Ok, so I have had some time to reflect on today's loss to the Rams, and thanks to ohnokoolaid, we have a great starting point to look back at what went right, and what went wrong in todays game. Thanks for the great tidbits to chew on, and remember -- healthy debate is part of being a fan, but we all love the Broncos. Here goes.
Both Bells had their moments, and aside from Tatum's careless fumble, they were the offense's bright spot. They were consistent and had the team been able to throw beyond five yards, both of these guys would have had bigger days. I don't expect any part of the running game to change heading into next week's game against Kansas City, which suddenly looks much easier considering how poorly they played and the unfortunate injury to Trent Green (I'm hoping it's nothing serious, because he's a stand up guy, but from watching it, it looks really bad.)
*-- I did like what I saw from each of our backs, with the exception of Tatum's fumble. Now, I know that fumbles are part of the game, but save it for when you get popped, or are trying to stretch for some extra yards. It didn't really look like Tatum got hit that hard, so I'd consider it a soft fumble. He did come back into the game, and ran hard. I liked the power Mike Bell showed, especially on the 4th down play and at the goal-line.
They let Bulger escape one too many times, but walking away with three sacks and a handful pressures is a solid day (even with the Rams being one of the worst pass pro teams). The push up the middle was pretty good, but the collapse of the pocket from the outside needs to improve. It looks like the sacks will be up this year, but the pass rush still tops my way-to-early-off-season-priority-list.
*--I was a bit surprised that Dumervil was inactive, especially with Brown also out of the game. I am guessing that Shanahan wanted Chukwurah in because of his special team experience. That backfired to say the least, though I think the penalty should have been running into the kicker. As for the pass rush, I credit the coverage in teh secondary more than the push up front. I am looking for our D-Line to pressure the way the Rams did today. The minute Jake hit that back foot on his drop it seemed a Ram was in his face. Not only is that how you get to Jake, but it will affect most QB's in this league.
I had to watch the game at a restaurant, so I couldn't rewind plays or see up-close, but it looked like D.J. Williams was the main culprit with missed tackles. This wasn't killer, but unacceptable nonetheless.
*--Bulls-eye on both parts. Not only did D.J. have a bad tackling game, he over pursued like a rookie. There is a lot of ability in there, but he has to play controlled. I like the DB play, with Champ and Darrent tackling very well. The Broncos linebackers look to go for the big hit more than the sure take down and they get into trouble at time with that.
It seemed like the Rams knew every time we were going to run the bootleg, sending a blitzer straight at Plummer on those few occasions. Plummer's not a good pocket passer, but matters are only made worse when the pocket collapses quickly. I like the potential of Foster, but if he does this again next week, he won't be playing. He was pretty good in the running game today, but he gave Little the outside way too easily (in Foster's defense, Little is just outside the elite edge rushers, and isn't your typical left end).
*--I wouldn't be surprised to see Meadows next week against K.C. There was a reason they brought him in, and he did a great job during his career protecting Peyton Manning. I wonder how much is in the tank, but if there is anything there he is going to see some action. The boot-leg only works if there is a threat of the run and it was obvious the Rams felt confident that they could stop the run by thinking pass first. Basically they were going to give up the 5 yard run if it meant avoiding the big pass play. By playing pass first, they gave up some decent runs but never let Jake get comfortable, and we know what happenes when Jake isn't comfortable.
Granted, only one of Walker's drops could be considered routine, he did not have a good game and still doesn't look up to speed. This isn't a major concern, as Will Carroll of FO.com, points out that it takes two years to fully regain your speed after ACL surgery. This should just note that Bronco fans might want to temper their expectations for him. The problem with Walker is that he's being paid to make catches like that one down the sidelines, and he didn't come through today. It's just an isolated incident, and he showed much better hands in Green Bay, but when you're just trying to look at why your team lost, that was a touchdown Denver should have had. No worries here yet, but I'm just saying...
*--We agree whole-heartedly here. The drop down the sideline would have been a great catch, but it was in his hands and it would have been nice to see. The two drops on slant routes area timing thing, and leads me to what I think is the broader problem with the offense that I will discuss later. Not having Marshall was key, as once again a third option in the pass game was non-existant. Scheffler was a non factor.
It wasn't like Jackson had every yard he wanted today, despite what the final tally looks like. The problem today was that the defense was forced to be on the field for way too long in too many high pressure situations. Eventually, it will crack, and you could start to tell that more wind would leave their sails every time Plummer twisted the knife in their backs. They got stops all day, but couldn't come up with the biggest one at the end.
*--Again, can't say that I disagree. The Broncos play an undersized defense that relies on speed. When they are forced to be on the field alot they tend to wear down. I though Jackson had to fight for many of his yards and the couple of big runs he did have came on mental errors by the defense over-pursuing. IMHO, the defense did everything it could, and the fact that the offense had the ball in it's hands with a chance to tie with 3 minutes to go.
First off, that sack wasn't that difficult, and was a result of Bulger being flushed out. Chucky's only pass rush move is to run as fast as he can into the tackle and hopes he drives him back enough to grab the QB. Almost always, it doesn't work. That leaves the bulk of his value on special teams, and when you make a gaff that could cost your team a victory, your job should be put on watch. The Broncos did stop the Rams again, but the wasted time and boneheaded penalty (he wasn't even close enough to sniff a block, why dive so carelessly?) did not help the Broncos' cause. We're too crowded at linebacker and defensive end as it is...
*--Though I think the penalty was the wrong call, in that situation you have to think about the big picture, which is the defense has forced a punt, from their own end zone and the only thing that mess up possibly good field position is a stupid penalty like that. This team needs to play SMARTER! I imagine we'll see Dumervil in action next week, at the least.
How can we not address the Plummer problem? Tomorrow's papers will just ravage him, and being fair, should we (or he) expect anything different? Or should I say, is it not warranted? I know we aren't in the business of polarizing the fan base here, but we should discuss this honestly, and the fact is that Plummer's performance was no one's fault but his, and that it should be deemed completely unacceptable.
Yes, earlier I criticized the play of the pass protectors, and for that, I place little blame on Plummer for his fumble. Most quarterbacks will fumble the ball when they approach the act of throwing, and I didn't see anything necessarily careless about the play. The picks, however, are another story. The first one should have never been thrown, regardless of his claims for pass interference. You could tell on replay that the corner already had the inside on the receiver anyways, and that he'd be able to jump any ball thrown underneath. On his second interception, the egregious error was not the interception, but that Devoe was wide open for two seconds prior to the pick, and almost surely would have scored down the sideline, or at least reached the red zone. The pattern looked like a deep post, but a good quarterback and receiver combo know how to break the route (which looked like Devoe was anticipating Plummer to do). The throw itself was just poor. Off his back foot, hanging in the middle of the field, overthrowing the receiver... Finally, the third interception was another that should never have happened. Plummer had room to reach the sideline, to perhaps take the yards given to him rushing. Instead, he throws across his body to a covered man! At what point do you have to tell yourself that you can't take the "wild out of the horse" (or enter your own cliché)? If we have another week of this, I might have to order my "CUT-ler PLUMMER" t-shirt, because this performance won't win any ball games. Lastly, the completion percentage was putrid, considering how many easy short throws he completed, and while they were drops, they were of the adjusting to a poor throw kind, more than the point blank receiver mistakes.
First game...we all know this...but we shouldn't be foolish enough to think that the Cutler watch should not be started. I'm not suggesting that he share more snaps at practice, or start next week, or anything of that nature, but it might be time he put the clipboard down and keep the helmet in hand. Eventually, we have to stop coming up with excuses or rationalities for the situation. He's a few steps away still, but Cutler crept a little closer to seeing action in year one. After all, what's wrong with rookie mistakes if your veteran makes just as many?
*--When you look at turnovers individually, all can be considered as part of the game. Fumbles happen, tipped passes happen, etc. But every turnover today was soft. Bell's fumble was on a typical tackle, nothing special about it, wasn't stripped, per say. Plummer's fumble was the result of poor pass protection, but he had enough time to pump, bring it down, and bring it back up, before he was hit. There is my issue, if you cock to throw and bring it down you had better eat it because nothing good is going to come from it. The three INT's were all more bad decisions by Plummer. The pass to Devoe was too late, and Plummer doesn't have the arm strength to make that throw off his back foot. The pick that sealed the deal was a pass he should have never thrown, as Smith was covered, though it was a heck of a play by the LB. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat when the opposition makes a great play, but today wasn't one of those cases and Jake has to take the blame for 4 horrible turn overs. As for Cutler, make no mistake, this team was built to win NOW! I don't think Shanny would hesitate in the least if he thought that Jake Plummer was the piece that was holding the team back from ultimately being successful or if he felt Cutler was the better option. Regardless if some fans feel that way, until Shanny decides it is time for a change Jake will be the man. In my opinion, the lack of work during the pre-season may have something to do with the last two team debacles in openers, but we are past it and it is time to move on.
I have no problem saying that I was incredibly disappointed with today's performance. I know the same thing happened, but that infuriates me more. This team should have been ready for the pitfalls. One of the problems might just be how little the starters play during the preseason. One game can be considered a flash in the pan, two games are a trend, and this is two openers in a row that the offense looked slow, confused and unprepared. Several SUper Bowl contenders played similar games, but were able to pull out a victory(i.e Seatte and New England), we just weren't as fortunate. Could the loss of Gary Kubiak be more of an issue than we have thought it would be?
There were some positives. As bad as the Broncos played they had the ball with a chance to tie late in the 4th quarter. The defense hung in there all day against a very good offense, though the Rams have yet to score an offensive TD in 2006. And lucky enough for us, the schedule makers gave us the Chiefs, in Denver, as our Week 2 opponent. It was the similar last season after the bad loss in Miami, that the Broncos got to play a division rival at home to help get the ship righted. We'll need to do the same this season.
For me, today's game is history. Time to look forard to Kansas City. I think the Broncos will know what they need to do and will come out fired up and ready to go in Week 2.
Thanks Ohno, for supplying us a foundation for discussion. It was great insight and I look forward to your contributions all season long!