I wanted to write this last night, wanted to dig my teeth into the 2nd loss of the season at home when the team held a touchdown lead or bigger in the 2nd half. I thought better of it, no only for you, the reader, but for myself. I decided to sleep on it, read as much reation as I could, then come up with something legible and somewhat intelligent. Let's see if I can succeed at either.
I'll get to the reasons why in a bit, but after the loss last night I was asking myself why I wasn;t more upset. A loss like this one, or the Colts game a month ago, would have ruined a week for me, but after the loss last night I was able to turn the channel, watch a movie, and go to bed. I even was able to listen to Mike and Mike in the Morning, an absolute No-No in the past. I came up with the reasaon, but I want to look at what happened last night, and who the blame should go to.
This Team Has No Identity -- In the past, if you asked me, or any Bronco fan for that matter, what this team was about and we'd tell ya. The Broncos run the ball, control the clock, get a lead and get it done. They run to set up the pass, and when they get the lead in the fourth quarter they take the air out of the ball with 7 or 8 minute drives that shorten the game.
This year the team has lost that indentity. A key drive in this game was after the Chargers scored the TD to cut the score to 24-14. The Broncos got the ball back, and threw on three consecutive snaps, cutting 45 seconds off the clock and giving the ball right back to the Chargers. The Broncos failed to get any momentum back, and you could feel the ebb and flow of the game ebbing and flowing towards the visitor. In the past the Broncos would have run the ball, chew up clock and getting a score, a field goal, somthing, to re-establish control. Not this team.
Bone-Headed Plays At The Worst Times -- This goes hand in hand with the last point. After the Chargers scored on the long pass to L.T. making the score 24-21, the Broncos did try and take the air out of the ball a bit. They drove down the field, mostly using the running game and a great catch by Javon Walker, and were on the cusp of regaining a 10 point lead in the 4th quarter. Then Jake fumbles a snap from the shotgun, forcing a field goal, and keeping the game at one score. Jake Plummer not only makes mistakes, but he makes them at the worst possible time. I don't think Jake lined up in the shotgun the rest of the game, a huge key to the 4th down play later when Jake was picked off.
Shanny Doesn't Have Alot Of Faith -- This also refers to the identity of this team. Even if you wanted to say that the Broncos are about defense this season, you can't now after Shanny decided to go for it on a 4th and 4 from the Broncos 38 with 3 minutes to go and 2 timeouts. And it just isn't the defense Shanny has little confidence in. It's also Paul Ernster and the special teams group. If we had a punter that Shanny could trust to drop a ball deep in Charger territory to punt is the obvious choice, but that simply isn;t the case.
Special Teams Needs To Be Addressed, NOW -- The Broncos have tried for years to get by on special teams with smoke and mirrors. It is finally coming back to bite us. Paul Ernster is a joke. WHen you play a good team, field position is huge. We never win that battle. And it isn;t just on punts. After the Broncos kicked the field goal to make the score 27-21, Ernster's kick-off, a low, line drive kick, is caught at the 1 and run back by Michael Turner to the 45, allowing the Chargers to drive a short field to take the lead in the game. Then, Miek Scifres blasts the kick-off into the end-zone, forcing the Broncos to drive from their own 20. I know, I know, Scifres only averaged 37 yards a punt, but all three of his punts were downed inside the 20. When the Broncos did have an opportunity to return a kick they failed more times than not. Cecil Sapp did have a great return to start the 2nd half, but even that return would have been a Touchdown, and when we needed to make a play to set up the Broncos for a game-tying drive, Sapp dives to catch the kickoff at the one, forcing the Broncos to go 99 yards to tie. Not going to happen. Good thing we had 2 kick returners inactive for the game, we didn't need them I guess. Sure, we could fire the special teams coach, but with Shanny playing russian roulette with the roster each game it can't be easy getting a rhythem on that group.
Stop Using The Word 'Great' In Regards To This Defense -- This is a good defense, but against the top notch offenses in the league we have been exposed as being simply average. We cannot generate pressure from our front four, and we try to hide deficiencies in our pass coverage with soft zone coverages that good quarterback shred. Sure, Darrent Williams came up with a pick-6, but he also allowed big play after big play, including the go ahead TD in the 4th quarter. John Lynch is still a good run-stuffer, but he is a liability in pass coverage, and the Broncos are forced to roll coverages to protect him. It wouldn't be that big of a deal if Denver had a stud back ther with him, but Nick Ferguson is average at best as well. Perhaps the Broncos best safety, Sam Brandon, was lost for the year and has been missed the last couple of weeks against opponents' tight ends. The D is fast, but undersized, and in the biggest games of the season have worn down as the game went on, giving up 27 to the Colts and 28 to the CHargers in the 2nd half. They are aggressive, and they play hard as nails, but there are holes that good teams will take advantage of.
So, Why Am I Not Physically Ill About The Loss? -- So back to my point in the beginning of this post. In the past, a loss like this would have led to broken furniture, or broken bones in my hand, but I was inexplicably calm. It worried me. Was it becuase I am a father now? Was it becuase I am getting older. Is it becuase of this blog? After thinking about it, I realized it was none of those. I have come to a realization about this team that prevents me from going postal. I am going to bold it, just to make it clear. This team will NEVER, EVER, win big with Jake Plummer at Quarterback! I have been a Plummer supporter. Not for any other reason than he was the starting quarterback of my favorite football team. I believed in the theory that wins and losses are all that mattered, and Jake won alot more than he lost in Denver. But I have switched sides, turned to the side of the Anti-Jake party. Sure, Jake has won alot of games as the starting quarterback of the Broncos, but nearly DESPITE himself. This team is going nowhere with Jake at the helm. The Denver Broncos are good enough to go 10-6 with anyone at quarterback. The difference between 10-6 and 13-3 is the play of the quarterback. Then, it is quarterback play that is everything in the playoffs. Jake isn't good enough to be the difference maker for this team, in a positive way at least. There are times when a quarterback needs to overcome poor defensive play, or poor special teams play, and rise up. Jake has never, EVER done that. There has yet to be a game that we looked back and said, "Wow, we had no business winning that game, but Jake saved the day." That is the difference between servicable quarterbacks and good quarterbacks. Great quarterbacks can do that in the playoffs. I don't get as upset becuase I am not as emotionally attached due to the performance of Jake Plummer. I know he can't bring us back, and I know FOR SURE that we are doomed to playoff failure.
I know that isn't very positive, and I apologize for that. But based on the poll results, 70% of you feel the same way. Things aren't going to be any easier this week, with the Chiefs coming up on short rest, and the schedule is brutal the rest of the way, with another a return trip to San Diego and a visit by the high-flying Bengals on tap. Even the 49'ers are at .500. Face it Bronco Fans, Shanny has this team at 7-3 with smoke and mirrors, but the key to magic is never revealing your secrets, and I think Shanny's secret is out.