Welcome to the Soapbox Derby
Gentle autumn winds
Bely all the orange blood shed
Manning can't be stopped
Hello friends, and welcome to the first edition of something I will bring forth on a weekly basis. As the proud owner of both a beautiful new laptop and a long-standing MHR membership, I've decided to finally give up on myself and start writing a weekly column. I've been around this site since Draft 2008, and I think it's finally time that I actually contribute something to this wonderful place.
I don't offer much in the way of journalism or analysis-- I don't have Steve's mastery of X's and O's, The Dude's statistical wizardry, or Styg's ability to bend the English language over and have his way with it. What I do have, though, is an ability to look at anecdotal evidence and discover trends. I understand situations-- why drives fail, why players are more suited for one role than another, what we should strive to get out of each play-- and an analysis of these concepts is the direction in which I ultimately want to take this.
Basically, in other words, I'm going to try to analyze discipline and coaching. I want to see how players respond to adversity, which situations bring out the best and worst in players, and which parts of the game we are best prepared for. And I want to get it posted every Tuesday at 8:00 AM CDT.
God, I'm crazy, aren't I?
I want to try an amoeba approach to this thing-- I will proudly stand atop my soapbox and yell about whatever I feel like yelling about, as loudly as I can. I will, however, try to structure it somewhat so I don't descend into rambling. Here's how it'll go:
- A haiku to calm your senses. If you want to submit a haiku for me to use, go for it.
- A quick introduction. I'll tell you how I'm feeling or something.
- Coaching Points, in which I dissect the previous week's game. I think I can do a better job of explaining this section as I go through it the first time, so I won't go into detail here.
- Introspection, in which I will talk about where the Broncos are in the grand scheme of things.
- A few football thoughts that don't belong in any other section.
- Freeform Jazz Odyssey. Here's where it's going to get controversial. Here I will take a break from Broncos and NFL analysis rambling to talk about some other things that happen to be on my mind. Sometimes I will relate this to the Broncos, sometimes I won't. That's just the way it's going to be. The last time I did anything like that, I got a ton of heat. Well, I've been here a long time and I have a lot of friends here. Friends share stories. John likes to talk about how he started this blog because it was therapeutic for him to write about the Broncos. Well, this is my therapy, and these are my stories.
- Finally, I will play you off with whatever happens to be on my mind. Pay attention, though, because sometimes I'll include a trivia question here that is worth points that will be added up at the end of the season for a grand prize...
Whew. So, without further ado, let's get this damn thing started already.
This section is where I will discuss the last game the Broncos played. I want to provide some macroanalysis or divergent thinking, and look at the individual plays as how they relate to the drives in which they occurred, the drives in relation to the game, and the game itself against the backdrop of the season in its entirety. Sometimes I might look even further and see what I think this play, game, or drive means in the scope of Josh McDaniels' entire rebuilding process.
This is my take on John's fabled equation: Success in football is a result of opportunity and preparation multiplied by execution. S=(O+P)E. I'm focusing on preparation and execution here: I'm analyzing the gameplan and how well it was executed. I want to see if the coaches prepared this team for victory, and if the players responded to good coaching with good execution.
Offensively, we actually had a good balance of run and pass early. Up until the two-minute drive to end the half, we ran 11 times to 14 passes. This allowed us to set up play-action, which we used with deadly efficiency against Indy. Using very good play fakes, we were able to buy our inexperienced offensive line an extra second on each play, and virtually neutralize the dual threat of Dwight Freeney and Rashean Mathis. Huge kudos to the offensive coaches for doing this. That duo was completely shut down in this one. This also sucked in the linebackers and allowed big gains over the top. This was excellent research; Indy is known for having an attacking, opportunistic defense, and we took advantage of that perfectly, getting them out of position and often going completely the wrong way.
We also tried to do this with screens, to decidedly less positive results. This was scrapped early on; we ran very few screen plays as the game went on compared to in the early goings. This was probably due to the fact that we were using play action so well and killing their pass rush with it, but it was still interesting to see Coach McD abandon such a staple of his offense.
On defense, I was amazed with the physicality we displayed early, especially in the secondary. That must have been a point in practice this week, and it definitely paid off early. We were jamming receivers, forcing them to fight for every catch, and tackling them hard when they did. Our d-line was also very impressive, they consistently dominated the Colts' o-line on run plays. We ran most of our stuff out of our base 3-4 and nickel and used mostly man-to-man covarage. We double covered both Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne early and often, taking the former completely out of the game.
This is to be my take on the adjustments made throughout the game. What parts of the gameplan did we throw out that weren't working? What adjustments did the other team make? How did we adjust to their adjustments?
Remember how I said we tried to run early on? Well, once the coaches learned that we can't run for jack-diddly-squat, we started going pass crazy. We called 58 pass plays to 17 runs overall, and 44 of the last 50 plays were passes. Four runs overall were in short yardage, including a QB sneak. I'm not a fan of numbers, but in this case I think they speak for themselves.
Otherwise, we really ran the same offense for most of the game. We were more conservative early and more aggressive later on, but we usually won the battle on offense (between the 20s, at least), so there was nothing we really needed to adjust to in the first place.
Like I said before, the we played the Colts very physically early and got some penetration despite not blitzing a whole lot. The Colts were flustered by this early, but they are the Colts, and they adjusted. Their response to our physicality was to keep an extra man in to block for Manning and throw passes over the top to offset our press coverage. This worked until we responded by going to a 3-3-5, which negated many of the big-play opportunities the Colts had before but also made us more susceptible to runs and underneath crossing patterns.
One adjustment I would have liked to have seen was more use of exotic blitzes to get pressure on Manning. When we started playing that 3-3-5, we became softer in our pass rush, and I think the injection of a blitz would have given us a big boost in that regard. On the day, I counted only one unconventional blitz: in the third quarter, Nate Jones took off after Manning from the safety position. Peyton responded by throwing short to Reggie Wayne, who was lined up where Jones blitzed from. So, it didn't work, but I would have taken the risk-reward in that case. If we play safety defense, we'll get burned on crucial downs for big plays almost every time (see Garrard, David). In particular, the 3rd-and-15 on Indy's last touchdown drive was particularly painful to watch; Peyton had all day to throw, and he was able to float a nice pass behind Champ Bailey for a huge gain and a first down.
Bridge Vision: The Opposite of Tunnel Vision? (No.)
This is a look at the previous game in relation to the season as a whole.
There is no shame in losing to the Colts. They are, year in and year out, one of the best teams in the league. Yeah, it sucks to lose to an AFC team, and it sucks even worse to lose at home, but that's just what happens when you play Peyton Manning. Thankfully, we didn't seem to be totally overwhelmed by them. We played 'em hard and physical, but in the end I think they proved they were better than us. Like I said, there is absolutely no shame in that.
There are three tiers of importance for games. The most important games are home division games, followed by road division games. This is tier one. Tier two consists of all other home games, and tier three is all other away games. Some might argue that all conference games are more important than all non-conference games becayse they use that for playoff seeding and whatnot, but I believe that it is more important to win at home. The Broncos have one of the best fanbases and home-field advantages in the league. They must field a team that takes advantage of this. If we go 6-2 at home (and that should be the minimum goal), we can be an average road team (4-4) and still make the playoffs. If we go 10-6, we don't need to worry about whether we beat teams in the AFC or the NFC, we'll make the playoffs anyway. Just win six damn games at home. (There's something else I stole from John. The dude's a football wisdom machine.)
So while the Colts game was a tier two game, we were never going to win it anyway. I chalked this up as a loss as soon as they released the schedule. I picked Indy in my money pool. (I would've won $55, by the way, if Shankbastian Jackoffkowski would have made a @#$% field goal. Yeah, I picked the raiders. Sue me.)
Ahem. What we need to do now is refocus and gear up for what's about to hit us. We're 1-2 on the year and right in the middle of the hardest stretch of the season. It is imperative that we win at least one of the next three games. 1-5 is a hole out of which you cannot climb. The Colts loss didn't keep us out of the playoffs, but hopefully is will give us a little more of a sense of urgency in the coming weeks.
"Know thyself" was first spoken some 2300 years ago by the first philosopher , Socrates of Athens. I've always liked reading Socrates' writings (or, rather, stuff Plato wrote about Socrates) because he was one of history's few genuine arse-faces. He stopped people on the street and questioned their views on religion, politics, and philosophy, generally screwing with their minds in a way to which they could have no rebuttal until they stalked off, genuinely creeped out.
Anyway, one of Socrates' best pieces of advice was to "know thyself." Once, an Oracle proclaimed that Socrates was the wisest man in the world. Socrates, however, believing himself unwise, challenged this and spent a long time trying to find a man who was wiser than he. He was unsuccessful, however, because every man he met claimed to be wise, when really their logic had holes in it. Socrates knew that he was imperfect, that he was unwise, and that is the basis of Socratic wisdom: wisdom in knowing that you are unwise.
The Broncos will only be a good team if they recognize their faults. This section will discuss those, and will aim to answer the following questions: What did the opposing team do successfully against the Broncos, and were we able to successfully respond? What flaws were exposed in this game that can be taken advantage of by other teams on our schedule? How do we gameplan to cover our faults?
The Broncos are far from being a dominant team. I want all of MHR to understand that. We have many, many flaws and it will probably take at least two more offseasons to find players to fill them, let alone how long it will take them to be comfortable in our system.
Offensively, we have issues in the run game. This is obvious. Everyone knows the strategy for beating the Colts--you run on first down, run to set up the run, run when that's not working and then you run some more. You have to do this to keep the ball out of Peyton Manning's hands. Plus, it is not their game. They use their prolific offense to get out to a big lead and then harass your quarterback into mistakes when you resort to passing to cover the distance. They are small and fast and opportunistic. They aren't built for playing against the run, and it showed in week one when Arian Foster and the Texans schooled them for 300-plus yards.
300 yards would be a lot of pass yards. Seriously, think about this: you usually have about twice as many pass yards as rush yards. So the Texans had the equivalent of 600 pass yards. So when you can't run on this defense, you know something's wrong. Now, a lot of this must be attributed to injuries on the offensive line and at running back. That's absolutely a valid point. But still, Quentin Griffin ran for 200 yards on this defense for us last time we beat them. Quentin... Griffin.
We developed 2008 syndrome in the red zone on Sunday. Zero out of five from inside the red zone is unacceptable. This was not a weakness against Seattle, but it was against Jacksonville, and we must improve our execution in the red zone right now if we want to think about making the playoffs this year.
Similarly, we sucked on third downs on both offense and defense. This must also be improved if we are to do anything special this year.
Defensively, it's really simple: we have i-s-s-u-e-s rushing the passer. A lot of us expected Wink Martindale to use some exotic, risk-taking blitz schemes to compensate for the loss of Elvis Dumervil for the season. When we played conservative against the pass in the first two weeks, we thought he was saving it for the Colts to help us get to Peyton Manning. Well folks, we didn't do that. Like I said before, I caught one exotic blitz. Wink isn't going to do it, so we've got to forget about it. Instead, we need Robert Ayers to speed up his development even more. I think he's on a fine curve and will someday be a good starter. But if we continue to play bland defense, he'll really need to start stepping up this year.
Freeform Jazz Odyssey
"Jazz is like a series of mistakes without the 'oops.' They use this bizarre tone on their guitars; it's like it's under a tub of water. It's like plup plup plup plup plup, like a little motor boat. But I think that's because they're old people, and they don't like the noise. And of course they play soft, so you can't hear them. Then they go, 'Yeah, I'm a great player.' 'Sure, mate, I've gotta take your word for it.' With me, I play loud. My manhood is right on the table. Examine it, if you will."
My Thoughts on Kenny McKinley and Suicide
Depression is a horrible, horrible thing. Some have touched on this here, and it is entirely true: when you are depressed, your sense of reason flies out the window. You feel empty, alone, tired, and weak. Usually, you get physically sick. You cannot understand how people can love you or that they would miss you if you were gone. You can take no advice. You simply cannot understand how your life is even worth living.
I know this because I was depressed for a long time, and at one point i set a date on which I was going to kill myself. I empathize with how Kenny felt. I know his pain. And I would do anything I can to make sure that no one else has to go through that. I'm not going to share my story here; it's too personal. But if you are this depressed, and need someone to talk to, I will be glad to help you in any way I can. My e-mail is in my profile, and I will be glad to help.
If you or someone you know are considering suicide: PLEASE call this hotline (1-800-273-8255) or go to this website. I have come to realize that suicide is an incredibly selfish thing. Had I gone through with it, I would have hurt many, many people who love me and care about me, and you would be doing the same thing. I have been on the other end of a suicide as well; a few years ago, by great-grandfather took his won life at the age of 89. He hurt our family and couldn't have realized it. So PLEASE try to prevent things like this from happening in any way you can.
Fortune Cookie to Live By: Appreciate the Unappreciated
On that somber note, I thought I'd endow you with some of the wisdom I have accrued in my travels. Every once in a while on here, I'll drop some words to live by on your arse, in convenient, fortune-cookie format. See, I achieved nirvana a few months ago and am posting this from a different plane of existence located in the exact center of the universe. It's all very zen.
So, as a sort of continuation of the previous section, I'm going to impart upon you readers with this: appreciate that which you currently do not appreciate. Like I said before, I'm not going into detail about my story, but I will say that I was saved from my own hand by someone I originally completely took for granted. I'll probably talk a bit more about this person in this column as she has had a great impact on my life, but in order to respect her confidentiality, I will only refer to her here as Layne.
Layne is a person I have known since I was a sophomore in high school, and she is now my best friend. For about the first two years I knew her, she was completely in the background of my life. I never gave her any attention and we never even saw each other outside of school, and I even dated her best friend once, but for whatever reason, she cared about me. When I finally wised up to this and gave her a chance to be my friend, she ultimately probably saved my life.
I thus advise you to think about people in your life that could be playing a larger role in it. Give them a shot to be special for you, because they might one day save you.
Take a Look Around With Me
- Much ado will be made about the two decisions to go for it. Here's what I think about the first: we were down 13-0 and had the ball at the 2 yard line. Anything less than a touchdown there is failure. I have NO problem with the call to go for it or the play we ran. Run, left side. Behind your best player, Ryan Clady.
- Don't fault Laurence Maroney. He wasn't brought in to be the goal-line back. Knowshon still does a much better job in that situation than Laurence and will play that role when (if) he gets healthy.
- The second call: What else are you going to do? We're down 20-13. What good does a field goal do? We still need to get the ball back and get a touchdown anyway. If we don't get it, they have the ball at the 12. If we kick, they get it (most likely) at the 20. Then they go down and score a touchdown, same as before, and it's still a two-score game. It was the right call.
- We missed Darcel McBath. There was one return where he was playing gunner and the return man tried to go around him, but he stayed in his lane and forced him to go out of bounds. It was the kind of play that isn't talked about, but when you notice it you realize what a valuable special teams player he really is.
- I'm tired of fans always saying "oh, we were the better team even though we lost" or "the other team didn't beat us, we beat ourselves." BS, I say. If the Broncos make mistakes that lead to them losing, but the other team doesn't make those mistakes, then the other team was better for not making the mistakes. Make sense?
- Sorry I don't have more of these. It's getting late on Monday night, I'm exhausted, and I don't want to create more work for myself to edit in the morning on top of the mountain that's already there. I promise there will be more bullet-points next week.
- Thanks for sticking with me so far.
Allow me to Play You Out
I'll play you out with a link. Today, Survivor's Eye of the Tiger set to a Rocky montage. I humbly submit this as my proposal for the 2010 MHR Radio Theme Song. I choose Eye of the Tiger because of its unmeasurable level of awesomeosity--Eye of the Tiger makes everything 1,000 times more dangerous. Seriously, I can't safely do the dishes while this song is on without breaking the kitchen. If this song can turn me, a skinny business major, into a reincarnation of Thor (complete with hammer and beard), imagine what it will do for men who already bearded and giant (and hammered?). If the Broncos listened to Eye of the Tiger on a loop for about six hours until the game starts, we would be the most unstoppable force in the history of the universe.
So that's that. Thanks very much for reading, and please let me know what you think in the comments! Until next time,
SEE YOU, SPACE COWBOY...