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Football (and Game) Fall Through Kyle Orton's Fingers

Well, that wasn't nearly as much fun as I thought it would be.

The Broncos offense started slow, which isn't surprising, but I figured that it would start to come on strong, at some point. What we saw, however, was bursts of brilliance followed immediately by complete ineptitude. And when I say that, of course, I am talking about Kyle Orton, specifically.

What a terrible and good and terrible performance it was...

He began the night with a bunch of stalled drives and sacks. I didn't see many bad decisions in the first half, but the offense was incredibly conservative, scoring only 3 points (these points coming off of a Von Miller forced fumble during the Raiders first offensive play).

The final drive of the first half showed us glimpses of an oustanding passing game. With completions to the uncovereable, Brandon Lloyd, and a few Raiders penalties, the Broncos offense was rolling. But then Orton threw an ill-advised ball to the right sideline where it was intercepted by Matt Giordano. It appeared to be a miscommunication between Brandon Lloyd and Kyle Orton. Lloyd hadn't looked back for the ball, which leads me to believe he thought the ball would be thrown further down field. Orton... well... I'm still not sure what he was looking at. The safety was cutting off the route, east to west. If Orton leads Lloyd downfield, it would have been over the top of the defense, leading to an easy 6 points. It was a bang-bang play, though, so, as a fan, it's hard for me to hold a grudge for that play.

Whatever the case, this interception proved costly. Sebastian Janikowski nailed a 63 yard field goal as time expired in the first half.

The second half, however, began with a much better tone. The Broncos defense played outstanding, forcing a punt that was promptly taken to the house for an Eric Decker touchdown. After the kickoff, the Broncos defense stopped the Raiders offense, once again, giving the ball back to the Orton-led offense.

What happened next was quite amazing. The Broncos had 2 failed 3rd down conversions, but thanks to a couple of Raiders penalties, the drive continued. The Broncos made it all the way to the Raiders 5 yard line before stalling for a final time, settling for a Matt Prater field goal. The Broncos were 0 for 2 in the redzone, at that point.

The Broncos force another 3 and out. They allowed 0 points in the third quarter.

By this point, the crowd was starting to get restless. Orton hadn't produced in two redzone trips. He had thrown a pick at the end of the first half. By all accounts, he had been awful. The Broncos offense had scored 6 points. Then, set up by the good field position from the Broncos defensive stand, the offense started to roll. An 11 yard swing pass to Moreno. A 23 yard comeback to Eric Decker. We were moving the ball. We were in the no huddle. All things were great. The Broncos had the momentum.


Then, there was a fumble.

Orton stepped back to throw. As his arm went forward, the ball didn't go with it. The ball slipped out of his fingers (much like the game, as a whole) and went to the Raiders. Instead of the Broncos continuing to drive, the momentum completely shifted and the Raiders scored a touchdown just 3 plays later.

That's a 14 point swing. Or 10 point swing, if you think the Broncos were destined for a field goal on that drive.

Either way, this loss can be placed on Kyle Orton's shoulders. I know... I know... it's a team game. But the "team" doesn't just drop the ball as they're standing in the pocket. The "team" doesn't throw an interception as you're driving into Raiders territory with over a minute to play. It was raining, also. Jason Campbell only fumbled once, though... and it was because he was being impacted by a defender. Fumbling with no pressure is not something that just happens.

Those two mistakes, alone, cost the Broncos 13 to 17 points. They lost by 3. You do the math.

Orton's Prognosis

Maybe I'm being tough on Orton? Maybe it's knee-jerking? Could be. But this game wasn't an outlier. This game was a part of a trend. Kyle Orton has a poor attitude. During the week, he said that he wouldn't "cry over spilt milk", when asked about the 2010 beatdown against the Raiders. That sort of nonchalance is not what we need at our quarterback position. Does he have the best arm on the team? You bet. Does he have great timing with Brandon Lloyd and Eric Decker? Absolutely.

But he doesn't have the want-to. I didn't see anything tonight that jumped out and said "I want to win this game". I think he is looking over his shoulder at Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow instead of focusing on beating the life out of the Raiders defense.

So, what does this mean for Kyle Orton?

During the game, I made an observation and shared it with Brian Shrout, one of the other MHR staffers. I said the following:

Reminds me of Jay Cutler, but instead of mental errors, he has physical errors. He either throws a completion or misses badly. He either recognizes a coverage mistake or fumbles while he's standing in the pocket...

That's exactly what he is, in my opinion. He just loses control of his body sometimes. After a few sacks, he feels footsteps and looks jittery in the pocket. He stands like a statue and takes a sack on one play and then forces a pass through two defenders on the next. But then, for whatever reason, he gets on a roll and rattles off 3 or 4 completions in a row.

I just don't understand how this can all be one guy. It's like a schizophrenic playing quarterback. You don't know which Orton is going to be throwing the ball on each play, but you know for sure that you'll see each version of Orton, at least once per game.

At MHR, we believe in solving problems. Don't just say "we suck" unless you can say why. Well, with this post, I don't really have a solution. Orton is what he is. Tebow isn't ready. Brady Quinn looked awful during the preseason.

On this roster, we don't really have a solution at quarterback, in my opinion. Jumping on the Tebow bandwagon, at this point, is almost a cliche, so I'll pose a question.

What would you do to fix the Broncos quarterback position?