I have a confession Broncos Country. I'm not feeling right here in our fourth game of the season. See, I'm an optimist, but my reviews tend to center around my critical eye. I look for the stuff that we can do better. I try to notice the failures and the successes and give my thoughts on both sides. It is very hard for me to do lately.
I started this season predicting our team would go 14-2. After four weeks of what we've witnessed I see about a 20% chance that we lose one game this year as long as we stay reasonably healthy (mainly not losing Peyton, LBs, or DEs). Maybe I'm partaking way too much orange and blue kool aid.
To get back to my original thought, I'm going to dive through my notes and put a review together. Just know something isn't right. Sure I have some points about things we can do better. I just don't think I've ever witnessed good football played at the level we are seeing so consistently as I'm seeing right now. Let's see what happens, but prepare for an over-abundance of praise from Sadaraine.
Line Of Scrimmage Mastery
That Neutral Zone is a total pain in the neck for opposing teams. Between Peyton switching up his counts and the O-Line reacting to early steps by the defenders we got 3 penalties that game on neutral zone infractions. This is an important piece of our offense to recognize. We've consistently gotten these penalties each week (not necessarily 3, but at least one per game). What this means is that defenses are unable to key off the snap count. Peyton is mixing it up and our Line is so disciplined that they are making defenses pay for even the slightest mistake. This keeps the front seven of the opponents unable to play as aggressive as they want...remember that for blitzes to work at all on Peyton they have to get there in under 3 seconds...
The Big Uglies
Speaking of the O-Line they are continuing to impress in the pass protection area. Sure Peyton makes them look good, but there were many times when I saw a picture-perfect pocket that was unbreakable. This is a testament to the quality of our players and especially the coaching directing them.
- That isn't to say there aren't any problems. Manny Ramirez got lost at the end of the 2nd quarter. I'm still impressed with his move to Center but he has stuff to work on for sure (which shouldn't surprise even the biggest Manny fan).
- It has been noted elsewhere, but let me echo it again here. On Demaryius Thomas's 2nd TD pass Chris Clark had a top-drawer block on the only guy that could have stopped the play.
Talk About Weapons
Sure everyone knows that Peyton Manning is the key to our team's success. But the key to our team's dominance is our weapons on the offensive side of the ball. I think people take too much away from them as they drool over Peyton. Sure Peyton has made great things happen with less talent, but look what he is doing when he has 3 WRs and a TE that I consider all to be rated at worst 8.5 out of 10 (Decker).
- Having Wes Welker on the field while your offense is inside the red zone should be an automatic penalty because of how unfair it is. The guy's quickness can not be denied when you draw up plays to make proper use of him.
- Eric Decker had a sweet 52 yard pass. He's not the best talent in the NFL and I don't think he's a top 10 WR by any means, but this cat has the goods and is in the best possible place for him to shine. He would have had an walk-in 70+ yard TD if Peyton hadn't over thrown him too.
- Speaking of unfair in the red zone...Demaryius Thomas fade routes should be outlawed. Do you guys realize that we could do that play every time we get inside the 10 for an easy 6? Go watch that replay...you can't defend that pass unless you have a safety bracketing DT.
Much Ado About Nothing
My biggest worry this off-season was our running game once we let go of Willis McGahee. Consider me off the ledge. Our run game is doing superb for the type of offense we are using and I think could be more dynamic if we had a lesser passer at the helm.
- Knowshon has picked up where he left off last year...running with authority, pass protecting to near perfection, and gashing defenses when there is a decent hole left open. I didn't like his dumb penalty at all at the end of the half, though. He needs to be smarter than that.
- Ronnie Hilllman still hasn't shown me the "home run" jets I keep hearing about, but what he is showing me is much better vision and he's getting much better at hitting his holes (proper decision making).
- Montee Ball is learning and I dig it. He's in my opinion in a better position than Brock Osweiler. Yes Os is learning behind a master, but with little actual hands-on being done. Montee is getting to hit the field and learn in real games in a safe way. The only thing that can hold him back is him in my opinion.
If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It
As I mentioned last week, we used much of the same strategies against Phily as we did against jokeland. Against a scrambling QB who isn't a precise passer, you form a pocket around him and try to close it in gradually instead of trying to blow by guys and make the easy sack. You back that up with a spy so that if he does break contain he doesn't gash you for tons. It was well executed and started with some really disciplined play from our D-Line.
- Early in the game we had a lot of trouble with both the Eagle's run game and Michael Vick's scrambling. I didn't quite put my finger on any one thing other than that our guys were getting beat by there's at times. I'm sure the team will get some good film from that half on things they need to work on.
- Even with such a reserved plan of attack Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers were still disruptive (1 and .5 sacks to them respectively and pressures by both). I'm excited about the prospect of seeing these guys getting after the QB once Von Miller gets back.
- Derek Wolfe also manhandled his guy late in the game for a sack. From what I've seen in the first 4 games, he has been fairly consistently double-teamed. Like others here at MHR, I think he'll benefit the most from the return of Von Miller.
Another Worry Put To Rest
I had some concerns this year also about our LB depth. It is a testament to our coaches and FO to see this be a non-issue as well. Our best defensive player is suspended and we haven't missed him much at all. That is because we have some really solid young linebackers getting it done.
- Jack Del Rio and John Fox are geniuses for putting Wesley Woodyard out there as the MLB. The captain of our defense has been stupendous as usual. Need a spy for a scrambling QB? Woody. Need someone to take over at MLB since our normal options didn't pan out? Woody. Blitz the QB? Woody. Cover RB's in pass routes? Woody. The front office needs to lock this kid up asap!
- I was impressed again with the play of Danny Trevathan in this game. I had thought previously that our TE Killer would come from the safety position, but I think our answer is Trevathan. The dude has such good coverage skills and they were on display front-and-center a couple of times in this game. He also has a great motor like Woodyard.
- I also notice Nate Irving getting him some every game. He may not be as quick and fast as Woody and Trevathan, but this cat knows how to stuff a run. If we had Von back, I could see him in traditional downs as our MLB so Woody could slide over.
Taking Some Heat
Our secondary is getting some pretty stiff criticism out there by the numbers and stats people. Here is the weakness of our defense guys...didn't you hear? We give up oodles of yards each week to opponents. It must be because of our weak secondary.
- In my notes I had down that I didn't see much of anything of Chris Harris...which means he must have been doing a superb job and the Eagles new throwing at him would be playing with fire. Smart or not, I would expect their gameplan was set up to attack other guys in our secondary because Harris is too good.
- So you decide to throw at Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie instead? Nice plan. All DRC did all game long was make Desean Jackson look like a pedestrian on the football field. They threw at DRC a ton and had very VERY little to show for it. Champ Bailey can take his time getting that foot right, cause I'd feel comfortable having DRC handle primary responsibilities for any #1 WR in the NFL.
- Also I got to love seeing a young guy like Kayvon Webster get some work late in the game and be able to lay the wood on some poor receiver trying to convert a 3rd down pass. This is another young guy on our team who appears to have a high ceiling to work toward.
You have to love seeing some points go up on the board with no effort whatsoever by your offense. I sometimes wonder how many fans out in Broncos Country appreciate it for what it is. Teams are built by offenses and defenses. The toughest way to get points is to do it on offense - it requires lots of strategy, execution, and planning. When you score points form a kick return or a blocked punt, it is an immense pressure on the other team.
- Trindon Holliday is working very quickly on being a superstar kick returner and a big nail in the coffin of whoever thought it was a good idea at Houston to try to pass him through waivers last year. OOPS!
- I'm as happy as anyone that Steven Johnson got that blocked punt and return for the TD. Keep it in perspective though people...that happened because of broken protection. Sure Johnson still had to make the play, but it wasn't like he made a superhuman effort or anything...the center completely bit it and was completely blind to Johnson coming at him from his right.
- Here's where I do give Matt Prater some credit. 53 yard field go. YAWN. Dude makes it look easy from back there (hint: it isn't).