Kyle Orton, 'The Pass', and what it means in the Preseason

Sometimes I need to take some time.  Saturday's game, or the period following it, was one of those times.  Not necessarily because I was that unhappy with the performance; far from it.  No, sometimes I take some time because I like to jerk myself back to reality.

The Preseason, like most everything in the NFL, is beginning to take on a life of its own.  The League has done a great job promoting just about everything - from the Combine, to the Draft, to Training Camp and the Preseason.  While both are incredibly important at an internal level, the results (read: score) are not.  Two teams playing a game in which both sides are trying to accomplish two different objectives makes it hard to celebrate, or criticize, the result.

Take the final stats from the game in Seattle -

Final

Category Broncos Seahawks
Score 13 27
Rushing Yards
81 72
Passing Yards
201 176
Total Yards 282 248
T.O.P 35:07

24:53

3rd Down 6/16(37.5%) 6/17(35.3%)
Turnovers
3 0

Forget the score for one second and look at the numbers - the important numbers.  The Broncos won all the statistical battles - Time of Possession, 3rd-Down Conversions, Rushing, Passing, Total Yards.  For much of the first half the team dominated play on both sides of the ball.  For a team learning a new system on both sides of the ball there was progress from Week 1 of the preseason to Week 2.  That is what I was looking for.

On the negative side, the Broncos have to stop giving the ball away.  Forget 'The Pass' for one second - I'll be talking about that a bit later - Scheffler's fumble at the beginning of the 2nd half was way too much like 2008 for me.  It doesn't matter who the coach is, who the quarterback is; if the Broncos turn the ball over deep in their territory like they did then, and when Kenny McKinley fumbled a punt return, the losses will pile up.  That has to get cleaned up.

Another downer?  Clock management.  Whether it was a communication breakdown from the coach to the quarterback or Kyle Orton not getting out of the huddle fast enough; the Broncos were close on several occasions - the TD included - to delay-of-game penalties and were forced to use all their first-half timeouts by early in the 2nd quarter.  Right now I'll chalk it up to a new coach, new quarterback and a new system. 

Now, The Pass.  This has been talked about in the comments and Fan Posts, but the haters will still point to it.  Kyle Orton's left-handed INT late in the first half was ugly to be sure.  It will be talked about all week to the point of nausea.  Please be more educated.  Why?

  • The play-calling.  This goes back to what I was talking about earlier when it comes to the Preseason.  It is the only time, in a competitive environment, to practice situational football against other teams.  After LaMont Jordan ran the ball to the 2-yard line on 1st and Goal, the Broncos threw the ball three straight times.  Could this happen?  Sure.  At times.  But I find it hard to believe, with the running back stable the Broncos have, that the offense wouldn't try to punch it in.  Even if they did try to pass twice, there is little doubt that during the regular season the right play is to kick the field goal.  Winning, on the road,  is too valuable a commodity not to extend that lead any chance you get.
  • The Drop.  On 2nd and Goal the Broncos had the perfect play called.  A play-action fake drew both linebackers to the line of scrimmage.  Jabar Gaffney snuck to the back of the end zone, where Kyle Orton saw him and fired a laser that hit Gaffney right in the hands.  Was it a bit high?  Yes, but Orton still had to throw the ball over the linemen and linebackers to get it there.  Plain and simple, it is a catch Gaffney has to make.
  • The Situation.  The Broncos' decision to go for it on 4th and Goal from the 2 was more about practicing a situation than not kicking the field goal.  You never know, in a real game, when you might need to score a TD on 4th and Goal from the 2.  If you never practice it how will you be ready for it?  That said, what was Orton supposed to do?  Take the sack and people are clamoring that he doesn't know the situation.  He could have gotten the ball out quicker, perhaps, but the Seahawks did a good job of flushing Orton to his left.  Again, it was ugly, but given the situation there really wasn't anything Orton could do.

To make something clear, I'm not saying to ignore all the negative during the preseason.  Not at all.  What I am saying is, good or bad, nothing that happens during August will directly translate into September and October, especially when it comes to play-calling and strategy.  Josh McDaniels is trying to throw as many situations at his team as he can and will use the preseason to do that - he's right.

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