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Broncos at Patriots: The No Bull Review

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One consistent theme for the Manning / Fox era in Denver Broncos history is that our team seems to be very well-versed at letting all four wheels fall off the bus from time to time. This was another one of those games.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

I'll do my best to find some good things about our team as I always do, but hang on tight...this is going to sting a bit.

Fighting Until The Bitter End

Let's start off on a high note. I mentioned this in our staff highlights / lowlights after the game, but it bears repeating. I'm proud as heck of the way our team fought until the end of the game. New England were being their classless normal selves at the end of the game (trying to run up the score, going for it on a 4th down with no possible chance of a comeback for our team, etc). That didn't fade our guys one bit and they were all playing hard a rightfully ticked off at the end of the game.

I don't know why, but that's a big deal to me. I guess that's because I didn't see the same thing in the recent Super Bowl. It is a sign of the team's attitude pointing in the right direction.

Offense

Unlike the Super Bowl (sorry for bringing it up so often, but it is the easiest comparison to use for this game), our offense really wasn't the problem in this game. Sure there were two picks...one was clearly on Peyton Manning as sometimes he should be using his eyes to read coverages in the split seconds before he throws instead of just going off timing.  The other interception was poorly thrown, but absolutely, positively should have been caught by Wes Welker. That being said, we moved the ball very well. We scored 21 points. That's a far cry better than 8 points.

Passing Offense

Peyton Manning overall I thought played a mediocre game. There were two passes he'd like to have back. What I liked about his game in this one was his willingness to hold the ball and let routes develop. We saw more of that this game than I've seen in Peyton all year so far. What I didn't like was how often he was throwing stuff into shells of 3-4 defenders. It happened way too often...more on that later.

Another thing I did think was weird was the guys that were targeted. I saw an awful lot of balls going to Jacob Tamme not very many being thrown to Julius Thomas. I have a theory that JT is in Manning's dog house after his braggy caught-on-talk about "Its so *()$@# easy!". I know that I thought it was total bull coming from a kid who has to cut block all the time because he can't man up and block a guy that is smaller than him, but hey...I'm just some dude right?

I'd love to see us force the ball more to Demaryius Thomas in a game like this. He's a star on the football field. Let him help shoulder the load and win the game. He's compared to Megatron and Dez...why not use him that way for a bit? Especially in the 2nd half when our regular game plan wasn't cutting it.

Emmanuel Sanders is probably the only guy on the offensive side of the ball that really deserves kudos for his body of work in this game. He's making plays all over the place and playing football the way it is meant to be played: ruthlessly.

Running Offense

Let's be real here Broncos Country: that running game was pretty foul. Everything I'd talked about in weeks 1 - 3 that were broken were back in this game. Our line didn't run block worth a bag of beans and our running backs looked bereft of running talent for most of the game. I'd normally be willing to call it an outlier given how the game went down as you just can't focus on run blocking when you are down by three scores, but we've seen too many games like this and too few games where our running game did its part.

Ronnie Hillman honestly had a tough outing as a running back. His running average was completely horrid and his pass blocking was back to being weak-sauce. I loved seeing his speed around the end on his touchdown run, but unfortunately that was one shiny penny in a pile of dung for the most part. He does deserve some accolades for what he did in the passing game, but we don't need more receivers...we need a running game and pass blocking until our offense uses the running back passes as a tactical weapon (don't hold your breath, Broncos Country!).

Defense

Chris Harris Jr. vs. Brandon LaFell

Credit: Jim Rogash

We want this defense to be superb so badly, don't we? They just aren't though. Good defenses don't let teams hang a forty-burger on you. Not even at an away game. We have some strengths on this defense, but New England exposed them as not disciplined or talented. Here's the sad part: there's no injury excuse to go with this loss like we had with the Super Bowl. Chris Harris and Von Miller were alive and well and we still got taken out to the wood shed.

Pass Rush

Here's the one area we have to hand our hats on. Tom Brady was getting clobbered. I'm sure some of you might not have noticed it once the scoring started, but he was. He did what good quarterbacks do though and constantly delivered good passes right before he took a hit. Von Miller was the stand-out guy on the defensive front that had a good game.

Demarcus Ware was there early, but seemed to me to be ineffective in the 2nd half. Hopefully this isn't a sign of him wearing down. I don't think it is though because hey...it is hard to keep playing fast with power when your team can't get off the field on 3rd downs right?

Let's give a quick shout-out to Derek Wolfe who on 3rd and 1 early in the game had his best pass rush of the year and forced a throw away by Brady (LOL). Malik Jackson also was a beast in the middle. If we had guys on the back end that could cover, the game would have looked a lot different.

Coverage

I'm regretting the talk we've had the past couple weeks about our cornerbacks being the best tandem in the league. Chris Harris Jr. is still the bomb. Aqib Talib played about as well as Derelle Revis: disappointing as all get out for how "elite" he is supposed to be. I don't know who taught you to flip your hips to the outside of a route, but you did it twice and it looked dumb as all get-out. If you want to play off-coverage you have to attack the routes, not loop behind them to make a tackle son!

Bradley Roby the super-star in the making is going to have to be put on hold. He's got a lot of learning to do as I've been saying all year. This wasn't a mediocre game by him like most of them have been...it was a poor showing. Thank goodness Brady was able to pick on T.J. Ward and Rahim Moore all game long or it would have looked worse.

Speaking of the dynamic duo: Let's be real here people. T.J. Ward looks like a guy who is maybe 3/4 the player he was last year. He's still good and I like some of his game. But his coverage looks poor over the past two games. He's not able to cover Tight Ends much at all.

And then there is Rahim Moore. I knew when you were whooping and hollering with John Fox on the sidelines last game, you were going to regret it. I hate it when I'm right. You are supposed to be proving me wrong this year dude! Rahim's coverage was absolutely as awful as you can get from a free safety position in this game. There was a touchdown scored on him where he literally looked like a fence post as the pass was headed his way, then he made some lame half attempt at making a tackle. It was pathetic.

Do you want to know what we drafted you for for real, Rahim? To be a great coverage free safety. So far unless quarterbacks are throwing lobbed passes way down the field, you aren't meeting expectations. You may have Foxy talking you up at practice and on the field, but you aren't getting that here. We've watched you for too many years being the same dude: You don't ball hawk. You don't handle man responsibility well. You have grown in that instead of biting on routes underneath as much, you play too far off and are out of position to make plays on passes now...so I guess change of some sort is good. For those of you who think I'm laying it on too thick, take a look at his statistics this game...Brady had a QBR of 134 against Moore this game.

Closing Thoughts

Our team was completely out-coached in this game. That is the No Bull truth, Broncos Country. You can talk about execution and stuff all you want, but we were handily out maneuvered by a better coaching staff in this game. I can't stand Bill Belichick given his cheating history, but I will continue to greatly respect his ability to scheme and coach.

Here's some crazy thoughts:

  • If New England wants to play shell coverages to cover our favorite intermediate routes, why don't we scheme more screens plays (wr or rb)?
  • If the other team is getting away with murder in their pass defense, why don't we tell our WRs to start playing the same way?
  • If the other team is getting away with murder in their pass defense, why don't we tell our DBs to start playing the same way?
  • If your blitz schemes work on 2nd down, why don't we try them more on 3rd downs especially after we've been destroyed on 3rd down for most of the game?
  • If your zone coverages continue to fail play after play after play, why not call some press man schemes?
  • If the other team has the best tight end in the NFL, why not bracket him no matter where he is on the field inside the red zone?
Our coaching staff on both sides of the ball doesn't like to adjust. We keep things simple for the most part and play our scheme. That's a good plan against most teams in the NFL. I'd venture to say that if Peyton was about 10 years younger we could use this coaching staff with their style for a decade and never have a losing season. I'd also say we'd see mostly the same thing we've saw in these few short years with Manning: heartbreaking loses in big games consistently.

A lot of people like to trash Peyton Manning, but the QB doesn't do it all believe it or not. Coaches get paid big dollars for good reason. John Fox and Jack Del Rio like to both mention the importance of their players needing to execute and how that trumps anything they do. I disagree. Learn how to make in-game adjustments cause you suck at it guys. The weird thing is that the first year we had Peyton we didn't suck at it. We adjusted well. But as the team has gotten more and more confident in our scheme and style, we've become more predictable and less agile.

Sorry, but I have to go there (this is by no means why we lost the game but it is worth mentioning): I HATE refereeing where there are different sets of rules for the two teams playing. If you want to let things go, then do it for both teams. That was not how this game was called.  In the first half we ended with 6 or so penalties while New England had 1. They went in at half-time and decided to start calling some stuff so it wouldn't look so bad. In the first half NE's defense CONSTANTLY held. I saw both DT and Sanders get held on a 3rd and 10 in the 2nd quarter. Yet soon after that Talib got flagged for holding within 5 yards with no grab happening or no jersey pulling...just contact inside 5 yards.

It irritates me as well that there were two completely different halves of refereeing. Call the game the same way throughout.  If you are going to influence how the game is played, at least be consistent instead of trying to be fair after you've helped your home team build a three score lead for goodness sake.  LOL

Final thoughts: take heart Broncos Country. This was only one regular season game.  Say that last sentence out loud, take a deep breath, then repeat it again. This is not a big deal. My critiquing above may seem pretty heavy, but I really am not overly worried about this. It is very rare for teams to go 15 - 1. If we were going to lose to anyone this year, it was going to be away games at Seattle and at New England. New England still has to keep tied with us in records to have home field advantage. Hopefully they are peaking right now and our peak comes around December - January.  Go Broncos!