Moment #3 -- One of the Worst
I have one particular play in mind. You might remember it. Jacksonville was lining up at our 3 yd line to run what seemed to be the 12,000th play of that drive, and the Bronco's defense looked lost, confused and out of place.
All 12 of them.
The result of that play was a nifty little 3yd lob from Garrard to Reggie Williams for a TD. Of course they declined to accept the penalty the Bronco's incurred for having too many men on the field and the score opened up what would be a floodgate of domination by the Jaguars in a game they would go on to win by only nine points, though no one who remembers the game would think we were any closer than the Jags let us be.
The events leading up to that play are what makes it so deplorable. A ridiculous penalty that doesn't even help negate a score is bad enough, but when it is the final slap in the face of an 80 yard, 18 play drive that averages a steady 5 yards per play and chews up almost 12 minutes of game clock, it reaches a level deeper and darker than bad. It was heinous.
"It definitely wears a defense down," added middle linebacker D.J. Williams. "I've seen our team do it plenty of times -- get teams in 14-, 15-play drives. It takes a little bit out of the defense, but that's all on us. We've got to realize that we've got to get off the field on third down. It's nobody's fault but ours -- when you get a 15-play drive, you look for three-and-outs and turnovers and things like that."
On that drive The Broncos did manage to hold the Jags on one third down, but since the Jaguars had already converted twice on third, and would eventually go on to convert 7 of their first nine, they must have seen something in the Denver short yardage defense that made their eyes gleam. They would subsequently convert on 4th and 1 and continue down the field to their 3yd score.
It was the 3yd pass at the end of the drive that really locked something into my mind with the cold, objective clasp of reality: our defense was BAD, and it was getting worse.
Could this be the fate of the 2008 Bronco's defense?
First off, that wasn't just any team that manhandled us and sent us back to the playground crying. The Jaguars specialized in that sort of dominating, methodical play that breaks you and wears you out in the same fell swoop. I would even go so far as to say that they are the best in the league at that style of ball.
Maybe that is why it bothers me so much. That used to be Broncos Ball.
As to the 2008 Broncos, I am wary. A team like Jacksonville, or even a team like the (gasp) raiders could duplicate these exact same numbers by virtue of a consistent rushing attack. The fact of the matter is that the majority of our hope on the defensive line comes from the need for our young players continue to develop. DRob is a wise addition given the DT market and the direction this team is choosing, and Powell is an excellent draft pick given our needs and the availability at our picks. But Robertson is already getting fewer practice reps than those around him due to his injury status and Powell has even further to go than the young guys we are already waiting on.
This problem is firmly in the hands of Thomas, Moss, Crowder and DOOM. Everyone else is a known commodity who will be able to deliver as expected barring injury. And they will help. But the only way we put The Grind behind us for good as if the four young players mentioned above take ownership of this line and escalate their play to match up with their potential. I think they will go a long way towards that this year.
But I fear that it won't be enough, and The Grind will return to haunt us in 2008.