I've had time to sleep it off and woke up this morning with a clear head and a fresh outlook towards yesterday's game. A quick look at the stats above tell the story so there's really no need to break it down a whole lot. I do have a couple thoughts however, and while I admit I haven't organized my thoughts, I felt I needed to weigh in today instead of waiting. Without further ado....
In my game preview I spoke about the importance of winning at the point of attack. No need to have watched the game to see the result of that. Two stats tell that story -- Time of Possession and Third Down Conversions. The Jags owned T.O.P -- 38 minutes -> 21 minutes -- and were 9/17 on third and fourth down. That number was even better in the first half - 7/10 - and that puts alot of pressure on your defense. It also keeps the offense off the field which in 2007 is going to keep the Broncos off the scoreboard.
I don't like losing in any form or fashion, but I really hate losing when a team comes into our house and is simply a tougher group of men. Football, at it's core, is still a game about who wants it more, who can hit harder, and who wins the physical battles. The Jags did all of those things and that, to me, is disheartening. The Jags didn't really do anything that special on offense and the Broncos simply didn't have an answer.
There will be alot of talk about our running game, or lack thereof, but the number is a bit misleading. The Broncos had what amounted to 3 possessions in the first half, and while the initial 3-and-out can be questioned, the Broncos scored a TD on their second possession and were in a 2 minute offense in their third. Add a fumble that led to a field goal before halftime, then another after the half, and the Broncos found themselves down 13. The way the game was going it the Broncos knew they had to go with a quick-strike approach. The defense hadn't shown at any point that they could stop the Jags offense so risking a long, time consuming drive knowing you had to get the ball back wasn't the wise move. Don't blame Shanny for giving up on the run, tip your hat to Jacksonville for taking the run away.
I will admit I hated both play calls when the Broncos were inside the 5 yard-line, with the chance to get a first down at the 2. While the QB sneak on 4th down could be questioned, and will get most of the attention, I have the bigger problem with the shotgun-draw to Selvin Young on 3rd down. I love Young, but the 5 yard-line should be Travis henry territory. The Broncos have a tendency to get a little too-cute at times, and the Jags are a fast, tenacious defense with or without John Henderson. With the size advantage the Broncos had on the outside I would have loved to see a fade route to Walker or Marshall, but at the very least it should be Henry that gets the ball in that situation.
Another 4th down that will get alot of attention is the pass to Daniel Graham. I have no problem with the call. Poor timeout management left the Broncos without the ability to stop the clock, and the Broncos had yet to show they could stop the Jags offense. The play call was perfect, and Jay Cutler threw a perfect pass to Graham. It's a catch that Graham HAS TO MAKE. Period. Graham spoke out in New England about not being a part of the passing game, and the Broncos paid him alot of money, the type of money a guy who makes those catches gets paid. Graham knows it so I won't harp. Just stop the criticizing of Shanny, it was the right decision, and like most of the day the players simply failed to execute.
Now that I have that off my chest, a bit of levity for Broncos fans. Take a deep breath and relax. I know that going 16-0 would have been nice, and I know that we play the Colts this week. But let's take a bit of an inventory. The Broncos are still in first place in the AFC West, and that is the most important thing, right? Win the West and you make the playoffs. The first goal of every team in the NFL is to win your division. The Broncos still control that. Oh, and even if the Broncos do lose in Indy next week they will, at worst, be tied for first in the AFC West.
The Offense is really, really good. Brandon Marshall is going to be a star in this League. It looks like 2007 is going to be a transition year for the defense, but the offense is going to win us some games this season. The only thing that stopped the Denver Offense yesterday was the Denver Offense. Drops, fumbles, penalties, etc. Oh, and Ben Hamilton has yet to play all season. If the Broncos can get Hamilton back, and that is a big IF right now, the Broncos will be even better. Oh, and I am waiting patiently for the return of Tim Crowder. Crowder is the most NFL-ready of our young defensive linemen and I think he'll have an impact in the running game. Trust me.
Are there concerns? Of course there are, but losing yesterday counts only once in the standings, and the Broncos will have the opportunity to take care of business in the division as the season moves forward. As bad as the taste is after yesterday the Broncos will file it, learn from it and move on to Indy.
Random Notes From Yesterday --
QUICK SNAPS -- The loss snapped Denver’s NFL-best 10-game home September winning streak…
WR Nate Jackson scored the first touchdown of his career; it comes in his fifth year in the league…
Entering today, Denver had allowed just three scores (2 TD, 1 FG) in 20 opponent drives; Jacksonville put points up (2 TD, 3 FG) five times in 10 drives…
Jacksonville ran 70 plays to Denver’s 42; the Broncos last ran fewer than 50 plays in a game at Dallas in 2005 (46)…
SERIES STUFF -- Jacksonville evened the all-time regular season series at 3 wins apiece with the win, and all is even at four aside when counting the postseason. Defense has dictated the last three games, as just 77 points combined have been scored in the three (Jax wins of 7-6 in 2004 and 23-14 this year; Denver 20-14 win in ’05).
SCORING STREAK -- Denver did score in its 232nd consecutive game this afternoon (last shutout: 24-0 at L.A. Raiders, Nov. 22, 1992), extending the streak for the 69th time in the second quarter and for 222nd time by halftime.
RUNNING GAME STIFLED -- Denver mustered just 47 yards on 18 attempts in the game, with only one play of 10 yards or more and six of five or longer; seven went for zero or minus yardage. The 47 yards were the fourth fewest in the Mike Shanahan Era in Denver, behind 37 (vs. San Diego, 9/26/04), 38 (at Kansas City, 11/23/06); and 44 (vs. San Diego, 1/2/00).
WR BRANDON MARSHALL (7-133 receiving) -- Marshall had his first career-100 yard receiving game as a professional, with six of his seven catches earning first downs. He accounted for 133 yards from scrimmage, which was one more than everyone else who touched the ball on offense for Denver in the game; next best for the Broncos were Selvin Young (44), Brandon Stokley (36) and Travis Henry (35).
QB JAY CUTLER (23-16-1, 222, 1 TD) -- Cutler had a touchdown pass for his eighth consecutive game, extending the longest streak by any Bronco quarterback at the start of a career.
C TOM NALEN -- He passed Tom Jackson into sole possession of third place on the all-time games played list in Bronco franchise history with 192; he trails only John Elway (234) and Jason Elam (223).
DE ELVIS DUMERVIL -- He had a multiple sack game for a second consecutive week, the fourth two-plus sack game of his career.