After the 49-23 loss at the hands of the defending Super Bowl Champs, the Denver Broncos sit 1-3 tied with the KC Chiefs in the AFC West. The game epitomized our season thus far in many ways. There were some highs, a lot of lows and ultimately the Broncos came up short, this time by a wide margin. Go to the fridge... grab yourself an Orange Crush and an Orange DumDum and join me after the jump as I attempt to make sense of what we saw on Sunday...
John Fox- First off, kudos to Fox for implementing a set of Tebow plays for the GB game. After reviewing the redzone struggles early on this season, he decided Tebow could indeed make a few plays in the short yardage game. Although only one play up the gut which resulted in a 1 yard loss happened with this package, it was not Fox "giving fans the middle finger". It was a result of the Broncos not having many opportunities inside the 5-10 yard line. The one run they did do with Tebow was more than likely used early on in the game to see exactly how the GB defense would react to the formation, and later on in the game when presented with an opportunity to run the same formation from inside the ten yard line, I'm sure there would have been a more creative play call in store. That opportunity really never came during the game so there wasn't much to blame on Fox for not getting Tebow involved in the offense when inside the redzone.
And with the game out of hand, Fox could have and maybe should have put Tebow in there for some game speed reps against a D that would have their ears peeled back. However, Fox has stated time and time again that Kyle Orton is the starting QB for now and by putting Tebow in there in a blowout, it would have added fuel to the ever growing fire of our QB controversy. Although personally I wanted to see Tebow in there during the 4th quarter, I do understand the rationale behind Fox's decision. And this team did fight all 60 minutes through this blowout which could not have been said about the team fielded against Oakland last season in the 59-14 drubbing. So I do commend Fox for coaching up a team that is going to scratch, fight, and claw for 60 minutes no matter what the score may be.
I have not had a chance to personally listen to the postgame conference, but from the quotes I have read it seems as if Fox might have been getting a bit rattled from the reporter's questions following the loss. To me it's pretty obvious why the Tebow package was not used more, but Fox's answer was a bit lame and created some anger amongst fans. Fox is not as dumb as he sounded when saying the package was inneffective when used, the opportunities to continue using the package just didn't present themselves the way the staff had planned on going into the game. And the offense did look good as Fox said, minus the turnovers. I did not interpret that as Fox being happy with the mistakes the offense made, it was actually a pretty accurate statement. If not for the turnovers, Denver probably scores 37-38 points on the SB champs. Or maybe Fox had an Orange DumDum sucker before taking the podium.
McCoy- I think McCoy called a pretty good game. The FG drive early on was a bit disappointing as the play calling at the time seemed as if it was headed down the same conservative route we had witnessed through the first 3 games. After that drive, by the time McCoy had called his next full drive, the Broncos went from being up 3-0 to being down 21-3. McCoy opened up the playbook and called plenty more 15+ yard passing routes, a flea-flicker, and a lot of off-tackle running plays instead of being hard-headed and running up the gut where the run has not been successful all year. The offensive play calls gave the Broncos offense plenty of opportunities to cash in, the execution unfortunately was just not there Sunday. I would have liked to see more pass plays thrown to Moreno out of the backfield but Orton's strongsuit has not been the screen game.
Allen- Dennis Allen was faced with the tallest task of any of our coaches Sunday. Allen knew that Rodgers is probably the best QB in the league and the best at beating the blitz. With that knowledge, Allen counted on our secondary to step up to the challenge and force Rodgers to beat them. Rodgers beat them, and he beat them badly. I think Allen's gameplan might have relied on Champ being a go on Sunday, and unfortunately for Allen, Champ was watching from the sidelines.
The Mag 7- While on Twitter, I came across many of Elway's quotes assessing the Broncos performance on Sunday and think Mr. Elway was dead on. He stated the Broncos need to fix the turnover problems, they need better QB play, and the 53 players in the locker room need to want to win...and if they don't they need to be gone. I think in his comments, Elway made it very clear that Kyle Orton's performance and care of the football needs to improve over the next quarter of the season or there will be changes made.
Kyle Orton- Last week, game announcers talked of Orton's "tells" in the screen game and an MHR poster had also talked about Orton's drop back when he intends to throw across his body he tends to tip the defense in his method of dropback. The announcers this game(Phil Simm's I can't stand you or your kid) stated that the Broncos have a tendency to run their routes precisely to where the first down marker is. Since McDaniel's arrival, I would have to agree with that take. And on Orton's pick 6 it definitely looks like Woodson was tipped off by something that allowed him to jump that route so quickly and decisively. Orton had plenty of time to operate from the pocket Sunday and is usually a very accurate QB with time to throw. However, this Sunday Kyle was off on his throws a bit and it cost Brandon Lloyd two TDs, one throw resulted in an interception.
Tim Tebow- Timbow did a great job handling the snap and plowing up the gut for -1 yard.
Brandon Lloyd- Had his best game of the season so far and looks to be 100%. His deep routes were ran excellent and got plenty of separation for Orton to throw into.
Eric Decker- Eric Decker is just as good at creating separation as Lloyd and makes his QBs look good. I read a scouting report somewhere on Decker at the U of Minn that said he makes his QB look good by his ability to adjust to poorly thrown balls. Although I didn't see horribly thrown balls to Decker from Orton Sunday, it's nice to see a WR that will adjust and control his body when needed(Tebow's possible future best friend?) Decker did appear to drop a TD in back of the endzone late in the game and he also dropped what would have been a pretty tough catch that ultimately was tipped around 4 times or so before being picked off by GB. So going forward, I will be looking for Decker to exhibit a bit better concentration when it comes to hauling in the tough catches.
Daniel Fells- The fumble he had took whatever air was left in the Broncos' sails. A TE needs to show better care for the ball when going across the middle. Kind of a fluky play, but looked like it could have been prevented if Fells was quick to cover the ball with both arms. I am being a bit of a homer here since Virgil Green is from Tulare(where I'm from) but I would like to see Virgil a bit more involved in the offense because I think that he is well on his way into developing into the #2 pass catching-blocking TE behind Julius Thomas when he returns.
Willis McGahee- McGahee followed the lead blocks well and looked strong all day long. He took care of the football well when being tackled. Can't ask for much more from the vet.
Knowshon Moreno- Knowshon has appeared to have got his happy feet back from last year. A couple slips and a pass catch that appeared like he was riding an invisible bicycle after he caught the ball was pretty disappointing. If and when this offense is handed over to Tebow, I believe Knowshon can really benefit from catching well-timed screens out of the backfield.
Offensive Line- As a group, I thought this unit played their best game of the season. Orton had plenty of time to throw the ball on most occassions and McGahee had plenty of open holes to get to the second level throughout the day. Clady had his best game of the season as did Franklin. The middle of the line still seemed to struggle a bit but part of that can be attributed to an all-pro in BJ Raji on the opposite side of the ball. Clay Matthews was virtually a non-factor in the pass rush for a huge part of the day. TE Virgil Green also stood up Clay Matthews on one occassion so from what I saw the unit as a whole including the TEs blocked very well Sunday.
Von Miller- What can't this guy do??? Two sacks a few QB pressures as well. Kid was all over the field and was the best player wearing a Broncos uni on Sunday, either side of the ball.
Elvis Dumervil- It was great to see Elvis back out there and able to create pressure a few plays by bull rushing his counterpart directly into Rodgers throwing area, which also helped Miller record one of his sacks. I don't believe Dumervil was anywhere near 100% but didn't appear to have any setbacks on his way to getting himself there for this week vs San Diego.
Brian Dawkins- Elway summarized the play of Dawkin's pretty well in one of the statements I caught. Basically said we need to play our players to their strengths(defending running game) and Dawk got caught a couple times isolated in the passing game. When defending the run, Dawk made a huge play early on in the game that got the defense off the field. Hopefully going forward, Allen will scheme Dawkins more up in the box or have a faster safety out there when going up against such a pass-happy offense(NE coming up).
VaughnGoodman- Not nearly as impressive as VonDoom. Rodgers was threading needles all day long but their were more than a few spots where the coverage was just plain bad. The Packers and Rodgers have dominated defenses and weaker CBs that have tried to play near the line via the slant pass so I am not too sure if bringing them up to the line would have made much of a difference. Rodgers was in a zone.
D-Line- Overall, the D-line contained the running game and forced the Packers into more than a few 3rd and +6's. Rodgers however, overcame them and carved up our secondary.
At a critical juncture in the game at 14-3 coming off a long drive and then an Orton pick 6, it was imperative that the Broncos went down the field and put together a solid drive and some points. McCoy had a good game plan and scored on the next two possessions. But the onside kick gave the Packers a free possession and put the Broncos in a bigger hole than they already were. Anybody who thinks this was a classless move by the Packers must be drinking the same Whinerade as Todd Haley. McCarthy knew going into this game that the Broncos passing attack would probably be able to put a few points on the board against his struggling pass defense. Couple that with a tendency of our players playing 15 yards off the ball, and it becomes a well-timed momentum grabber and an opportunity to step on the throats of an NFL team where any given Sunday a worse team can beat the better one.
Thoughts on the Future
The Broncos were over matched in just about every phase of football on Sunday. Yet they continued to fight through adversity and played til the clock died out(minus Orton jogging, or whatever he did after Woodson pick). This team believes in whatever coach Fox is feeding them and will continue to fight for him.
I believe once the Broncos have a couple more division losses and sit 4 games behind the division lead, we will see Tim Tebow given his shot as starting QB of our Denver Broncos. That will probably come around our 9th game of the season and will give 8 games for Tebow. This will give the coaching staff and Tebow a bit of time to develop and also to create a playbook more designed to the strengths of the players on the field(just as Elway said needs to be done). Obviously the offense we have installed as of now favors a drop back in the pocket type of QB. But this is the NFL, and our coaches are smart enough to adapt and adjust their play calling to give their team "the best chance to win".
The 8 or so games Tebow plays in will most likely be a mixed bag of potential, confusion, disappointment, and celebration. The upcoming offseason will give our staff time to build this team around Tebow. That is one thing they did not have during the Lockout. Time. So they went with the most experienced QB and the system that most of the players are already familiar with. After 8 games of development with Tebow behind center and an opportunity to further improve the team around him as well as the system they run, 2012 will be Tebow's actual audition to see if he is the QB of our future like so many of us believe. And after 24 games, the staff and fans will have the appropriate time to know what we have in Tebow. I'm thinking we will have more than 6 wins in those 24 games. And if not, there will always be solid franchise QB prospects coming out of the draft in 2013, every draft has a couple. The 2012 draft needs to be used on improving our CBs and Lines. If anyone was able to get this far, thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts, go Broncos!!!