Greetings Broncos Country. My apologies for taking so long to get this hammered out, but obviously with a playoff loss like that one can't just jump in head-first and give a real "No Bull" review. I'm afraid if I would have written it Sunday, it would have been stuffed with an extra heaping of bull. That's no me, so I took a day off (bonus for me that it was the Sabbath!), hung out with my family, and enjoyed life without worries of football.
Let's keep up with this positive vibe for a moment or two (because shortly the vibe will surely be going a very different direction). I want to stand by something that many of you may not be feeling: this was a successful season. We went 13 - 3, won our division, and went to the playoffs. Yeah I think we could have done more (and should have), but all I ever want is a chance. I'm proud of our team's effort this year and everything they've accomplished. As much fun as last year was, I take much MUCH more enjoyment from this year. We're headed on the right path. We may have lost a heart breaker, but our team will now have a very clear understanding of how much a chance in the playoffs mean. I expect us to grow from this and do better things next year.
I'm going to step out from my normal format a bit, so bear with me...I think a loss like this deserves its own section to discuss my thoughts on why we lost. I'll even rank them in order of importance from my perspective. If you disagree with any of it, feel free to chime in in the comments and share your perspective...that's what this is for anyway!
Why We Lost
- "No Stones" coaching: I knew when we hired John Fox we were getting a very old-school conservative head coach. I've been okay with that because our rebuild required some of the strengths Fox has: positive player to coach relationships, confident leadership, and adaptability to personnel. His weakness was clearly on display in this game: He has no stones for the modern day game of football. He did the old cliche thing: he played NOT to lose. He ignored easy to acquire real information on probability and proper strategy and expected a defense that got torched several times to make a stop at the end of the game. Then he went a little deeper and decided to not let Peyton try to score with :30 + seconds on the clock. The most disappointing thing to me is that in the post-game conference I saw no hint of acceptance of fault. He excused it as if he knows more than everyone else. Well, guess what John Fox: You don't know jack or jill compared to me in the game-time decision department and I'm a nobody. You blew it and I for one will be 100% okay with a change in head coach if that's what the organization decides to do.
- Rahim Moore laid an egg: I've said all season long that I've worried about his pass protection. Sometimes (believe it or not) I hate it when I'm right. I loved that in the locker room he took the blame because it takes a man to do that. I hate that I saw absolutely no sign of fire in his eyes. I believe this player has been broken and may never recover from that play on our team. A change of scenery may be required for him to get better because from now on I think he'll play with fear if he's in Orange and Blue...he'll be scared of letting his team down again and you can't play like that in the NFL.
- The Fix is in: I am utterly disgusted with the officiating done in this game. This was NBA-like in quality and bias. I am so disgusted I will probably refrain from buying NFL merchandise for even longer than the 3 years I'm not currently (one year for every week of regular season play we had to deal with replacement refs). I won't go through every one because it would seriously disturb my calm. Let's just sum up a few horrendous ones: Tuck rule doesn't apply to us, moving footballs touching grass are catches!, PI calls on Bailey are always fair game even when he doesn't touch the WR, and my all-year favorite: Holding doesn't apply to anyone guarding Elvis Dumervil. I have no respect for the NFL management or officials after this. It was an insult to the game of football and I would think that even if it weren't my favorite team. I know how the rules work in the NFL for all the calls that were made and these refs blatantly went against the rule book multiple times...not just 1 or 2 but multiple calls.
- Champ Bailey has lost a step: This isn't news to me. I've seen it for 2 years now. He's able to cover for it by playing off and his vast knowledge of the game / film study to know tendencies. After the first TD though, they should have IMMEDIATELY moved him on Anquan Boldin and put a younger guy on Torrey Smith...or do what they eventually did in the 2nd half and put a safety on top of that side of the field. Bailey got exposed two times. I agree that he's still the man and I love him in orange and blue. I think you have to play according to your capabilities though. Switch him to safety or don't put him on the barn-burner guys. You can not let him be a liability and that's exactly what he was in this game.
- Matt Prater sucks: I was a fan last year when I could point to his great kick-offs. He's lost me this year though. Between all the FG misses and his completely mediocre kick-offs I'm done with him. He isn't worth the contract he has and we can find someone better. That missed FG was pathetic.
- Peyton Manning silly throws: Peyton didn't help himself with his 2 INTs. People are going to rail on him as a bad "playoff QB". I don't really think that's necessarily true (if you win a Super Bowl you did something right in the playoffs), but it is fair to be brought up. Both throws were poor choices. The last one was absolutely bone-headed. Throw it away and live for another series...Baltimore's defense was WORN OUT. Time is on our side because we play at altitude...they were dying out there (when the refs weren't giving them rest breaks so they could unnecessarily review stuff).
- Lack of RB Depth: Don't get me wrong here...Ronnie Hillman was a boss out there. But he's not the kind of back we needed to have out there that could get the tough yards and shove people around. Knowshon's injury was awful for us and I certainly hope to get better depth this off season for the RB position. Couple the lack of RB talent with inept coaching decisions and you get miracle TDs that never should have happened.
- I said something at BB about the weather favoring Baltimore and it sure did. Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas have had drop problems in the past, but they sure seemed to drop a ton this game...moreso than the rest of the year. I tend to think the cold had something to do with that.
- Ronnie Hillman was pretty impressive in this game. I still like his potential and I think he has the chance to do great stuff with us as he gets a little size and some more training.
- We got to see another superb fade route to Brandon Stokley. Fantastic route and hands from Brandon and a perfect pass from Peyton.
- Getting back to coaching a bit: We relied on the run on 2nd and 10 too much with too little actually gained from it. Baltimore's defensive front is very strong against the run. Why would you play to the defense's strength?
- Speaking of poor play calling, we also ran to the middle most of the time. That too plays to Baltimore's strengths. We would have been better served running more off-tackle stuff.
- Knowshon Moreno's WR is much like his run game this year: Impressive. That was a great job running a route and catching the ball for a TD.
- Our line played pretty shaky I thought. I can't believe I'm typing this, but Chris Kuper looked worse than Manny Ramirez out there. We didn't get as consistent holes opened up in the run game either.
- Peyton Manning played fairly well all game other than those two throws. Unfortunately most people will only remember those two.
- Our tight ends had a field day. We didn't get to see Virgil Green do anything spectacular, but Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen made up for it. What do you expect when you have an ancient relic playing MLB though?
- Chris Harris continued to show that he has Anquan Boldin's number. Everyone expected Boldin to light us up. I take some small pleasure in Chris winning that battle.
- I covered above, but Champ Bailey was a liability to us when matched up on a speed guy. It is worth mentioning twice.
- I was pretty disappointed with the handful of off-sides penalties our guys got. This is NFL football 101: Go when the ball moves gentlemen.
- I noticed some people say Mike Adams did a good job. I don't agree with this. Much like my assessment of Rahim Moore, he did well blitzing or playing the run, but gave up some plays in the passing game. I'd much rather see Quentin Carter than Mike Adams next year.
- On the TD pass to tie the game in the final minute, Tony Carter blew it too. Rahim gets more of the blame because of the type of play, but in case you didn't notice, Tony let up as the ball was in the air...he should have been with Jacoby Jones. McGeorge says Tony Carter will likely sign with another team this off-season. At this point, I'd be okay with that.
- Trindon Holliday should have been the MVP of the game. I'm sorry your fantastic play got overshadowed by the loss. Keep up the great work though Trindon...you have all of Broncos Country behind you.
- Conversely you can take a hike Matt Prater. Poor kickoffs and a missed FG = you didn't do your job well. If I were calling the shots, you'd be fired.
- Almost as bad as the refs who consistently tried to short our team on the spot of the ball among other more atrocious moves was Dan Deirdork. Why can't we get guys to announce that will talk about the good stuff from both teams. I had to listen to him drivel on and on about the Ravens all game. To top it off, Dan was completely blind and dumb as to the game in front of him.
- It is worth noting that at the end of the game with a little more than a minute to go I jotted down in my notes that I hated the play call of a run up the middle to run the clock. Sorry for the redundancy, but I hate being right sometimes.