Oh boy, what a long three weeks this has been. I could have named this perspective "Week 10", but that just didn't feel right. No, this is not a normal week in the NFL for the Denver Broncos. This is a crossroad. A crossroads for what will become our season. One way leads to the playoffs, the other does not. So far we are travelling down the one that does not, but there is still time to make a left turn.
I've been very negative over the last two weeks and it was not just about me not having faith or believing in our team. It was about my eyes not seeing a team that can make it too the playoffs. I got hammered because, well, we lost to two AFC Championship game teams from 2008 and those losses were not indicative of any sort of trend. Well, I think we can all agree that Washington is not a playoff team and the trend IS indicative of some major problems.
This post will mostly be about the state of our franchise and as much as I'd rather not; Let's get on with it!
The Lynch Trends - Defense
Several weeks ago, in one of my previous Perspectives, I brought up two trends that had begun to bothered me. They were met with a lot of resistance and excuses, but the trends were real and have gotten worse. The first now looks like this: 7, 3, 6, 10, 17, 23, 30, 28, 27.
Now back when I brought this up, people were quick to point out the special teams touchdown and how the defense only gave up 16 points against San Diego. Well, the special teams and offense continues to give up points, but the defense is giving up points - mostly in the fourth quarter. The trend has actually gone from mildly concerning to a complete disaster. The defense needs to step it up in the second half and part of me is starting to wonder if that strenuous conditioning program during the offseasonhas actually hurt our defense long term. It made our D strong early on in the season, since our D was at midseason conditioning levels - now they are at January conditioning levels while the rest of the NFL is reaching their peak conditioning levels.
Of course, this is all total speculation, but there is a reason why teams don't work their players too hard during the offseasonand I wonder if it has to do with the players tiring out earlier in the season. Not to mention that Denver is coming off three straight games against three of the most physical defenses in the league - make no mistake, the Redskins have an elite defensive unit.
A big part of the problem is the offense, but I'll get into that later. The second trend was the big play index I created.
|Big Play Index|
|San Diego Chargers||12||4||0|
|New England Patriots||8||2||0|
As you can see, the Broncos defense got worse and have held at that level. The big play index isn't so much about how bad our defense is, but more about how good it can be. The strangest thing that I have learned from doing these stats is that a vast majority of the big plays come during the same drives. Few come during a drive that stalls too. That is why the numbers may look low to some, but should be very concerning because of the amount of points those big plays are leading too. I remember that 97-98 defense and it would give up a big play here and there, but they would rarely give up big play after big play to give up touchdowns.
Regardless of where we "rank" in defense, the Broncos unit is NOT at Top 5 or even a Top 10 unit right now. They need a statement game and fast. The wearing down in the fourth quarter does not bode well, especially with the red hot 6-3 San Diego Chargers coming into town. Needless to say, I'm not feeling too confident about our chances this week - the good thing is that great teams usually stop these kinds of slumps with a huge statement game(like Baltimore a few weekends ago). I am hoping the statement game comes this weekend and even though I have seen little to give me confidence in this hope - I know this defense has it in them to dominate. The time to dominate is NOW!
The offense had severely regressed in the two games prior to Sunday, but I'd have to say that this week was a tale of two halves. I am no worshipper of Kyle Orton, but it is clear he is our best option at quarterback right now - though I won't go as far to say he is the long term answer. I do not believe he will bring any Super Bowl titles to Denver. He isn't a bad quarterback, but it is very hard for a "game manager" to win Super Bowls. And the Denver Broncos do not have the type of team that can carry a game manager that far.
That said, he lit it up early on Sunday. The game could have had the same outcome had he not been injured, but I would have felt better having an eight game starter in than an eight game backup. I can't blame Chris Simms for struggling, which is what happens when a backup first comes in and gets their feet wet. Perhaps it would have been good for him to get some mop up duty in Weeks 2 and 3... Not that it matters, we lost as a team on Sunday.
For the first time this year, Josh McDaniels screwed up badly. He got out-coached by the venerable, yet neutered, Jim Zorn. Unacceptable. How could he possibly continue with the same game plan with Simms while up by three points. Knowshon Moreno closing in on 100 yards rushing, and then you abandoned the run. It just boggles my mind every time I think about it.
Sometimes it feels like McDaniels over-thinks sometimes. It is good to out-think your opponent, but sometimes over-thinking the situation puts you in dire straights. The second half needed only one game plan. POUND THE ROCK. Instead, we went with airing it out with a backup quarterback against the leagues best defense against the pass. Interception. Momentum Lost. Game Lost.
I liked that we finally aired it out, but with Brandon Marshall so wide open...it was an easy decision to make. I agree now with John that throwing the deep ball for the sake of throwing the deep ball would be foolish. However, it would be nice to create plays that could result in a long pass. Either way, our offense is in trouble if Orton remains injured for longer than the next day or so. That is how fragile things are on that side of the ball.
I have become utterly disgusted by the special teams play. My kneejerk reaction is to call for Pfifer to be fired immediately, but that is a kneejerk response. I want him fired immediately after the season ends. lol Seriously though, how can you allow a 4th and 20 conversion of a fake punt AFTER the other team shows you they are going to fake it before calling a time out?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Yes, that deserved a lot more ?!? than what I already typed. I don't believe I have EVER seen something like that in all my life...EPIC FAIL.
Thinking about that play still boils my blood...anger...migraine...WTF?!?!?!?! Ok. Deep breath...whew! That is three special teams touchdowns and a myriad of mental mistakes by that unit in the past four games. Something has to be done...NEEDS to be done. I'm not sure firing the coach is the answer, but perhaps stripping him of some of his responsibilities and giving someone else in house a chance to fix the problems there.
I can't take much more of this and with Darrin Sproles coming into town, we can't afford any more mistakes - whether it be a touchdown return or an offsides on a 4th and 4!
San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos
Well, here we are.
A great team would find a way to halt a three game midseason slide. A lesser team might collapse. A lesser team, like the 2008 Broncos, would implode with the AFC West Division crown on the line. A lesser team would give up.
The 2009 Denver Broncos are NOT a lesser team. They are on the cusp of becoming a great team. This game, this weekend, is OUR TIME. The Chargers have had their time - it's our turn!
The Denver Broncos need a statement game. This game has to be it. A loss would all but seal our fate. Yes, I know 6-4 is still good and we still have a chance, but 0-4 is as bad as 6-0 is good. San Diego would be in position to secure the division in a strong AFC, where even an 11-5 record won't assure a playoff spot.
I predict OUR TIME. Which means, of course, I predict a win. The Broncos will come out this weekend and bust some dudes in the mouth; the arrogant Chargers, who have rallied to a 6-3 record, will believe they have already beaten us. The paper tiger's time has passed - the Horses will run Wild!
Broncos 37, Chargers 26.
In Case You (Didn't) Noticed
I've stopped doing my weekly Upset Picks. My time is short nowadays and I'd rather focus on other things with that limited amount of time. Besides, most of you could look at my picks on Saturday and see which games I would have profiled. I will likely get back to it next season, but for now I would prefer doing this post.
I also don't have time to do my quarterly power rankings. That post was extremely long and took an even longer time to put together. It's also something I plan on doing next season, hopefully on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.
Also, I will be posting another part of the saga that I had done a few Friday's ago. Time Immemorial and Ascension. The last two games have not done well for my creative prowess. Although the third installment is about halfway finished, I haven't felt moved to continue - but as the last few paragraphs in the last section shows, I am starting to feel "it" again. I will hopefully have it ready sometime this week.