Football is back baby! And what a way to start off the season! Coming into this game I was honestly worried. Heck...half way through the game I felt our team was extremely fortunate to only be down by 3. That's the thing about me...I need to see football in real games before I can say and see how things are going to go with any confidence. Sure it is fun to chug Kool-Aid and prognosticate about 55-17 victories, but that's not the "No Bull" way.
This is the first review of the year for me, so old school MHR fans skip these two paragraphs. For everyone that just joined MHR, welcome to the No Bull review. I'm a card-carrying member of Broncos Country till the day I die. I'm just a NFL fan. No, I never played football at any serious level nor coached it. My expertise here comes from being a fan, learning about the game by paying attention, reading great sources of material like MHR, and getting better at seeing the bigger picture of what happens play to play. So what I share here is what I note from the game. It comes from what I see. The perspective is absolutely NO nonsense. I'm not some jacked up sports journalist trying to wow people about fluff and stuff. I like the truth. I like what really happened.
That being said I have gotten a fairly keen eye for the game and I like to share it with others. But the part that I love is the discussions in the comments. I learn more every game from other people who saw things differently or understood the reasoning behind a play better. So I encourage all of you reading to sign up if you haven't and talk with us.
Also, if you like this (or any other fanpost), Rec it...it is the green button at the bottom of the post that says "REC". That's how you show respect, appreciation, love, etc on MHR. I'm not saying this to toot my own horn, but to help get the community educated in how to get more people involved...rec the good stuff. :) Now on to the review.
Usually I only talk about our team, but the ratbirds are dear to my heart so you get a quick take from me on their team. I said this off-season I thought these guys were going to miss the playoffs with a ceiling of 7 - 9 and I stand by that. Here's what I saw from them this game / figured from the personnel moves in the off-season:
- Joe Flacco is not consistent throwing the ball. He also sucks horribly when pressured (moreso than most QBs because he tries to make things happen without good mechanics or decision making).
- The Ravens have 2 WRs that are decent: Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown. Dallas Clark should have retired and Torrey Smith is only a 9 route and needs some big time work on route running to ever be a serious #1 guy.
- Ray Rice is a monster of a RB and was horribly underused. Don't listen to homers talk about the score being too big. In the 3rd quarter they sat Rice for a whole series and had Pierce in and they were only down by 4 IIRC. My brothers (in Christ) and I were discussing the fallacy of this at length. He's too good to not ride especially with our sloppy tackling.
- The Ravens still have a superb front 7 on their defense. Terrel Suggs and Elvis Dumervil look great out there together in pass rush situations.
- The Ravens secondary is a complete disaster. Ladarius Webb looks pretty sharp but one guy does not make a secondary. Manning ripped that secondary to pieces and gave everyone in the NFL film on how to do it. Ed Reed was old, but he kept QBs honest last year...you will miss him until you get a safety that plays decently.
- Your team should stop playing dirty. I saw at least 3 instances of guys trying to take people out in illegal or unnecessary fashion (one of which got flagged). I'm all about a team being hard-nosed and being tough. That's what I want every year from my D. But your guys aren't tough...they are just cheaters and it strikes me as very middle-schoolesque. Stay classy Baltimore.
What can you say after scoring seven flipping touchdowns on offense? Our attack was dynamic and deadly once we got the groove going in the 2nd half. Overall this game really reminded me of last year: Slow starts and big finishes. We look a bit weak running the ball and our line played shaky. I think both can get better as the season progresses, though the RB position may require a free agent to truly make an impacting change.
Welcome back Peyton Manning! I sure do love seeing a guy put the team on his shoulders absolutely positively refuse to let them lose (cause our D and coaching sure was trying to let it happen...more on that later).
- It wasn't all roses for Manning...Eric Decker saved his bacon from an early INT that was both ill advised and a poor throw. I hate pointing that out when he did so many other good things, but hey...we don't do Bull here right?
- Manning looked the players off, patiently let the plays develop, and ate a huge hit to make it work. That is some superb QB execution there brothers and sisters! You could take the film on this game and make a step-by-step study out of how to be a great QB (mechanics, timing, progressions, decision making, accuracy, etc).
- Manning's pass to Caldwell was one of those passes that couldn't have been thrown more accurately. I could watch that pass over and over...it was simply artful.
Here's where Rodney just dunked all over my face (sorta). Get this Broncos Country: Julius Thomas not only played in a REAL NFL game, but he actually made it through the whole game and played very well. Keep eating your vitamins, working out, and stay healthy JT!
- He's got a LOT of work to do in his blocking game. 2 times he was very very weak on his assignment and it led to both a pressure and a run getting stuffed. I can overlook that at TE if you show up in the passing game though.
- Dude reminds me an awful lot of Antonio Gates...same build and same types of moves once he has the ball. I know it is cliche but there is just no better way to put it.
- Here's the part some people might miss. Once halftime got here, Baltimore changed schemes to take away JT. They had him bracketed a bit from what I saw. I'm sure you will agree with me that we are totally okay with that. Take away the TE and leave Welker and DT 1 on 1 please.
Let's talk about some of the ugly for a bit. Specifically the big uglies on the O-Line. No one is going to complain too much given the score at the end of the day, but realize that score was highly attributed to Manning. If we had to play that game with Os he would have been destroyed.
- First off I do consider the opponent here. Baltimore's front 7 will commonly make your O-Line look like trash. They are very talented up front.
- Nevertheless, our line did NOT do much for the running game. Yeah we have a weakness there, but RBs can't do much without holes to run through. I thought Ryan Clady represented himself well (handled Terrel Suggs as well as anyone in the NFL can) did Zane Beadles. The right side had some trouble fairly consistently.
- In pass protection don't forget that Manning took 3 sacks tonight. From what I recall they were on the line too (someone correct me on that if there was a RB failure though).
Next bit of ugliness to talk about: Running Backs. It isn't that we need a running game when our passing offense is so good, but that doesn't mean you should look forward to 21 attempts for 67 yards as a unit.
- I said it all pre-season that Knowshon Moreno would be our starter (once they let McGahee go). It kinda bums me out to be right on this one though. Knowshon's a guy I want as my #2, not #1. This speaks to our lack of talent at the position as it stands today.
- Ronnie Hillman again leaves me wondering where is this mythological "home run" threat I keep hearing about. I sure do get apprehensive every time he carries the ball and gets tackled though (so yeah...every time). I know John Fox loves his RB picks, but methinks he missed on Hillman and so far Ronnie has done nothing to prove that wrong.
- Montee Ball looked like a decent rookie talent. Nothing supremely special, but he as okay in the run game as the other two. I'm looking forward to seeing him get the pass protection stuff down and getting some more carries to see what he has.
- It is worth noting again: I sure wish we hadn't let go of Willis McGahee.
How great does Wes Welker look in Orange and Blue? The reigning king of the slot-option was looking as good as ever catching passes from Peyton.
- By my count so far this year Welker has broken the ankles of 2 players from the opposing teams.
- I've always been amazed at his quickness. He jukes and changes direction with such great acceleration that it makes the defenders look silly.
Eric Decker mostly disappeared this game, but that will happen when you are the #4 passing option on a team...you only get a handful of chances. If he keeps playing like he did tonight (mediocre at best) I'm completely fine with letting test the waters in FA.
Last but certainly not least, let's talk Optimus Prime (Demaryius Thomas) for a minute. You go through a game like this with big plays by JT, Welker, and Caldwell. Now you choose to man cover DT on blitz plays and pay the price two times. We have an embarrassment of riches catching passes on our offense and #1 on the list is DT.
- I still can't really wrap my mind around a guy as big as DT shaking Michael Huff out of his shoes like he did. The big guy is supposed to be slow and sluggish...the lean guy is supposed to be quick and agile right?
- The screen pass to the house wasn't anything new to us, but that 26 yard TD pass to DT was disgusting...because the CB was on him and there was Nothing. He. Could. Do.
- Freakishly Huge Catching Window + Single Man Trailing Technique + Peyton Manning Throw = Easy TD.
I miss Von Miller...how bout you? On one hand 27 points is a lot to give up. On the other hand, there was a lot of good you can take out of this game for our defense. We were missing Champ Bailey too. Talk all you want about Champ being washed up (he's not), but we missed that guy out there as well.
Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk Baby! Have I mentioned yet this year that I love me some Chris Harris!? Man that cat just keeps getting better and better. Dude was all over the field this game...slot, LCB, RCB. This kid is looking more and more like a rising star game to game.
- He did get taken advantage a bit early in the game. Some of this looked to me like he was making sure not to get burnt on 9 routes. Jacoby Jones absolutely schooled him on one play early in the game for a 12 yard completion.
- Of course like any good CB in the NFL Harris forgot that stuff in short order for a very nice read and route jump for an easy INT.
There were some good things to talk about in a solid team effort from the linemen. Overall we did well limiting the damage Baltimore was able to do, but weren't often able to create with the front four...at least not until the doors got blown off in the 2nd half.
- Rushing four wasn't cutting it pretty much all game. The Ravens' line was way too good for that. I think we all saw that coming and no matter what anyone says about Ayers and Phillips, a lot of our pressures / sacks were when we brought a blitzer or two.
- I loved what I saw in the trenches with the DTs. Our guys did a very good job inside of at least holding their ground. Most of the decent runs the Ravens had got pushed to the outside where our mostly disciplined defense was flowing to.
- So on one hand Ayers had a superb sack in the game. On the other hand he had a facepalm moment trying to be a hero in coverage and letting Baltimore get a 1st down. It is third down and you are a lineman son...screw trying to jump the ball...cover your man!!! Situational football man...the risk is not worth the small chance of reward in my mind.
- Shuan Phillips did look like he was on a mission tonight. I still miss Von Miller, but I know we are in very good hands and Shaun is a big reason for that. Imagine what he will be able to do when Von gets back.
- I liked seeing Irving get involved later in the game for a nice TFL. Blocker or no blocker, he made a great read on the play there.
- Trevathan's INT was as beautiful as Harris' until he got to the 2 yard line. I was in utter shock that one of our players would trump Deshean Jackson as the most bone-headed player in the game today. I heard the right words afterwards though: he'll learn from it. I do hope the coaches use that to make sure everyone on the team learns from it too.
- For an undersized guy, Wesley sure did look like a darn good MLB out there...he was all over the place on top of play after play.
I saw some very solid safety play tonight. Shout out to Rahim Moore (6 tackles, no complete cluster-derps) and Duke Ihenacho (11 tackles, 1 assist) for representing Denver big time out there. THAT is how you play safety guys. Well done!
- Mike Adams also had some solid play out there. On a 3rd and 17 he used great technique to keep his guy from converting in a one-on-one situation.
- Rahim timed his hit on Dallas Clark superbly to end a drive. Half a second early and it would have been a defenseless receiver call. Half a second later and it was an easy first down.
No Champ, no organic pass rush...no problem. We really are blessed in the cornerback department, Broncos Country. We have three guys that would be the #1 CB on most NFL teams. There is stuff here to clean up, but nothing back-breaking overall.
- Give the youngster Kayvon Webster some props...besides not looking for the ball he had a one-on-one situation in the end zone and handled it just fine. That was a great defense son!
- We didn't see much of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie last night. That was because he was too busy blanketing his assignment like a boss. Take notes Philly...with DRC you put him on a man and let him do his stuff. Off-man zone is not his stuff nor does it need to be.
- Also all you Tony Carter haters need to go rewatch this game and pay attention. Just like McGeorge and I have been telling you guys for a year now, this kid has skills. Yeah he got carried like a rag doll to a 1st down against a much larger opponent, but go watch his man coverage stuff. It is a text-book bucket of gravy. We are lucky to have him at such a low price this year.
This John Fox cat is scaring the hell out of me. No matter what he said in the preseason about stepping on throats and going for it more on 4th down, he still needs slapped around on game day or he'll never get his head right. By the way, if we get evidence that this was Adam Gase's call then go ahead and move the blame accordingly...this smells like Fox to me though.
- It is 4th down and 4 on your 40 yard line...What Do You Do? If you answered punt you should be beaten repeatedly with a bludgeoning instrument. Earth to John Fox: You have Peyton Friggin Manning on your team. GO FOR IT!
- Didn't we see this stuff last year...2:00 to go in the half and you go into "prevent" zone when your man schemes have been doing just fine all game. It took a great effort by our defense to hold Baltimore to 3 because of this junk.
- What do we do in the 4th quarter with more than 10 minutes to go in the game only up by 18? Say it with me folks: "Run, Run, Run, Punt" ...like I'm playing poker with my brother's kids!
- And when it makes sense to be conservative...2:00 to go in the game up by two scores who do we put in? Our 20 mil a year 37 year old QB. Against the reincarnation of the faders from the 70s no less.
Jack Del Rio
Jack Del Rio made me proud though...I said before this game we'd miss Von Miller, but people need to recognize who we have at defensive coordinator. Solid adjustments were made and we didn't sit back and twiddle our thumbs while Flacco threw bombs in our house this time.
- I loved seeing the blitzing happen once the front 4 proved they didn't have enough. What I didn't expect was seeing so much from the outside. I figured like many we would be attacking the A gaps.
Manning seemed sincere when he spoke of Gase in his post-game interview. He was giving this cat props and so will I. I absolutely loved the schemes we employed tonight against the Ravens. They kept adjusting and we kept targeting the new holes. It was good to hear that Gase is decisive and quick on play calls. Sure we all know with Manning you almost don't need to be there, but I sure bet it is nice to have a guy doing that part of the thinking so you can focus on the execution of the plays.
- David Bruton has two guys in his grill, still pushes them back and reaches over them for the blocked punt. This is why we paid the guy to be a backup...special teams stud all day!
- Wes Wes Wes. Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot. Over? We had you back there because Trindon Holliday showed us he wasn't smart enough or sure handed enough to field punts down in that tight space and you go full bone-head too? Repeat after me: "Inside the 5 I don't field punts"