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Broncos vs Vikings: The No Bull Review

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The Denver Broncos faced the surging Minnesota Vikings in week 4 of the NFL season. It went down to the wire and finished up with yet another big defensive play to seal the win. My No Bull thoughts and analysis on the game and what we as Broncos fans can take from it.

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

I expected to see our offense take another step forward in this game and lead us to a comfortable win, but that wasn't to be the case. The Vikings gave us all we could handle and the game ended up going down to the wire. Once again we found a way to win and it was a complete team effort.

We may not like everything we're seeing on the field, but you absolutely have to love the results in the standings to date. Keep your chins up, Broncos Country...we're 4-0!

Offense

Quarterback

Peyton Manning led our offense to win. That's what the record book may say. I don't think that is the case, though. I think he managed the game and did well enough for us to not lose. That may be a tough pill for the Manning fans to swallow, but it is the No Bull truth. His QBR was less than 70. His two picks were both beyond bad and one of them was easily a 10 point swing.

I'm not going to call for his head like many will...I'm going to call for him to step up his game. Instead of relying on his short timing throws and locking onto receivers, I'm asking him to let Kubiak design more stuff that he can use as tools to have a more successful game. Things like designed RB routes in the flat, seam routes to Virgil Green, and maybe even some more designed plays to Bennie Fowler. Heck...could we get some more frequent passing progression reads?

Line

We were working with a slapped-together mash up of a line this week due to injury and overall I'm pretty excited about how they handled themselves. Was it great?  NO WAY.  But it was good. Manning had enough time to throw mostly. Our run game had a handful of times where they opened up some holes for our backs to run through.

I thought the big switches at both tackles ended up in every way a push. Michael Schofield at RT and Ryan Harris at LT were every big as good as their predecessors from week 3. I'd honestly rate Harris higher in run blocking. He still had trouble out there with Griffin on some spin moves, but who doesn't? Griffin is a really talented DE and Harris represented himself well enough.

Running backs

We finally got a big play from a back! It was so refreshing to see Ronnie Hillman finally find a crease and daylight. We need more of that. I'd really like to see the Broncos call more stretch plays and tosses to the outside instead of their penchant for running it inside. Our line even seems to block this type of play better.

C.J. Anderson also deserves a little props. He improved his ypc to 3.9 which is completely acceptable. Some people might complain that if we take away the big run our run offense still looks bad. I disagree with this. You take that away and we still average ~3.5 ypc which is a 1 yard improvement over most of the games we've played this season.

Receivers

Demaryius Thomas had a pretty decent game even after getting speared in the head by a defender.  He appears to have worked hard the past week on the juggs machine because I didn't note any significant drops on his part in this game which was a breath of fresh air. What isn't a breath of fresh air are all the WR screens we throw to DT that worked exactly 0 times in at least 5 tries this game. Let's remove that one from the play book for awhile gentlemen...it is one of the big reasons that defenses are making our offense look bad.

Emmanuel Sanders if anything should get some more targets. He's too fast not to take advantage of and it is the deep routes he can get to that will open up our offense more.

Speaking of that, why are we throwing more targets to Owen "I can't get separation" Daniels instead of Bennie Fowler? Fowler is a baller. He runs great routes and with his quickness creates separation. Sure Daniels gets a TD catch and I don't think we should take that play away, but it seems we keep trying to get this old vet going and it is to our detriment.

Defense

Front 7

DeMarcus Ware is our early game monster. Von Miller is turning into our late game monster. Both of them cause opposing QBs nightmares and rightly so. They are the epitome of what you want in pass rushers in the NFL: speed, power, quickness, technique, and relentless pursuit. Even without the stellar cast of great players at other positions on the team, these two guys alone are a big reason our defense can win us games.

Let's not leave out our back-ups though. Just like I had discussed last week, we saw more snaps for both Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett. They were productive as well...Ray got the first sack of his career looking like a mini-Ware and Barrett chipped in a solid QB hit to bust up a play. The depth we have at OLB is filthy. One of our starters could get injured, and I'd hardly blink an eye honestly. These kids can play fo sho.

Secondary

I thought our secondary looked suspect at times in this game. Chris Harris Jr. was getting easily beaten early by Mike Wallace. Bradley Roby straight up got picked on at times. And even Aqib Talib had some head-scratching plays in this one. None of our star CBs looked like studs.

That being said, I did love what we had going on at safety. Especially T.J. Ward. T.J. was the MVP of the game in my books. He was everywhere. He blew up runs. He sacked the QB. He forced fumbles, he made coverage plays. THIS is why Elway paid him to come to Denver. THIS is the kind of safety that he's capable of being every week. I'm really hoping he builds off this big game. He has a defensive coordinator that is using him the way he's programmed: aggressively.

Special Teams

Big hat-tip to Brandon McManus. The dude has gone from a quivering school kid to a grown stud with ice water in his veins in the course of one year. He's making all of the kicks...literally...as in perfect in field goals. He's also doing what we need kickers to do: kick-offs out of the back of the end zone that are un-returnable.

Final Thoughts

The biggest positive that stood out to me this week was the adjustments that Wade Phillips made on the fly as the game wore on. Let me give you the basics:

1) We start off in a lot of cover-1 man with 8 in the box to stop the run. Minnesota starts scheming to win some man-to-man match ups and things are looking rough.

2) We switch to more cover-2 and cover-3 zone looks to take away the man beaters Minnesota is using to start the 2nd half. This works well enough, but the lack of pass rush late in the 3rd and early in the 4th quarters leads to some problems starting to show as the QB has too much time to scramble or pass and the Vikings have slowed down the 4 man rush with some solid schematic chipping by TEs and RBs going out into routes.

3) Later in the game we dial up some timely blitzes to create pressure and it works...the last one winning the game with a strip sack by Ward, smart football play by Brandon Marshall by poking the ball back to his guys, and Von Miller securing the ball.

We haven't seen that kind of on-the-fly adjustments being made in game in years by Denver. This is why Fox and JDR are no longer in Denver. Now if only we get to the point where our offense can make the same kind of adjustments. Look for an article later this week or next where I talk more about that conundrum and the problems with our offense in depth.