The Broncos have done everything that we as fans could ask of them, going 4-0 to begin the 2009 season. Despite much argumentation in the media and on the fan sites, the Broncos did exactly what Josh McDaniels said that they would do: They focused on winning. It's the only goal, the only end to which they work and it happens when your coaches prepare the players better than the other team's coaches prepares theirs. I'm putting most of our success to the people at the top - acquiring the right players, teaching them properly and putting them in position to win the games before the opening kickoff ever occurs.
I'm going to start us off with a discussion of last Sunday's games and then talk about a concern that has taken up a lot of space on the site. I'm also going to make a suggestion towards the goal of reducing or eliminating that issue. Please join me as we kick off with some thoughts from the film on the Dallas game and move on to the Tale that WAGs the Dog..
I really enjoyed this game, and breaking down the film afterward made me much more aware of the things that we did right. The defense showed that it can shut down one of the best rushing attacks in the league, giving up only 74 yards to Dallas. With that kind of ability to make an offense one-dimensional, we can win any game, any week.
Robert Ayers had several very good plays this week. You really can see him improving each week. No wonder LBs coach Don Martindale wanted him in during the goal-line series at the end of the game, which is a vote of immense confidence. He stayed home in the middle zone during the last two plays, just as he was supposed to, which made Romo throw over him and helped to force the pass into Champ's area. He also drove at and past Flozell Adams (who waved his arms at Ayers ineffectually as if he was trying to flag down a cab) and scalded Tony Romo on the third play of the game. He hurried Romo, hit him and ensured an INC. There were more than a handful of other plays as well - it's nice to see him growing so quickly.
On the other hand, what in the heck were the Cowboys doing throwing twice at Champ to end the game? It was late, the D is usually tired, and I was more afraid that they'd stuff Barber or Choice down our throat. I understood the issue of clock management, but even then, the choice of which throw to make wasn't exactly carefully thought out. Many thanks to those who believed that Champ was vulnerable. He is -- he's vulnerable to being declared the AFC Defensive Player of the Week, which he was.
Speaking of the run - A good young name on Sunday was Wesley Woodyard, as well as Ayers. Woodyard was called for a hold on third down of the 1st series - I watched it 4 times and couldn't see a thing, but the ref was right there. However, Woodyard's playing a nickel and long yardage package really well and did nice jobs against both the run and the pass. His versatility has to intrigue Mike Nolan. Like Ayers, he kept being in the right place.
That's two weeks in a row that Jack Williams did the job well. Alphonso Smith will be back soon, but I'm happy to have two good young CBs. Depth is beautiful. David Bruton looks good on special teams, while Darcel McBath looks good everywhere he's on the field. It looks like we had a great draft. Congratulations to Jack on the way he's stepped up. Has he improved this much, or are we using him correctly now?
For all of those fans who fight valiantly for the Broncos' honor against the 'media', I salute you, and you can stop hammering on them now. I didn't read or listen to a single commentator after the game (and on into Monday) that didn't have only nice things to say about Denver. Since then I've read only 90+% good things and I don't worry about the others. Now, we have to figure out what to do with the respect we're being given. I don't see the team changing their tune. They're going to keep finding things to motivate themselves. Can anyone imagine Brian Dawkins being satisfied at this point in the season? It's not gong to happen.
All Terence Newman was left with was a complaint and a memory - a bad one, one that may keep him up for many nights to come. After getting embarrassed by Brandon Marshall, he proclaimed, "I couldn't have played that play any better. I could have sworn it was going to be a penalty. He grabbed my jersey and threw me to the side. If that wasn't a hold, I don't know what is. I tried to grab him back. I figured either way, the refs were going to call us both for holding. But the refs didn't see it."
Sad story. The only problem is, the more I watched the play, the more I didn't see what he was arguing. But there was one thing that I did see -- he gave up on the tackle. Not only did he fail to take down Marshall the first time, he gave up on tackling him when he missed a second time and didn't even try to catch him before Marshall made it to the end zone. He seemed to be pouting and walking while Marshall was running in with the winning score. So, Newman had a couple of shots at Marshall and missed the tackle both times, but he doesn't talk about that. He's focused on the injustice of it all and he even was when the play was happening. That's the difference between a player like him and a player like Champ. Bailey is all about the moment - winning, overcoming and finding a way to be successful. Newman came off as whining, self-adsorbed, and sure that life isn't fair. Good guess - it's not. But that doesn't excuse you from not tackling and giving up on the play. In my mind, that was the game in miniature. The Broncos won through superior will as much as superior execution and via a refusal to give up. Newman gave up on the play, Marshall scored, and in his doing so, Newman deserved to lose.
Knowshon Moreno had some big plays and got his receiving TD on sheer guts and effort. How good has he been? He leads all NFL rookies with 249 yards rushing, which is 101 more than next-best LeSean McCoy (Philadelphia). The New York Jets' Mark Sanchez may end up with Rookie of the Year -- usually, the QB position has an advantage due to publicity -- but Knowshon is showing early signs of being exactly what the Broncos brought him in to be: great. I'm interested to see how he does leading the team on Sunday if Correll Buckhalter can't go.
The Secret Weapon The Broncos have a secret weapon that's not all that secret to those who are following such things: They are murder in the 4th quarter. It's a lot more than Kyle Orton, but he's a big part of it. This is nice in one way - it's in the tradition of John Elway, one of the historical masters of the comeback. But it's something that, in all the fuss and bother about Orton's first quarter or first half, we have tended to neglect. Kyle Orton is money with the game on the line and for good play-calling. His QB rating is 97.7, and that's very good. His TD/INT ratio is nothing to be sneezed at either. He's got 13 passes over 20 yards and 3 over 40. He's also going to continue to get better. But the real story is his 4th-quarter performance.
Do you want to really understand why Orton is a very good QB for the Broncos? He's got a home record of 17-2, career. Is that good? It's only the best home winning percentage in the NFL since 1970. It's that kind of good.
I don't care what his story was before, and neither should you. It was with another team, different coaches, and a different scheme. It doesn't mean a darned thing. Here in Denver, Orton has brought us back from behind in the fourth quarter of half of our games. It's early, and I don't read more into that than there is. But each week, the entire team gets tougher in the 4th quarter. The sole exception was Cincinnati, and even then - one TD in 58 minutes? It's not a big deal to me. But Oakland just gave up by the 4th. The Broncos wore them out. Terence Newman gave up in the 4th. Orton put us ahead in the 4th. The defense held like iron in the 4th. Argue all you want about pretty and ugly and lucky and tendencies and mechanics and all of that -- it doesn't really matter. Orton wins games. So does the defense. That's it. The team is mentally tough at the end of games, and they proved that again.
Final thought on the game: Our defensive backfield is supposedly too old and has lost a step. If anyone finds that missing step, please return it to the Broncos ticket office, OK? Thank you... If that's the case, folks, please send me a case lot of too old and too slow. Too old and slow looks a lot like "They don't have anyone on the defensive line" - another statement that sounds great until you actually have to defend it. Every year, players who haven't found their niche before, do. Every year, a guy gets a chance and shows a lot of other folks that he's always had the ability and never got to showcase it. We've got a lot of wins for, as Major League once said, 'some has-beens and some never-was'.
The Tail that WAGs the Dog -- And One Solution
WAGing - verb, def: The process of using thought, prediction, prejudice and personality in place of research, film analysis and/or forethought in writing articles that are supposedly a journalistic endeavor.
We've been having a series of emails, posts and responses based on the issue of the media. Although 'the media' is far from the monolithic unity that many tend to see it as, the major sports media often infuriates members of the site with rash predictions, personal prejudice and superficial analysis. I understand, and I sympathize with those who rail and rage against these kinds of sloppy platitudes. But, to be honest, there is a simple solution.
I don't partake. They don't irritate me. They don't concern me. That's mostly because I rarely read or listen to them. If there is a bit of information that I can use, great! I'll make note of it. There often is, you know. But otherwise, they can believe, publish and pontificate any darned wild guess, keyboard diarrhea or foolish thing that they wish. It's a practice that I call wagging - but I spell that WAGing. The capitalization is for Wild A (think, derriere) Guess-ing. That's generally what those folks are doing. Because that's all it is, it doesn't affect me at all. It has no particular meaning, and it's not based in anything helpful, so I just tune it out.
Journalism is a tough field. Those who do a good job - and they are out there, let there be no question about that - are usually less visible and sometimes sometimes in the minority. There is an old saying that you get exactly the kind of government that you deserve. In this case, people get the kind of reporting that they desire - or, that the majority desire, and therefore deserve. Many folks just want to vent. They need a dumping ground for their cerebral toxic waste. If you read that kind of thing, it will tend to affect you, and I can guarantee that it won't improve your life, your knowledge base or your happiness. Mostly, I try to pass.
WAGing with their keyboards isn't reporting. It isn't unacceptable, either, to me. It's entertainment -- commentary. Whether you get angry and respond or you agree and respond, you're responding -- and that is the point, the purpose and the desired end. If you just flat out don't care, they lose. Me? I flat out don't care. I usually don't read it because it doesn't have any real meaning to me. I read and listen to people like John, styg, HT and Ted, as well as boydy, lebowski and a host of other folks. I pore through the Tracks and see what is interesting, valuable or which piques my thoughts. There are a few writers who I do respect, based on what I've seen of their columns and I read those more often. I tend to close tabs on articles that are repetitious, mendacious or just foolish. The don't worry me - they are there because a lot of people like that kind of thing. More power to them. They can have it.
In this day and age, most folks can download games - as torrents, perhaps, or NFL Rewind, or in many other ways, (so I'm told). As an official old fart, I don't even have a clue as to some of it, but be assured - you can see the film for yourself. It's a great start. Now, whatever your level of football understanding, I'll encourage you to take the next step. Go back and review styg50's great articles on how to break down film, what to look for from each position. Then, go out and practice, with whatever time you have. Whether a lot or a little, you'll find yourself getting better at it quickly. And soon, the nattering nabobs of negativism, as Spiro Agnew once called them, won't matter a whit to you. You'll know for yourself. Opinion doesn't hold a candle to understanding - in fact, without understanding, the rest is vapor; formless and incorporeal. The experience is, if by chance or opportunity you haven't tried it, seductive and somewhat intoxicating. Soon, the movements become a dance with deeper and deeper levels of meaning.
I'm going to open a door, and ask that anyone with an interest consider stepping through it. I'm going to break down at least one game a week, beyond the Broncos' game and one of our opponents. I'll be keeping some notes, and I'm willing to talk with anyone about what I see. I'm asking that some of the members consider agreeing to break down one game -- the full game each week this season. I'd like to make sure that we break down all of the AFC, the leaders in the divisions and/or the other games our current competitor played in this year. If you would like to break down at least one and to report on patterns and specifics, including schemes, players of interest and some of the outcomes of the battles, please -- do it! Let me know which one(s) you're interested in. I'll confirm, you can break down that game, send me some comments, a report or a narrative. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the game that you'd like to take. If there's a conflict, I'll mention it to the folks involved and we'll work it out. If this is interesting, please let me know in advance.
If this interests people I'll use your findings in the T&M each week and we can consider other options for the information as well. Let's try something new - increasing the discussions based on actual information, knowledge and investigation, rather than a lot of secondhand ipse dixits and opinions. If it can work, I need your help. Everything that one of us sees, confirms and reports without emotion or exaggeration would change the paradigm in a new way. My door is open to those who are interested in fighting this kind of pointless (forgive me) mental self-stimulation with actual effort, direct perception and clear, succinct description and discussion.
Last week, Styg wrote,
And while the process of self-stultification is very interesting (and again, far too deep of a topic to expand upon here), it is sufficient to note that the process develops almost completely during the formative years of the mind, and results in a personality that prioritizes getting around reality, rather than dealing with it. Even in the simplest or insignificant endeavors (such as a sports analyst giving his reasons why a team will be a failure) this is a fatal mistake that pits the deceiver against reality. His imagination becomes his sole source of power in the fields of reality that he chooses to ignore, whether it is film analysis or player rankings, and his imagination is ruled by emotions he doesn't understand. The result is a deceptive, manipulative exertion in an attempt to gain control of something they have long since abandoned. Success in this endeavor consists of convincing others that his uncontrollable emotional appraisals are as real, and thus as valid, to them as they are to him.
Well said, wordsmith! Real knowledge, personal experience and valid information are both the antithesis and the antidote to this kind of pandering. Perhaps this will move forward. I hope that it does, but no matter. If a few more of our valued and introspective members take up the path of personal confrontation of what is, rather than what is said, we will have moved in a direction that breaks an odious and irritating cycle - listening to nonsense, and reacting as if it is real.
Complaining is easy, but not particularly helpful. Let's do something to counteract the situation. I have a few thoughts as to a format and I'd like to hear yours. Interested? Contact me at email@example.com
ENGLEWOOD - Chris Baker hasn't been active for the Denver Broncos yet this season, and Everette Pedescleaux is on the practice squad. Yet, the two rookie defensive linemen get plenty of coaching attention.
At 7:30 a.m., before the rest of the Broncos report to work during the week, Baker and Pedescleaux have a daily 30-minute meeting with defensive line coach Wayne Nunnely. He goes over practice film the way he breaks down game film with his regulars.
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels requires his assistant coaches be good teachers. Perhaps one of the reasons the Broncos are 3-0 despite new schemes on both sides of the ball is the coaches' ability to relay information.
"Some guys learn quickly from the mouth," McDaniels said. "Some guys need it on the board. Some guys need it on the board, on film, from the mouth, walkthrough and practice it twice, and then they have got it.
"That is just the way this game is. Every player is different, and I think that is part of being a good coach is figuring out, ‘How do I have to teach my players because they are not all the same guy?'"
Elway and the Magic Lens
I'm hearing from a lot of fans that we were just spoiled by John Elway, usually to the tune of some great memories. I'd like to toss something in - our memories are often inaccurate. I can recall lots of games during which I wondered if John would ever develop a touch pass, would calm down and make the passes, would find that open receiver. Our recollections of his strengths have often blinded us to his weaknesses.
People forget how low his completion percentage often was. They ignore the seasons that ended with QB ratings that were in the 70's - and worse. They remember - or have only read about - his consummate skill in the 4th quarter and his ability to win games. And, that's in many ways, as it should be. John had a rare ability to put a team on his back. (Folks also forget that he had a rare 10.2 sack percentage in 1992 and had three years north of 9.0, this from one of the most mobile QBs in history. Thing are often not as they appear in the rear view mirror.)
Kyle Orton isn't that kind of QB and Elway was clearly superior in many ways. However, Kyle has some strengths that Elway did manage to show regularly, and a few that John hadn't this early in his career. He's unflappable, as John often was, but he has a better touch on the ball. He's brilliant at dissecting the defensive formation and calling the right play. Overall, he's already as, or more, accurate -- it was a long time before Elway developed great accuracy over the course of a game. We tend to remember in highlight film format -- we don't always recall the reasons that we also threw pillows and such across the room in frustration with John.
Make no mistake -- for all of those who want to cast Orton as a temporary patch, a stop-gap measure -- Josh McDaniels just wants a guy who can be smart, take care of the ball, make all the throws when they are needed and who gets better during each game. Orton could be here a long, long time, folks. Orton had a completion percentage of over 68.0 with 2 TDs, no INTs and a QB rating of over 117 on Sunday, and folks reamed him that night for his lousy passing. I don't get it, but I'd suggest that we may have quite a while to figure it out.
SquashMaster of the Week
It's D.J. Williams again, leading the Broncos in tackles during the Dallas game, who earns this week's Golden Squash Award. He's also leading the team on the season - with 31, 24 of them solo, plus a sack, a fumble forced, and a fumble recovery. He added a couple of passes defensed, too and laid a YouTube highlight hit on Roy Williams that I guarantee he's still hurting from. I loved this from the Denver Post:
"I'm everywhere. I don't even call it a position," DJ said. "I'm deep, I'm blitzing, I'm on the line, I'm doing a lot of things. It all has to do with the other guys on the field. They're allowing me to roam, do the things that I do."
"That's why it's great to have him, because I couldn't have made that play," said Andra Davis, Denver's other inside linebacker, who also has 31 total tackles this season.
That last sentence from A. Davis is a great example of that I've been talking about - the tendency of the players to talk about their admiration for each other rather than about their own abilities. Remember, for the season lead in tackles, Andra Davis is second with 30 -- he had 7 solo and 2 assists this week. Champ also gets an honorable mention for the week - Champ had an unreal game with 8 solo tackles and an INT as well as 4 passed defensed. Veteran leadership, veteran ability -- it's a wonderful thing. Champ is also second in the league for INTs since 1999 with 44, behind Darren Sharper who has 55.
Of course, Doom adding another two sacks, playing the run well and doing some nifty things in coverage is kind of nice to see, too.
Taking on New England
New England is a hard team to beat and I think that we're lucky to be taking them on at home. This is a very tough team, as the Ravens found out last Sunday. Can we win? Sure. Our team is not bunch of slouches, either. This will be a heck of a chess match - no one knows Belichick better than Josh, and no one knows Josh better than Belichick - and both of them adore the art of game-planning the other team. So far, McDaniels has been nearly flawless at it. We'll have our hands full, but I see this as a close, and winnable game. Why? As always, it's first and foremost about the trenches.
First: Our defensive line. I see the Patriots as vulnerable on the offensive line, and we know from history that Tom Brady can be frustrated with enough pressure. I'm counting on Nolan to deliver here.
Second: Our offensive line. I think that the Pats' degree of player turnover has rendered them vulnerable along the front. With our ground game -- and while potential-Rookie of the Week Knowshon Moreno may get more carries, I'm also hoping to see one of my favorite players, Peyton Hillis, stepping up this week -- I think that we can be successful against anyone as long as our attack is two-dimensional.
Third: Our defensive backs can play with anyone. Brady will challenge them in new ways and it will be a battle, but I think that we can pull this off at home.
Fourth: We have the QB and receivers to make a game of it. We also have the 4th-leading running game, at 4.7 ypa and 148 yards per game. Not shabby. Our offense is as good as their defense and I beleive that our defense will show that it's stronger than their offense.
Production won't be simple. Both sides know each other's tendencies well. Each head coach will be saving a few wrinkles to try and perplex the other. Mistake-free football is the key to both sides. This is a classic matchup and I'll be glued to the screen, but I believe that this is a great opportunity for the Broncos at home. Brady will get his points, but I'm taking the Broncos in a close one, 27-24. I had the Broncos by a TD last week, and was gratified that they lived up to my faith, even though I had the game at 24-17 instead of 17-10. Never underestimate our defense.
AfterThought: Kansas City Here I come...
I was interested in this article:
"The Chiefs are clearly building for next year as they try and collect draft picks to help rebuild a team that's in desperate need of repair."
Wow, that was fast. A few weeks ago, KC was going to be 'a lot tougher than folks think". Now they're already building for next year - and with more draft picks? Maybe. And if it's true, it's an indictment of the process that Scott Pioli has instituted. While early outcomes don't determine eventual effects, so far the makeover has been a non-starter. A quick end to their offensive coordinator indicates that they don't really know exactly what they're trying to do.
This is a carousel that many teams stay on for years, and KC has been riding it. They bring in young men, often talented young men, but don't have the presence in the locker room that they require to develop those players. The veteran ability to win games, to believe in a system and to put the effort into practice, film and weight room sessions just isn't something that most players instinctively know - they have to learn it from good veterans. On that basis, I like Mike Vrabel, but he isn't Brian Dawkins. The Xanders/McDaniels team poached the free agency market in ways that are just beginning to become clear.
Look at the difference between KC and Denver. It's another example of how the team was designed and how that design was carried out. The Broncos have veterans who are leading, draft choices who are both contributing and developing, and players in the middle (like D.J. Williams) who have been around for a little while but who can continue to lead as the older players move onward. Josh McDaniels gutted the team and promptly rebuilt it - on one offseason. If he does anywhere close to as well this offseason, we'll be enjoying the New Broncos Football for years to come.
All the best in the coming week.