Were you thinking the same thing as I Broncos Country? "How in the hell are we only down 10-0 after that?" Should have lost by much more. I couldn't think of a nightmare scenario worse than the start of the game Monday night, YET we were still in it late. Out of the debacle that was Peyton Manning's first eight or so passes, I have found some silver lining in defeat. At least the loss was on the road to a non-conference opponent. At least we know the team has a lot of room to grow and mature. I don't see that as a negative, I see that as a reality check. As good as this team can be, it won't go anywhere with the kind of mental errors that were made last night. Everyone INCLUDING #18 has a long ways to go before we start planning victory parades through downtown. If you're interested in hearing more, follow me and let us answer some of the questions we had coming into the game.
Will crowd noise be a factor?
You betcha. Hindsight is easy, so for "duh" purposes let's say the Broncos first drive is a methodical march down the field eating up 6-7 minutes with a huddle at the beginning of each play and a touchdown at the end of it. Probably would have taken some of the bite out of the crowd and could have set up the no-huddle for more success. Instead, no-huddle off the bat, interception off the bat, BOOM! Louder. That sure explains why McGahee went the wrong way on a check and why Manning ran in a U and slid down for a loss.
Can we eliminate our case of the fumbles, and continue our case of the INT-absent-itis?
How about "no" Scott? Between Knowshon coughing it up after a rare positive gain (and the scabs missing that we recovered it), and Peyton Manning doing his best Jay Cutler impersonation (sans shoving his linemen), there's not much more to say...except this. Manning does not have the physical tools to overcome boneheaded mistakes. Manning has always beat defenses with his mind and therefore quick release and anticipation.
Manning 2-3 years ago could perhaps fit those balls into those windows, Manning now is still recovering and still struggling to get the ball downfield. Don't believe me? The most telling pass for me at least was near the end of the game when he loaded up to hit Decker on a post route 30-35 yards downfield. Ball struggled to get there and he put his whole body into it. Not only that but those wobbly passes seem to indicate that the feeling in his fingers still isn't what it could or should be at. This is something we need to keep an eye on week to week----are things improving? is this the best it will get physically?
Can we get our wideouts involved early?
Remember this was more for DT because he's struggled early in the game with drops. He had one this game, but DT was not targeted until the third possession of the game. In the first half, he was targeted 3 times. Not sure what the plan was coming in, but TE's Tamme and Dreessen were targeted quite a bit early on. Given the locations of the INTs, the Broncos wanted to attack the inside of the field down the seems. Decker didn't get a pass his way until about 4:00 remaining in the 2nd Q.
Can our O-line keep Manning clean?
Nope. Was pressured and hurried frequently. Three sacks total, one of which was Manning's fault for losing the chess match pre-snap.
Can our run game provide more "oomph?"
Unless your name is Knowshon Moreno, YES! McGahee had several nice runs (15, 10, 31) and really fought hard for his yardage. Altogether, Mr. McGahee had 113 yards on 22 carries (good work load for him IMO) and added two scores. Most of the damage was done to the right side of our line (the Falcons left) as we will see later.
Can our linebackers do a better job in coverage this week?
Yes and no. Not as glaring as last week, but old man Gonzales still made some nice plays over the middle as did some of the Falcons receivers. Overall a bit of an improvement from last week
Can Tracy Porter keep the mojo going?
Once again Tracy made some nice plays. He also should have been burned for a TD had Julio Jones not dropped an easy score in the endzone. He wasn't burned badly like some expected could be the case going into the game. The play that sticks out for me is the near pick 6 after he jumped an inside route deep in Falcon territory.
Can Champ Bailey shut down Julio Jones?
Was Julio Jones shut down? Yep, 4 catches for 14 yards. Was it all Champ? No. He, Porter, even Tony Carter helped keep Jones in check all game. Champ was beat late by Roddy White down the right sideline. Roddy White beat a lot of folks last night though. Champ is still Champ, and he still played on a high level, no worries here going forward.
Can our front 4 continue to get more pressure on the QB? Can our front 7 shut down Michael Turner and to a lesser extent Jacquizz Rodgers?
No on the first part. One sack all night....by Von Miller. There was some pressure sprinkled here and there but to his credit, Matt Ryan made the quick throw and scrambled a few times to avoid a negative play. Would have loved to see more push from the front 4 especially at the end when Von Miller was being double teamed.
A resounding "YES!!!" to the second part. Our domination of Michael Turner even caused the guy to have a few drinks I hear. Our rush defense has been a pleasant surprise. At the end of week 2 we are #7 in the league allowing a stout 71.0 YPG.
Can we eliminate miscommunication in the secondary? Will JDR have a better feel for this game?
No. The final Falcon TD to Roddy White was one example. Tracy Porter looked like he made the mistake as the Falcons bunched to the left side. He reacted late as to which guy was his and White had an easy touchdown on the flat. Also on the 3rd and 5 at the end of the game there was presnap confusion. The result? An easy first down on a crossing pattern at 6 yards deep. The zone here was apparent as safety Rahim Moore had to come across the field to make the tackle. In the background backup nickel corner Tony Carter was standing there is if he were to play zone. Why play zone with your 3rd corner on 3rd and 5? There were others for sure but these stood out. Don't know if it's Moore/Adams or Porter.
Jury is still out on JDR. Won't criticize too much, but 3rd down is becomming an issue. More specifically, we seem to be playing too much zone when we have the talent to man up, and we seem to not be bringing much pressure in the way of extra blitzers. We have to watch this going forward.
As for the special teams, Prater never had an opportunity, our coverage teams played extremely well, we didn't get much from Leonard, and Colquitt is the man. He had a fantastic game punting the ball. Just wish he didn't have to do it so often.
Other thoughts from the game? Our defense did a stand up job keeping the game close throughout. The Falcons, who have a very potent offense, were spotted 10 by Manning and his errant and weak throws. Other than that, a few bad penalties and some great individual effort by Falcons receivers aside, they played fantastic. Get more pressure from the front 4 and blitz a little more often and our defense can be even more effective. After two weeks, our defense is ranked #8 in overall yards, #9 in passing yards, #7 in rushing yards, and #16 in points. Take away the 10 our offense created through turnovers and they would be sitting at #6 just ahead of Baltimore. We can be a top 10 defense in every major category this year!
Pay the refs already. Monday night was nothing short of painful. Both teams got the short end of the stick with bad calls. Do you like sitting a few minutes while the refs decipher the rules and try and figure out where to spot the ball? Neither do I. This is ridiculous, these guys don't belong on the NFL stage PERIOD!!! Here's hoping we get the regulars back soon.
Mike Nolan won the chess match. Peyton threw the ball horribly to start off and made really poor decisions, all due to Nolan's scheming and masking pre snap. He prepared well, and by the time Peyton figured it out, too little time was left. I really REALLY hope we play these guys again this season to see these two go at it again....and because you know, that would mean we're in the Superbowl;)
Before I wrap up, let's take a look at some weekly stats, starting with the success of our running backs. Remember, reading left to right it is McGahee, Moreno, Ball.
McGahee pounded the left side of Atlanta's defense for 89 yards. Everywhere else save for a few draws up the middle was slim pickings. Please don't let Knowshon run the ball anymore! Screen game, 3rd downs, checkdowns, that's all he should get to do!
Here are the totals for the season (all backs):
We struggle the most rushing to our left. Next up are offensive and defensive plays and averages on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down respectively (again left to right):
Fantastic rushing average on 1st down! On 2nd down last week our passing game continued its' early success. We really struggled on 3rd down all around as we'll see further down.
Our D really stuffed the run on 1st---just look at that average! Aside from the 15 yard run to end the game, we did the same on 2nd down. Without that rush, our average is 2.3 YPC. As far as 3rd down, we did really well overall. Notice in the areas where the Falcons had the most success (1st/2nd down through the air), and notice that their averages still aren't outrageously high. Defense played well. On to 3rd down Offense.
If you've never seen these, it reads 3rd and short (3 yards or less), 3rd and medium (4-7 yards) and 3rd and long (8+ yards) left to right.
Just atrocious from 3rd and short and medium combined (3/9). The one conversion on 3rd and long was the fantastic TD catch by DT on 3rd and 17 before halftime. We struggled quite a bit on 3rd downs overall (4/12 33%).
On defense we successfully stopped 8/13 3rd down attempts (62%). We did great from all distances and improved upon last week's performance on 3rd and longs. Here, we got off the field 3 out of 4 times.
As far as the redzone, on offense we converted 3/3 tries for TD's. Overall for the season, we have had 6 RZ opportunities, and have scored 5 TD's and 1 FG. This is a great line going forward and an improvment from previous years.
On defense, we have faced 8 opportunities and have surrendered 5 TD's (63%). This number should be lower as should our opponents' opportunities. Some work to do here for sure.
Finally, Peyton Manning:
The 'Freaking' was terrible in both the 1st and 3rd quarters of the game. Combined, he went 10/17 (59%) for 77 yards (4.5 Avg/A) and 3 INT's. He was much more effecient at the end of the half and the game going 14/20 (70%) for 164 yards (8.2 Avg/A) and 1 TD.
Well folks, hope you enjoyed the 2nd installment. Will see you later in the week for some more questions and a preview of the Texans.