This week I get to review a front to back "complete game" from our team with complimentary play in all three phases.
Manning should play sick more often
That's a joke, but in all seriousness, Peyton Manning had his best game in probably a month from what I saw. I think a lot of people are having trouble adjusting to our offense's new philosophy, but one guy who isn't is Peyton.
Manning was money on the deep ball all day long. His throws were accurate and placed with good timing. This is the piece that has been missing from what I've seen in the past 2-3 games. He's either been tossing it off the mark, or had bad timing on his deep throws. He had a couple of extraordinary back shoulder throws to DT that were skillfully placed (when you have the defender's back to you the whole way because of trailing inside technique, this is almost impossible to defend).
A lackluster running performance?
Get on board the train though, people. Adding a powerful run game to our offense gives us a very powerful tool to use to beat teams with. It adds one more thing that teams have to decide whether they want to scheme to take it away or not. This was the best defended game played in the past month, but don't get discouraged about C.J. not getting 150 yards.
Here's the deal people: San Diego schemed to stop the run. Let that sink in for a moment:
San Diego schemed to stop the run.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
There were constantly seven to eight guys in the box keying off the run game. This was a really key thing for our success. Why do you think Manning had such good success deep? Because if you are going to scheme to take the run away you have to leave man coverage somewhere. I think our guys did a great job staying patient and getting some good match ups to gain decent chunks of yards.
That being said, I'd still call that running performance a success. We won time of possession, got several first downs running the ball, and did good enough that we never had to abandon the run.
I will say that I think some more outside runs mixed in might help out, but that requires some really good pulling action that isn't consistently there.
Receivers getting it done
Welcome back, Julius Thomas! We missed you. I know the dude only got once catch, but it was a big, big catch on 3rd down. Also his blocking action wasn't all that bad from what I caught. He seemed to be giving better effort than earlier this season.
Wes Welker is being written off by a lot of us, but the dude is putting together some really great work in the past two weeks. He's been back to the Welker we know and love moving the chains and making clutch catches.
It was really good to see Demaryius Thomas back in good form this game. His catches all seemed unstoppable and I didn't see any slow routes like what happened last week. My theory here is that he's getting healthy. His touchdown catch was one of the DT staples: a big outside catch taken to the house because he's so deceptively fast the defenders take poor angles.
Miscellaneous thoughts on offense
- Maybe it was after he got dinged up, but early on Ryan Clady got his lunch money stolen. He looked worse than Paul Cornick at RT earlier this season.
- Virgil Green has a superb block across the formation to pick up a blitzer coming around the edge early in the 2nd quarter. Very solid block and kept Manning from getting killed.
- Early on I was going nuts wanting us to run in the red zone. The we ran in the red zone and couldn't get it done. Offensively that was the biggest disappointment in the game: our inability to score 7 in three trips deep in enemy territory. Hats off to San Diego's defense. They really played superb defense.
Big day for the secondary
I think the most up and down unit in our defense has been our secondary overall (other than Chris Harris, Jr. who has consistently been awesome this year). Let me give some big props to the corners and safeties: that was the best game I've seen this unit play all year.
Aqib Talib was recently making his way onto my crap list with his lackluster play, but he really turned it up this game and was playing like the kind of player he's capable of being week in and week out. His INT was him making Phillip Rivers pay for thinking he could squeeze a pass in on him on a route he knew was coming.
Rahim Moore had the best interception of his career. It was a great example of what a ball-hawking safety does. Can you please keep playing like this!?
David Bruton again looked like a safety that belonged on the field against San Diego. Dude is really making me a believer.
The one guy I'd ding would be T.J. Ward. Jack Del Rio had him matched up on Antonio Gates for most of the game. Unfortunately, just as we saw earlier in the season; Ward can not handle Gates when refs let Gates push off constantly. We need bracket coverage for big tight ends like that and to me there is no good excuse for not having it in passing situations.
Here's the caveat I'll give to this performance by our secondary: our guys got to man up most of the game. That was why the secondary looked so good. We weren't playing with our cover-3 schemes or making our corners handle zone responsibilities as much. When you have an immobile QB, this is what you will see from our defense and we do it better than any team in the NFL hands down.
We lost two real studs in this game: Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall. Those losses are going to hurt big-time and could honestly threaten the integrity of our defense as a whole unless John Fox and Jack Del Rio can pull another rabbit out of their hat and produce another solid LB from one of our depth guys.
I want to give some love to Todd Davis who really impressed me with his play in this game. He was instinctual and effective while filling in for some really big shoes. Seize this opportunity, brother...the Broncos need you to!
I didn't see much good out of Von Miller worth noting, but this may have had something to do with the scheme we had to employ. I noticed him being in coverage a handful of times which is not what we normally expect from our pass-rush specialist.
The big problem we had with our linebackers in this one was their inability to cover the backs out of the back-field. To be fair, this could have been a scheme issue, but someone has to know SD loves to pass to their guys out in the flats. If we are going to have Miller cover so much, maybe have him take the RB?
Our line kinda flipped with our secondary...usually our D-Line is the most solid unit on our defense. I didn't see that as the case in this game. We were pretty ineffective in our pass rushing, even when we blitzed (which was a decent amount of times). I would have graded us a D- in this department honestly.
We did phenomenally well against the run though, so that's something to hang our hat on and a credit to the big uglies up front. San Diego couldn't get anything going with the run.
Conner Barth is my favorite new Bronco (at least for a week or so). This dude was cash money in the bank. All of his kicks were right in the middle. He even had a couple of challenging FG attempts (mid 40's or higher is not a gimme in the NFL). This was a great move by our front office.
Also worth noting was McManus belting the kickoffs into the end zone. I love his kickoff game and it is a big help to our team.
Britt Colquitt even gets a positive mention from me as he made the football play to slow down Eddie Royal to save a TD at the end of the half. That was heads-up play.
I always like seeing our special teams show up in different ways and this week the pleasant surprise was a field goal tip by Derek Wolfe. He barely got his fingers up high enough to tap on the ball, but it was enough to keep SD from making a FG early.
- Worth celebrating this week was a solid challenge by John Fox on an incomplete pass that he won! Woot for competent challenging from our coach!
- Even with Manning headed to the locker room, that 3rd FG kick was a super dumb move. And no, hindsight isn't anything. That was stupid. Line up Osweiler and QB sneak. If we don't get the one foot, then SD is backed up and needs around 60 yards or so to score that field goal.
- It has been covered pretty well all over our comment sections and by other posters, but the refs were pretty darn bad in this game. They had phantom calls, missed calls a plenty, and totally acted like a crutch to San Diego's TD drive (two key flags: one was completely bogus, the other was ticky-tack as hell).
- The coaches should send in film on Manti T'eo. I saw him pull at our players helmets three times, one of which he successfully yanked it off of C.J. Anderson's head. There's no place in football for that kind of slimy play, son...even if you do like you some catfish.
Some bonus No Bull perspective
I'm one of the biggest critics about our team's play, but let's get real here for a moment: our team is going to the playoffs. Thank you, Denver Broncos for giving me another successful year to cheer you on through! This is what it is about. Don't sit back and whine about having to play in Foxboro if we make it that far. Don't complain about Manning taking too much heat. Don't stay in a bad place about this team that has won 11 games this year and is on track for another big run in the playoffs. All of you in Bronco Country are blessed with a team that is relevant. Cherish it, congratulate each other, and laugh at our division rivals who are so very far from being a relevant team in the NFL (I'm looking at you, KC and Oakland).