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How we beat Tennessee - the breakdown

There's a lot to take from the MNF clash.  The game says a lot about our team, where we are and where we're going.  I want to focus on the game itself, but I also want to point out some related issues that fans should be interested in.

First, a huge happy first birthday to Guru's daughter.  Guru's first quarter post tells us that he went missing this weekend to help her celebrate, and we all know the only thing better than being a good Denver fan is being a good dad.  Happy birthday little Guress!

Second, a big shout out to...wait for it...wait for it... to the ESPN MNF producers!  We've been griping about the quality of the MNF presentations, and I know a lot of us wrote to the ESPN ombudsman to complain.  Well I think they did the right thing and repaired their product.

They didn't talk over the plays like they used to do (all of the time).  In fact, they made a point of cutting themselves off to go to a play when the play started.  The only time they flubbed was during the Rod Smith interview, but at least they went back and told us what happened.

Also, no freakin' celebrity interviews!  No "My Brett, Our Favre" silliness and no actors.  Thank you ESPN!

Now they did spend a lot of time on VY but that's ok.  It's just opinion, and they gave Jay some love too.  I thought it was funny comparing Cutler to Favre last MNF, then comparing him to Favre AND VY this game.  But hey, even the ABC crew might have done that.  No sweat.  I'll also let the Jordon Sparks music off the hook.  ESPN may think we're a bunch of middle school girls, but at least we get hot chicks in the Hank JR intro.  

Folks, if we want to see more professional coverage of MNF games like we finaly got to see for this game do the right thing.  Don't just write to ESPN to gripe, tell them they did a good job.  I really think they're listening.  You can contact the ESPN ombudsman here:

Ok, let's break down the game.

I was at some friends to watch the game, so I missed the MHR coverage.  At least I was able to watch the game, since seeing the Broncos is a rarity in Indiana.  I loved what I saw.  Here are 7 points I jotted down during the game.

  1. I "advised" TENN to go no huddle.  It's a speciality of theirs and it would have had Sam Adams either puking on the field or getting a penalty for twelve men on because he couldn't rotate.  When TENN used the no huddle they gained yards.  But they never strung together a no huddle drive!  Perhaps they dropped the no huddle approach because we weren't running the run contain system.  That's understandable.  But it worked when they did do it, and they probably should have put together a no huddle drive instead of just plays here and there.
  2. Denver did not run the zone contain system.  The DTs seemed to be penetrating (even Big Adams), and the LBs played man or zone, but not containment.  Also worth noting is that (despite the ESPN commentary), I didn't see any players assigned to "spy" (cover) VY.  VY was accounted for by players in zone who held their positions well.  (Gold, for example, ended up on VY several times too wide because he was zoned off to the side of the field and couldn't cut back in.  But his interception was sweet wasn't it?)
  3. Graham looked good catching.  So did Scheff.  Our TE's are set.  With Alexander off of IR next year we have something special to look forward to.
  4. Credit to MattR for this observation about our STs coach:
"From Andew Mason's blog 7:09 P.M. MST: Patrick Smyth of media relations informs me that this is the 17th punt-return touchdown for a player under special-teams coordinator Scott O'Brien's watch -- and the 32nd touchdown by an O'Brien-coached unit."

STs started as a weakness for us this year.  But Awhile back I pronounced the problem fixed.  Martinez and Hall looked good, as did our coverage units.  Martinez mucked up a catch that turned into a turnover, but that's youth.  Folks, we are set on STs!

  1. Hamza was the cure we needed at safety.  Now imagine what we could do with two speedy / solid tacklers at the position.  Hamza not only covered for a couple of tackles on passes that went past Bailey and Bly, but he was an assest in run support.  We are set at one of our safety spots for years to come.
  2. Stokely has been playing great at our #1 spot.  With Walker back (and Marshall at #2) Stokely will be unstoppable in the slot, just like he was in INDY.  Throw in Martinez at #4 and we have the best depth at WR of any team in the league.
  3. Selvin Young and Hall are both real deals.  Gotta love our RBs well into the future.
Let's review some points from last week's prep article:

Denver rush defense

Most notably, we didn't use the run contain, but we still matched very well.  We demonstrated that the player call-out meeting WAS a factor two weeks later.  It also looked to me like there was no spy on VY.  Most tackles on VY were from out of place LBs zoned wide (on lateral runs) or players rushing forward from man or deeper zone coverage when VY went to the middle.

VY was TENNs leading rusher.  None of their other guys were able to rush.

Denver pass defense

Denver did the right thing playing "off" coverage against the possesion receivers of TENN.  TENN didn't get a lot of YAC, and we forced them to nickle and dime down the field.  Guru nailed it; We made VY try to be a QB for 60 minutes, and he just can't do that.

While we did a good job with immediate tackles and even INTs (Bly and Gold did great), I think the key was Hamza.  Hamza demonstrated a new rule in Broncology: You risk the game throwing near Bailey and Bly, but even if you get past them you won't get past the Ham!  Hamza covered extremely well on passes that got by on both Bailey and Bly.

The pass rush was good, and even though we didn't rack up a lot of sacks, we did pressure Young.  Notice that our ends would get behind VY, and that he would step forward to avoid the pressure.  VY constantly had to keep in mind the DEs that were getting blocked to his rear.

Overall I liked the solid, heavy hitting we exhibited.  We forced some fumbles and slowed some people down.

Denver's running game

As I wrote, without Haynesworth in for TENN we ran all over TENN.  We also ran up the middle more than to the side, and when we did test the side we didn't get far.

Denver's passing game

Here again, we knew that TENN had excellent backs, but shorter backs that are heavy hitters more than coverage guys.  We used deep throws to beat them with speed.  When we threw to stationary receivers TENN did better.  Cutler was excellent in accuracy and his throws were fast enough to squeeze between the double coverages we predicted.

One more huge point.  I'm sure you guys noticed it (even though ESPN replayed them but didn't mention Elway).  Cutler threw TWO long passes to his left while breaking to his right.  That's an Elway trademark, and it nearly brought tears to my eyes.  This kid is the future.  No one else makes those throws and gets away with it.

TENNs safeties were not a factor in this game.  Cutler didn't throw deep to set up the short plays, and the safeties got beat because they seemed to be going man instead of covering the passes.  I think our running game kept the safeties off balance.


This team has turned a corner.  We've seen other teams have a great second half of the season and go the distance (PITT anyone?).  Denver has the skill to make the playoffs this year, but it is still a tough road.  We need to keep sending some pyschic cheers to the opponents of our division rivals during their games.

We have the youth and the skill to look forward to a magnificent next year.  Great QB, four great WRs, 3 great TEs (when we get Alexander back from IR), great RBs, great O-line (but needs depth), great DEs, great CBs, and a great safety.  The LBs are improving, but still a question mark.  Lynch is a run stopping machine, but we need speed at the position (I expect him to retire after this latest neck scare).  The DTs are questionable.  Just a few adjustments in the offseason and I think we are ready to rock.


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