ends seem to suffer the most since most of their work is done in the intermediate zone that Kansas City was able to take away.

OFFENSIVE LINE
 

B-

The Chiefs were bringing heat most of the day, and after watching the game twice I thought the O-Line did a pretty good job of keep the pocket clean.  There was one sack allowed, and while Cutler looked uncomfortable, it was more Cutler bailing early than a breakdown in pass coverage.  There were times that the Chiefs seemed to be in the backfield, busting up plays before they started, but I blame the offensive play-calling for getting too cute.  O-Linemen don't like cute.  This group didn't have their best day, but it wasn't horrible either.
DEFENSIVE LINE
 

D-

My patience is wearing very thin with this group.  Tim Crowder, Jarvis Moss, Marcus Thomas, the three '07 draft picks, were all active for the first time this season and none of them made much of a ripple in the Chiefs offensive attack.  It is clear that Elvis Dumervil is hampered by his finger injury and it is hindering an already anemic pass rush.  While it's true that Dewayne Robertson was out, as was Josh Shaw, the Broncos came into the season knowing that they couldn't rely on Robertson to be a workhorse.  I don;t know if there are any answers to fix the front 4, but at some point the Broncos are going to have to start taking chances and bring extra rushers.  NFL quarterbacks, whether they are All-Pro's or career backup, are eating this defense alive because there is no pressure.
LINEBACKER
 

D

Overall, I thought this was the worst game our linebackers played as  a whole.  D.J. Williams had a decent game, but the Chiefs did a good job of avoiding him.  The Broncos went to their 4 linebacker look at times, with horrible results.  How Larry Johnson can cut back on the 2nd play from scrimmage and run up the middle for 65 yards against a quasi-3-4 look is unacceptable.  Nate Webster once again seemed to disappear, though the NW Helmet Count stands at 3.  Boss Bailey has his moments, but he was out-muscled on the TD pass to Tony Gonzalez.  While it was a pretty catch by a Hall of Fame player, it looked as though Boss played the man instead of the ball and allowed TG to make a play.  That seemed to be a repeating theme in the game - the Chiefs simply made plays while the Broncos did not.
DEFENSIVE BACKS
 

D

I know Champ Bailey is Champ Bailey, but at some point he needs to suck it up and take the opposing team's best receiver.  We see it over and over, teams simply lining up their best targets opposite of Bailey, thus leading to a big day.  In this case it was Dwayne Bowe who had a big game, mostly at the expense of Dre Bly and Jack Williams, two undersized corners.  The NFL is all about matchups and the Broncos did a poor job yesterday of adjusting to what the Chiefs were doing.   While it is true that Jack Williams didn't have a great day, many of those throws were placed perfectly, and there is no reason for Williams to be covering Bowe in the first place.  It's always a bad sign when a safety leads the team in tackles, which was the case yesterday - Marquand Manuel had 8 tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS
 

D

The Good - Matt Prater is the first Bronco ever to kick 2-50 yard field goals AWAY from Mile High Stadium.  It proves just how strong a leg this kid has.

The Bad:  Prater's miss of a chip shot is unacceptable.  He has to make a kick inside 30 yards 100% of the time.

The coverage units, specifically the kick off coverage team, was awful.  Every time the Broncos seemed to get some momentum after a score, the Broncos allowed the Chiefs a big return and great field position.  Another example of the defense being put in a bad position.

COACHING
 

F

It is true the Broncos did not play well, but they weren't given much of a chance by what I consider a horrible game plan, on both sides of the ball.  Too often the Broncos seemed content on "trickeration" than straight-up football, and while stuff like that is needed when playing an opponent with superior talent, I didn't think it was necessary against the Chiefs.  The Broncos coaches "played" just as bad as the guys inside the white lines yesterday and like the players need to improve heading into Week 5.
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