When I wrote the game prep for this game I had two thoughts. One, Denver has "better" players over all, but two, Houston has played harder this season with a massive number of their players on injured reserve. I finished by writing that "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard". I didn't call the game for Denver, instead putting this down as a tough call, and it turns out with good reason. Where did Denver go wrong (and Houston go right)?
HOU rush DEF
I wrote that MLB Ryans would be out for HOU. Nope (he was on the field). I also wrote that Graham would line up at weakside TE. Nope (injured early in the game). I wrote that under those circumstances the key would be the HOU OLBs not overpursuing. Heck, Ryans WAS in the game, Graham wasn't, and Williams (HOU DE) finaly decided to be a factor in the rush defense.
DEN pass vs HOU pass DEF
Here again, no Graham to block the weak end against Williams (still think Graham isn't worth every penny?). Graham also wasn't in to allow the passes out of run formations I advocated. I wrote that the pass rush was key, and it was. Cutler got sacked or hurried for much of the game.
DENs pass DEF
With only one safety in the deep zone (and with HOU establishing the run) the CBs each had those assured blown coverages I predicted without sufficent backup. One of the best defensive plays for Denver was a tipped pass by Lynch recovered by Bly. Why? Because a second safety (Lynch) was back far enough to participate in the play.
DENs rush DEF
Same poor performance as always. Give the credit to HOU. You can't play a crappy rush defense against a well oiled zoneblock, even with a third string RB. I should have simplified my break down to consider that, but I just can't shake my amazement at how poorly we play the run. This is the one area I didn't account for with much accuracy. You can forget the Xs and Os when one team executes and the other doesn't.
Like I said, HOU beats DEN in every category. We just can't cover.
Two things seemed apparent to me. One was that Denver was outcoached. This is a rare thing with Shanny at the helm. But Kubiak clearly beat Shanny at his own game. The first HOU drive was one cut runs followed by a naked bootleg for a QB TD run. The other thing was the effort of HOU and the lack of motivation by Denver.
One thing I will admit to being blindsided by. I noticed a stat pointed out by one of the commentators and looked it up. Webster (derided by myself and others here at MHR) is second on the team this year on tackles. Have we been unfair to the man? Could he have looked bad in a few games, and we dismissed him too early? I suspected I might have been unfair during a few games where I was able to be at MHR during a game, and pointed out that Webster was looking good. But I think Webster may deserve a reconsideration by the MHR crew.
The last thing I noticed was how appropriate Styg's NPLB is for checking this team. I can't wait for his write up. We clearly left points all over the field in this one.
The record is what it is, we didn't win the key game we needed to, and now we officialy don't deserve to be in the playoffs. I watched the game at my inlaws, and missed the fourth quarter driving in to work. I doubt I missed anything in the fourth. ; )
It may be a dissapointment (the record for the season), but there is some good to take from it. We know a few names we can count on moving forward. Among them, Cutler, Scheff, Young, Marshall, Doom, Crowder, Graham and Stokely. We can also count on Bailey, Bly, Paymah, Foxworth, Williams, Abdullah, Hall (DE IR), and the guys that stepped in on the o-line. We have a lot to work on in the offseason, but we have a solid, young core to take us places.
Like Guru said, good times are coming. Hang in there.