I told you so...predicted a blowout. It was a blowout. It wasn't over-the-top homerism or Raider hate bravado that led me to that conclusion. I knew the Raider defense, despite Dennis Allen, was a bottom team in all major statistical categories. This team is bad, all it would take was a team effort in all three phases by our Broncos to expose that. After the first 4 games of the season, I'm just putting it out there that it is a horserace between us and San Diego for the division. Could it change? Sure, but quite honestly the Raiders and Chiefs should be 0-4 at this point and don't seem to have the firepower to keep up with a Rivers or Manning led offensive attack.
I want to start off by giving big props to both our O-line and backup Dan Koppen. I really thought the turning point of the game was going to be J.D. Walton's injury. The flow of the game and the closeness was amplified by the gravity or our mistakes. This game should have been out of hand early, yet there we were sitting with a 10-3 lead when an already weakened line became even more vulnerable. Instead, Koppen, with many years of experience running an aerial attack with Tom Brady stepped in seamlessly and played fantastically! Should have affected us more than it did. But our running game didn't lose a beat, Manning's jersey stayed clean, and I am confident that going forward we can maintain a high level of play without J.D. Walton.
After the 1st quarter of the season, I think our team has found its' identity: Mental Toughness. Week 1: game goes back and fourth. With limited opportunities our offense manages to score, then our defense seals the game with a pick-6. Week 2 and 3: horrible starts, blowouts in the making, our team pulls it together and makes it a close game, so close in fact we are a defensive stop away from having a shot to win the game. This week, fantom fumble, injured linemen, close game at halftime----then we pull away. I have this simple prediction going forward: we are going to have a shot every single week, we are not going to wilt late in the season like we have in recent history. I don't sense a quitter mentality anywhere on our team.
The fantom fumble and botched fake FG. No one in the stadium yesterday felt worse about Demaryius Thomas' fumble than Demaryius Thomas. Dude was visably shaken and cursing himself out on the sideline. I know many times as fans we take the opportunity to get down on a player. I've done it, you've done it, we've all done it. I'm going to take this opportunity and just say "Keep your head up big man, our team needs you!" One of my favorite moments from Sunday was seeing Jack Del Rio encourage him after he made a big play coming across the field later on in the game. With DT, his mistakes right now are mental. Once he moves past the doubt and noise in his head, he is going to be elite---he's close.
I understand not going for the 1st down on 4th and 1 in Raider territory---especially after losing your starting center. So kick the ball---punt or FG. We have one of the greatest kicker tandems in the league, Colquitt is capable of pinning other teams deep and has done it routinely. Matt Prater is the greatest kicker of all time from 50+ yards. Take the points. I don't want to see Beadles run a route or Prater throw a pass ever again. One of Fox's spastic mismanagements...lucky it didn't cost us this time.
Offensively, just WOW! I said on Friday I wanted to see the Broncos put up 10-14 points on the first 2-3 drives and they did. In fact, in nine offensive drives (not counting the kneeldowns to end the half/game) the Broncos never punted. We had 3 FG's, 4 TD's and were a perfect 3-3 in the Redzone. We scored on all five 2nd half possessions with the 3rd quarter featuring 3 TD's. McGahee was awesome, Manning was awesome, our line was awesome, and our receivers held on to the ball. This is just a taste of things to come.
Defensively, we finally saw what could happen when our defense gets to play with a lead. Before that lead however, our front 7 should be commended for stopping Bronco killer Darren McFadden to the tune of 34 yards on 13 carries. After being gashed by Arian Foster the week before, they stepped up in a big way. After we got up 17-6 in the 3rd quarter, we pinned our ears back and teed off on Carson Palmer. Let's just say he's gonna be hurting all week after the beating he took. My favorite stat of the game, which was indicative of just how dominantly our defense shut down the Raiders, is the pathetic 1/12 on 3rd downs we held them to.
Special Teams was very special. I want to give David Bruton some love. I've always liked this guy. It is unfortunate that he is grouped with the McDaniels draft disasters by some fans because he is our most valuable utility man. That blocked punt of his was a show of brute force. What a great individual effort! Matt Prater is still money, and anyone that doubted the bonus Broncos brass gave to him in the off season is just grasping at straws at this point. No Colquitt sighting and it was beautiful! Now to answer my questions coming into the game:
Will our offense get off to a fast start?
Yes! 10 points on the first two drives plus an opening possession TD in both the 1st and 3rd quarters.
Will Peyton dial it in this week?
I mentioned that his range was off and that was of more concern than any perceived issues with armstrength. Quite frankly I can't remember the last Bronco QB to throw for 78.9% with so many attempts. He was surgical once again.
Will Decker and Thomas be reliable?
Not one drop on a pass all day. The regulars should have made the right call on the review. Chalk that up to rust on them----anyone else pleased with the faster flow of the game and the officials understanding rules and situations? Forget the drop by DT on the run, he was really effective blocking.
Will the trio of McCoy, Fox, and Manning finally work as one cohesive unit?
I believe so and by complimentary I mean that each played their roles correctly. McCoy made some great calls, Fox reigned in his conservative nature, and Peyton picked apart the defense. For the most part, they got out of the way and let Peyton do the work.
Will our running game become a threat once again?
Nice game for sure, is it a threat? Let's go show NE and I'll lean towards "yes". One of the keys this game, the Broncos passed more on 1st down early in the game which broke a tendency to rush. In fact the first play of the game was a pass deep downfield. Also, Can't be overstated that Hillman is getting more and more touches, garbage time or not. He also shows the speed that Knowshon lacks. While I might be dialing back my opinion that Knowshons' tunure as a Bronco is immediately in danger, it sure doesn't help the case that he's been out two weeks in a row.
Will Rahim Moore, Mike Adams, and Tracy Porter get on the same page?
Absolutely. The only catch of note I can remember was the beautifully placed Carson Palmer throw over an outstretched Tracy Porter. That was just a great play. I didn't notice egregious errors in communication like last week.
Will Keith Brooking have an effective outing in his first start of the season?
Yes! A handful of tackles added to the overall domination of our front 7. Well done old man;)
Will the defense continue its improvement on 3rd down?
Yes and I like the trend....5 of 13 against the Falcons, 7 of 14 against the Texans, 1 of 12 against the Raiders. In three weeks that's 13/39 (33%). That is a good number to shoot for the rest of the season.
Will our front 4 take advantage of double teams on Von Miller?
Elvis sure did, he was in Palmer's hip-pocket all game. Finishing the day with 1.5 sacks doesn't do justice to the amount of times he hit/hurried/pressured Palmer.
What impact will Dennis Allen's knowledge of our players have on the Raiders Offense?
Outside of knowing who Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are, ZILCH!
Before I move on to some stats, I wanted to include some thoughts on JDR. I have been a bit down on his effort in defensive playcalling on 3rd downs. Del Rio brought a lot of funky stuff and blitzed much more aggressively this game. I saw some great overloads, zone blitzes, stunts, and linemen meandering on their feet to mask the blitz before the snap. Again, I love that he was encouraging DT late in the game. Well done Coach!
All the stats I've tracked thus far will be included in my "quarterly report" later this week. For now though, I wanted to focus my stats on Peyton Manning. For all the discussion that's been going on lately about him and former Broncos quarterbacks, let's just hash it out. In my opinion, which again, is just my opinion, the arguments against him are starting to sound like sour grapes. He's here, 2011 is last year, jump on board the Broncos train and let's move on. Take a look at what he's done in the first 4 games of the season:
99/153 (64.7%), 1162 yards (7.6 APA), 8TD/3 INT, 96.9 QB Rating
He's 7th in completions, 13th in completion percentage, 6th in yards, 10th in average per completion, 4th in TD's, 10th in overall rating. For a rusty, over the hill, has been, with a weak arm, that doesn't look too bad huh? Extrapolating to the end of the season it would look like this:
396/612, 4648 yards, 32 TD, 12 INT
Since I'm a teacher, I'd like to give Peyton his 1st Quarter report card. There's only been four games, but I also keep track of his performance by quarter. 16 grades possible, scores of 0-4 (F-A). Completely subjective.
|OVERALL||99||153||64.7||1162||7.6||8||0||48/64 3.0 B|
I count 11 great quarters, 1 average, 2 bad, and 2 atrocious. Peyton Manning is fine, Peyton Manning has turned in a good performance so far this year overall. Outside of one extremely bad quarter he has not turned the ball over. The offense is averaging 26 points per game with him in charge (no that is not counting the points the defense scored for us) which is a TD better than last year. We are a better team with him at QB bottom line. I for one am glad to see #18 in Broncos orange and can't wait to see him and Brady duel firsthand. See you in a few days MHR, GO BRONCOS!!!