Another frustrating finish to an otherwise dominating win by the Denver Broncos. The score belies how well the defense played in this game and it also belies how much the offense struggled to get the job done against the Buffalo Bills. This won't cut it in the playoffs, but unlike many who think Peyton Manning is washed up and the Broncos are doomed, I think the offense bounces back next week.
Broncos 3rd & Long: Strange Win
The offense had only 3 passing first downs. The defense allowed conversions on 9 or 16 3rd downs and 2 of 3 4th downs. We still won by 7, but it should have been a much larger final margin.
Speaking of next week, I believe the Broncos will march into San Diego and give Philip Rivers fits. The Chargers will watch their playoff hopes evaporate with a second straight home loss to a superior team. I simply can't wait for Sunday. It also helps that my entire family is filled with Charger fans, so its always nice to drink up their tears after a Broncos win over the Chargers.
Back to the Bills game, Peyton Manning (-1.2) had one of his worst games of the season and his fourth negative grade int he last five games. Fortunately, the Broncos defense showed up to play one of its better games of the season and it also helped that the Broncos have a running game now. Somehow they got the job done despite a fairly horrible outing by two offensive linemen in particular. More on that later.
Let's get this In Focus show on the road, shall we?
RB Juwan Thompson +2.1. On the field for just 14 snaps, Juwan Thompson was easily the most impactful player on the field for the Broncos offense on Sunday. He had 4 carries for 63 yards and really opened things up on one drive in particular that ended up leading to what ended up being much needed points for the team. With C.J. Anderson coming off the field multiple times with what appeared to be a slight ankle sprain, it might be a good idea to get Thompson more playing time to close out the season to rest the Broncos new star running back.
OG Orlando Franklin +1.4. The big man up front had himself another solid week and has really silenced his critics since posting three consecutive weeks of bad scores over a month ago. Since the Oakland game, Orlando Franklin is a whooping +11.0. May the good times continue to roll!
WR Emmanuel Sanders +1.4. Emmanuel Sanders only had 4 catches for 56 yards, but ole Peyton Manning missed him several times when he had a step on the defender. This has become a consistent theme this year and I know its something that Manning is thinking about (and probably working on) and once those two guys have the chemistry this offense is going to just explode with some major point production. Hopefully this happens right around January 1st and continues through February.
Needs Improvement: The middle of the offensive line was absolutely horrible on Sunday. Some of that likely had to do with Marcell Dareus (+3.4), but Will Montgomery (-5.4) and Manny Ramirez (-4.1) really could have done a better job than they did. C.J. Anderson's low yards per carry likely had to do with these grades here and frankly, the reason Juwan Thompson broke out for some huge plays was because he bounced outside for some big holes.
LB Brandon Marshall +3.7. It seems like every week Brandon Marshall is making this list. He tied for the team lead in tackles with 9 and a crucial interception against Kyle Orton. His play has made Danny Trevathan's return rather interesting, because up to now Marshall has outplayed Trevathan in every way possible yet Trevathan is a starter in this league. I wonder if he can play middle linebacker.
LB Von Miller +3.3. Oddly enough, his PFF grade was revised sharply upward between today and Monday morning. It was probably due to the laughable +0.2 rating he received in the pass rush despite having a sack and multiple pressures on the night. He has posted over a 1.0 in all but one game this season, so its no shock that Von Miller is once again sitting up here in the top 3 on defense. Still, its odd to see such a disparity between grades in just a two day span.
Guess #Broncos posted plus grades on overall defense? No surprise, @ChrisHarrisJr @D_Brut30 and @BMarshh54 #BUFvsDEN pic.twitter.com/iapTfirUwE— Laurie Volkmann (@docllv) December 9, 2014
S David Bruton Jr. +2.3 and CB Chris Harris Jr. +2.2. David Bruton had the best game of his career playing defense with 9 tackles and a forced fumble against the Bills. He is definitely a fan favorite with this fan and I feel better knowing he is the captain on special teams, but his play against the Bills has me thinking maybe he needs to see the field more often. As for Chris Harris Jr., its no wonder he makes this list. The guy is one of the best cornerbacks in the league and I don't care what anyone has to say about that. His 5 tackles, a sack and an interception really set the tone for the style of defense the Broncos were going to bring on Sunday. I hope John Elway locks both of these guys up long term.
Needs Improvement: Derek Wolfe (-3.1) really struggled against the Bills, but I suspect a big part of that had to do with the concussion-like symptoms that kept him off the field for a few plays. He returned, but was he the same guy after that? DeMarcus Ware (-2.1) was also lacking big time in the pass rush department. The Broncos defensive line is supposed to be its strength, yet every member of the line posted a negative pass rush grade on the day.
To buy tickets, visit the NFL Ticket Exchange.