Welcome to the 2014 regular season of Bronco football brothers and sisters! I'm excited to see some real football and get a glimpse of what our team is going to do this year. Even though I only got to one review this pre-season, I'm squarely saddled up and ready to ride for the rest of the season.
If you've never read my reviews before, click that link in the previous paragraph for a run down on who I am and what this is about. It is the last I'll mention it for the season. Let's dig into this thick, juicy game and get filthy with some football.
Offensive Line Play
Let's start with our boys in the trenches since they never get enough love in the mainstream media. I for one appreciate the job these cats do and groove as much on a good pancake as I do a TD pass.
I'm going to start by praising their pass-blocking. They did a superb job of keeping Manning clean overall. The Colts were throwing the kitchen sink at us with varied blitzes throughout the game and we stood up very well to it. The line only gave up one sack and even then in one take I didn't see a blown assignment (I believe the Colts brought guys up both A gaps and we didn't have enough blockers).
The run blocking was very up and down though. I think we all got spoiled last year by the All-Pro play of Louis Vasquez, but he looked rusty to say the least this game with a rare penalty and a couple of ole blocks that I saw. I'd love to give Orlando Franklin a pass on the left side, but he also looked fairly up and down in the run game. I also want to give some love to Virgil Green in the run blocking phase as he led the charge on a sweep early in the game to spring a very nice run.
Our running game tended to go as the line blocked. When we opened holes, we got decent pick ups. When we didn't, we got to watch our backs try to break a tackle so they could gain a yard. Here's what I saw from our guys carrying the rock:
- This kid looks like he has the raw abilities for every area of the run game. He can run outside and in as well as pass blocking and catching. He didn't wow me in any one area, but so far I think he handled his role in the offense.
- Early in the game he ran with nice power up the gut to get a 1st down. Those aren't flashy plays to watch, but I love seeing a team that can pick up a 3rd and 2 right through your bigs.
- There were multiple times in the game where I finally got to see more of Montee breaking tackles or being elusive. I really didn't see much of that last year and am glad to see him do it consistently in one game...now only if he weren't having to do that at the line of scrimmage and instead had the chance to do it down field some...
- Montee gave great effort to get that score...he bounced twice off the defenders before he had daylight.
- We didn't get to see CJ a ton, but he looked every bit as competent as Montee from what I saw. The funny thing was he seemed to get bigger holes from the line than Montee did which is probably pure chance.
- His 13 yard gain is what you want to do to teams that put 6 in the box trying to slow down our pass game. We need to see more of that for a truly complimentary run game to our passing offense.
- He also picked up a short 3rd down up the gut like a boss.
Let's give props to our WR running the end-around. That was some good stuff that really showed off how fast Emmanuel is. Watch for that same formation in the near future with duel play action off of it. This is the type of play that sets up an undisciplined defense to give up a big play down the line a bit.
Here's where the "No Bull Review" gets to earn its pay as far as the "No Bull" part goes. For those of you who are new to MHR, just know Sadaraine has a special place in his heart for stats. It isn't that I hate them...it is that I hate people using them to draw stupid conclusions. Peyton was kind enough to give us a perfect example of this in our home opener.
So if you glance at the stat sheet you say, "Wow...that Peyton did it again. 3 TDs, 250 yards. That was a great game for a quarterback right there." Congratulations...you drew a very dumb conclusion.
Here's the No Bull truth: Peyton Manning had an off game. He overthrew guys five times that I noted. I've been watching Peyton closely with pride since he joined our beloved team and let me say that it was a bizarre game for him. He's usually much more accurate. The great thing is that oftentimes a bad game by Manning looks like this. At least one of his overthrows the Colts bailed us out with a defensive holding penalty.
That being said, there were MANY times that our receivers weren't helping him a darn bit. I noted four consequential drops and believe one of our staffers said there were seven in the whole game. That's junk...those four that I noted were all first down plays and one looked like a makeable TD run.
Like the game for the team overall, Peyton has a lot to work on based off of game 1. His timing with Demaryius Thomas (catch the ball son!) and Julius Thomas was superb. He still needs to keep working with Sanders and Caldwell (or Cody Latimer).
Other than JT, this group was all over the place. There were peaks and valleys with the whole group of pass catchers and a lot of inconsistency starting with dropping the ball. Whoever our receiver coach is needs to get those chumps on the Juggs machine daily and throw in a few beatings until morale improves and the ball stops hitting the grass.
- I got really excited in the first three plays going to Sanders. It looked like very good chemistry early on.
- Sander's deep post was a TD if Manning just doesn't overthrow it. Sanders would have walked that stuff in if it would have just been a foot or two to the left.
- Look for more deep throws to Sanders this year...he's a heck of a burner and it adds a big dimension to our offense.
- I said this off season that Sanders was signed to replace Wes Welker. Did you notice who worked a lot of the slot with Welker out? I was just talking about this to the cool cats over at Gang Green Nation the other day...
- Early on Caldwell impressed me with his route running...it was smoothly ran and exact.
- Also he did a great job hanging onto the ball as he hit the ground extended.
- Even after a couple of drops, he kept on fighting and playing hard for us...this showed on his fumble recovery that had me ready to forgive all his sins for this game (and yes, I know fumble recoveries are largely luck...he still got the ball didn't he?).
- Soon after that, I remember why I've largely been overlooking him lately and wanting to see more of Cody: He runs a corner route and turns around to run backwards at the top of the route. Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. Over? Dude...someone who played WR please tell me when you'd ever do this in the NFL...cause that looked stupid as hell, son!
- Dude had a rough night going up against a very physical opponent. I give a lot of credit to Vontae Davis as he is a hell of a cornerback (or at least he plays like one against us).
- At least two EASY drops on all but perfect passes. You have a date with the Juggs machine son. Play like you are in a contract year for goodness sakes!
- It was good to see a nice screen play in space for DT for a big gainer late. We really needed a big play at the time and DT needed it or Broncos Country would have heard a great wailing and gnashing of teeth over his stat line.
- I feel like I'm living in the past but here goes: he's too big for safeties to cover, he's too fast for linebackers. Shannon Sharp made a love child with Wonder Woman and out popped Julius Thomas.
- For an example of him being too big for a safety to handle see the 3rd and 10 in the 1st quarter when he blocked out Laron Landry like a boss for 30+ yards.
- For an example of him being too fast for a linebacker, see the 2nd touchdown of the night when he is matched up with D'Qwell Jackson.
- At no point in the first half did Indy feel the need to stop Julius Thomas and they paid for it dearly. He had more brackets in the 2nd half as a solid adjustment by their DC.
Overall our guys did a very decent job against the run. Sure, the Colts had some nice runs here and there, but they had just as many getting nothing special. We held their running backs to 35 yards largely because they had to abandon the run game.
As ugly as the game may have looked, that's what our team was built to do...get a big lead and make teams have to pass the ball to keep up. Keep that in mind when you are feeling worried about our team. From my No Bull perspective, we did exactly what we wanted to, but didn't execute well enough in the 2nd half to have our plan work to perfection.
One shining moment in the 2nd half was our goal line stand which began and ended with our run defense getting it done.
Overall, I pass rush left me a bit wanting. Especially in the 2nd half when the team looked gassed overall we were giving Luck way too much time to throw. I was really quite impressed with the tackles for Indy. They did quite a number on our outside pass rush.
- Nate Irving made a superb looking A-gap blitz
- Malik Jackson was a stud on his sack (and Ware getting half of it was a little lame in my books...Malik made that play).
- There were times that I would have liked to see more of Von Miller playing spy (like in the red zone for instance...I'm just spit-balling here JDR). As it stands, I only saw him do it once and I believe he was behind the line watching the RB to make sure there was no outlet.
- Marvin Austin had some very good flashes in this game with a hulk push early and single-handedly screwing up a screen play to force an illegal man down field flag.
- Too bad there was also a play where our call was a five man blitz and no one recognized the screen play until we were toast.
- Demarcus Ware's sack that he totally earned was a work of art. His hop-step and hand fighting was a complete work of art. You make that uniform look good Demarcus!
Let me start by saying that our strengths at corner back are at playing man to man coverage. Press or off, take your pick. But the time for playing soft zone to get our guys to play it better was in the pre season. We had games like this last year too where Jack Del Rio was calling zone all over the place...then it was because of injuries. You don't have that excuse for this game. Play to our strengths!
- Here's reason #1 why we should play more man coverage. Chris is a stud...early on in the game he was all over his guy's hips like a tight pair of leather pants. Dude probably needed a shower after that play. Honestly there were at least three plays where I noticed Harris on his guy's hip pocket...that shizzle was text-book.
- The pass interference call on Harris was absolute Bull. A) it was overthrown and B) He looked for the ball and ran to it...he has as much right to go after it as the receiver.
- In case you want to know how to cover a fade route in the end zone, just get some tape on this game and look for Harris in the 2nd half.
- I was ecstatic to see Rahim get his first pick of the season. That's the kind of play that good free safeties make every time.
- I peed myself a little when I saw his second pick in the same game. One of my big nits with Rahim has been his derptastic ability to drop and easy Int. Both of the picks he got in this game were not easy (he had to grab them before they hit the grass while falling) and he made it look easy. Keep that up Rahim...that is precisely the kind of play this defense needs from you!
- So far, I still think this was the right guy to replace Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. He played physical and with great technique all game.
- Rahim needs to buy Aqib a drink on our bye week...Talib's play made that pick happen.
- If you want to know why I thought this guy was our best acquisition of the off-season, you can see it in this one game.
- Early on we had a 2nd and 5 against the Colts and TJ covered Trent Richardson like a boss...it is the kind of pass coverage you want out of a guy on either a RB or a TE. We had no one last year with that type of man skill to face a bigger receiving option.
- Late in the game Ward laid a devastating hit on a run up the middle. Having a safety that can thump like that and cover as well is such a blessing for our defense.
- I'm totally okay with our new youth at CB playing so well. Tony had an up and down game. He's still decent depth in my opinion, but I'd rather see Kayvon Webster out there honestly.
- Color me blown away...I liked what we saw from him in the pre-season, but not enough to think we'd be leaning on him early in the season. This kid just had a trial by fire and walked out cool as a cucumber.
- He wasn't all money, even on his big stop at the end of the game, Reggie Wayne juked him out of his shoes, but the kid recovered to make a great play. That's the scary thing though...the kid has enough athletic ability to recover after a bad initial read and still denied a pass in a critical situation.
- Isaiah Burse needs to rewatch his early punt return as an example of when your sorry tail needs to wave for a fair catch...that was crazy risky.
- Britton Colquitt at least had a couple of very nice punts in this game.
- I'm not sure about Foxy not taking the offsides penalty on the backed-up punt. Don't you think we could have gotten more yards out of it?
- I was aghast that Fox didn't challenge the spot on the stop Quinton Carter made when he stripped the TE at the sideline...that was a yard and a half short of the first down easily (and screw you refs for making that horrible of a ball placement).
- The play calling in the 2nd half was stupid. We have Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas, and RBs that can catch out of the backfield. Why in the name of everything good would you run, run, pass over and over and over!?
- Adam Gase needs to check the play at 4:36 that Manning took his one sack on. All the routes were top-stem with no hot reads and no outlet options for Manning. Either someone blew their assignment or the play call was dumb.
- 1st down and 20 - Run. Low reward play that is completely predictable and the Colts had 7 in the box. Let me take this time to remind everyone that Manning is one of the most proficient passers in the game.
Let's wrap this up by saying I'm very happy with this win. I'll take it any way we can get it when it comes down to it. This kind of game will keep our team humble and working hard to get better. I hope the coaches do the same as they have a LOT of room to improve on game day (and they have for years honestly...this is one of Foxy's downfalls).