We've seen our team have to fight through quite a bit of adversity so far this year: offense sputtering, defensive lapses, silly penalties, and round pegs getting shoved into square holes. The one thing I've really liked seeing about our season to date that has kept me overly optimistic about our chances this year is the growth from our unit's performances overall. I don't think we are at the top of the mountain yet on how well this team can play, but this game was an example of us climbing up into the rarer air.
Let's get real about the GOAT
Peyton Manning was on a mission against the San Fransico 49ers: to rewrite the record books. I can't even begin to express how thankful I am that he's suiting up in the orange and blue. Peyton was exemplary in his game. It was his best this season and for good reason.
- There were a couple of iffy throws, but none that I would call "overthrows" or "underthrows". Even when he wasn't money (which was rare...he only missed four passes), the football was catchable.
- He threw it everywhere with precision this game...even a 40 yard TD bomb that couldn't have been an easier catch for DT to catch in stride.
Firing on all cylinders
I'm sorry Montee Ball, but I'm honestly afraid you won't be getting your starting spot back this year (and maybe never on this team). It seems like our line must do a fair enough job of opening holes up, but they need a back that can burst into or through them to make it work.
As I stated when I handed out my game ball, I owe Ronnie Hillman a big apology. This kid is playing extremely well and far better than I thought he was capable of. For all of you out in Broncos Country who kept telling us he was still young and to be patient, my hat is tipped to you. Someone get me a nice big plate of crow.
I'm pretty excited to see Juwan Thompson still playing strong and looking like he belongs. At times I wonder why our coordinators aren't putting Thompson in more for situational football, but unfortunately that's the price we pay for running the Manning offense. Peyton doesn't like to swap out personnel and let the other team have the opportunity to do that so we see more of Hillman than I'd like to see. Please don't mistake this for Ronnie-hate, this is a purely situational opinion on my part: 3rd and 2 or 1st and goal at the 1, I'd rather see Thompson in there all day, err day.
Thoughts on the running game:
- I loved seeing Hillman's spin move to break a tackle. It isn't a move he should be using all the time, but in that situation the set-up was perfect and it shows a good amount of awareness on his part to pull it off
- We averaged 4.3 yards a carry which may not impress some, but that is all we ever need in order to make our play action game work, there were at least two PA plays that I saw where the safeties for the 9ers bit hard and got burnt
- Another plug for Hillman: His long TD run was the best I've ever seen from him in the NFL (and I've seen all of his runs in his career so at this level to date). FINALLY I saw the jets we were told about when this kid was drafted!
- I love the complimentary styles we have from our two RBs right now. Sure it is cliché, but they are totally a thunder / lightning combination
Is there anybody out there?
Yes. Our receivers are out there licking their chops for the passes they get to catch from week to week. Demaryius Thomas is completely breaking out now, but Manning is still making defenses play honest by getting everyone involved. I thought it was a pretty darn slick game by our guys out in patterns.
- Emmanuel Sanders finally caught a well-deserved touchdown. He also caught some more tough passes in the seams and over the middle. That dude's toughness is astounding and he's got some pretty friggin good hands too
- Wes Welker made the 9ers pay for not staying with him. I love the fight he made to score...a lot of guys in the NFL just run out of the sideline instead of risk the big hit
- Demaryius Thomas is a monster. I still want to see more aggressiveness from him (attacking the ball, playing physical), but that cat makes teams pay for letting him get open even a little bit.
- Andre Caldwell at this point has no place being on the active roster. If you are a wide receiver in the NFL, you need to be able to catch the ball. He's had far too many easy drops this year. I honestly don't care about Latimer's lack of knowledge in the playbook or not quite there route-running. It is time to have Caldwell chew bench and put someone in who doesn't get blinded by the big lights
- Where did Julius Thomas go? The one note I have on him is a play where he dropped the ball because he didn't look it all the way into his hands (which I friggin hate...if you are a pass-catching phenom, you may want to get this part of your job description down!). I do know he missed a catchable TD (would have been that record-breaker), but other than that, where is our monster TE?
The Truly Icky Shuffle
Paul Cornick gets his own special place this week in the No Bull Review. Sorry man, but that's the price of getting to strap on your big-boy underoos and play starting RT for our beloved team.
First of all, I think this was as much a coaching message to Chris Clark as it was an attempt at improving our O-Line. Chris has been flat-lining this whole season really with his level of play and we need him to step up his game. Whether that happens / is possible or not is unknown, but to steal a line from Foxy, "It is what it is."
I'll try to keep this short though: Cornick looked better playing blocking TE than he did at RT by a landslide. Twice I saw him looking like a fence post while some back-up end from the 49ers blasted around him for a sack / hurry...and I wasn't even focusing on the line play so I'm sure it was worse than just that. He shoved just fine in the run game, but I don't value that even close to as much as I do keeping guys off of Peyton.
Here's the line you never thought you'd hear from me: "Wherefore art thou, Chris Clark?"
Credit where credit is due
I wasn't the only one who talked about this in the offseason, but we're starting to see exactly what I was talking about during the preseason: a dominating defensive line. Teams can't run on us. Quarterbacks fear for their football lives when they play us. Collin Kaepernick is one of the premier running QBs in the NFL and we had him bottled up all game long.
- Demarcus Ware's half spin / reverse made one of the best Left Tackles in the game look silly. That's the second time he's done it this year (he made some sous chef look silly as well in week 2)
- Shout-out to our boy Malik Jackson for some solid push up the middle and a well-deserved sack. If we didn't have D Ware and Von Miller, you'd see this guy's name a lot more as he'd actually have time to get to the QB
- Derek Wolfe quietly had another very nice game. He's not the player who is going to get gaudy stats, but this cat was jacking up his side of the line and is a big reason teams aren't running well on us
- Von Miller is a walking catastrophe for opposing offenses. I'm really REALLY excited to see what he does to Phillip Rivers in a few days. Miller was chewing up Kaep and spitting him out and Rivers isn't half the athlete that Kaep is
Here's something to get pretty excited about: Brandon Marshall is to my eye looking more and more comfortable as the weeks go by. I'm at the point of looking forward to getting Danny Trevathan back so that B Marsh and Danny T can be our two LBs in our nickel packages.
Nate Irving and Larentee McCray were pretty quiet this game, but when you have the other team passing a lot to play catch-up and your LBs have a quite night, you can be pretty sure they were doing a good job.
Danger Will Robinson!
I know some of you may not like to hear this, but you are going to get the real with me every week. Our safeties kinda sucked acorns this week guys and gals. My hope is that this was just a bad game, because other than a Quinton Carter pass break-up, I saw jack and squat good about our safties in coverage.
- Rahim "The Nightmare" Moore suited up this week for us and I wasn't the only one who noticed. Dude got made crispy twice that I saw by biting up to try to contain Kaep instead of covering his responsibility. Do. Your. Job. Noobscicle
- T.J. Ward didn't have a good night either. He got owned early playing man coverage on a guy who got a step on him for a 3rd down conversion
Dat Broncos corner doe!
If you are a card-carrying member of Broncos Country, you are asking yourself which one I'm talking about. How about both? Aqib Talib and Chris Harris are the best cornerback duo in the NFL. Yeah, I went there. I dare any team to throw on them and prove me wrong.
- Chris Harris, Jr. still looks like the best cornerback playing in the NFL right now. I'm not even joking. I'd rather have him than Derrelle Revis, Aqib Talib, or Joe Haden (notice Richard Sherman wasn't even mentioned...we're only talking about top-5 CBs here, son). Chris Collinsworth can trash this kid all he wants, but the truth is Harris is a student of the game...go watch the screen play that CH stuffed behind the line of scrimmage closely and you will notice Chris was breaking on the play before it developed
- Man-crush on Chris Harris aside, Aqib Talib is making John Elway look like a genius. He's causing or getting turnovers consistently this year and is shutting guys down. This game was no exception
Miscellaneous closing thoughts
- The Talib INT was a beautifully executed disguised zone. Kaepernick thought he had single coverage on his slot guy which ended up making his overthrow extremely costly since Talib was clearing back to handle the deep third of the field on that side
- I loved John Fox's timeout late in the first half to try and get our team more points. That was the right move every time
- I hated Jack Del Rio's call on 3rd down right after that timeout. It was 3rd and very VERY long and he sent the house on a blitz. That was one place where I would love to see our team play a soft zone around the conversion line so they can keep the throws in front of them (as long as you don't rush just three)
- When are we going to do something on our first drive of the 2nd half? I'd love to know the statistics on how many times we've gone 3 and out because I think it would be pretty high.
- Correct me if I'm wrong, but Kayvon Webster got a completely bull defensive holding call. He was playing press and was within 5 yards of the LOS.
- Also, Roby looked up and down again, especially down on his PI call where he didn't turn to look for the ball