I had been eagerly awaiting this game for a few weeks now. A huge test for our team on both sides of the ball. Where are we at? How good is this defense really? Is there any hope for the offense? Can Manning get settled into the offense and reduce the big mistakes?
I loved getting the answers to all my questions this week. Whole units were getting game balls this week from the staff. The team celebrated Pat Bowlen going into the Ring of Fame in proper style. The players represented well the Orange and Blue. Mile High Magic is alive and well. Let's roll up our sleeves and dig into this juicy, delicious hunk of game.
I guess if you like to nit-pick we didn't throw for a touchdown. That's really the only bad thing you can really stand on from this week's offensive performance. Everything was working. Short passes in the flat (I like to think Kubiak or Dennison reads MHR and took to heart my feedback for the flat routes the past couple of weeks), inside zone, outside zone, intermediate passing, and even the deep ball. Heck, we even got (GASP!) Virgil Green involved!
This was such a great game for Peyton even if he didn't get Star Wars numbers like some fans so enjoy. This game has to be a huge confidence builder for him because it shows that the Elway / Kubiak way can work. It is one thing for them to tell Peyton how it can work, but seeing it first-hand has to be huge. The run game sets up the play-action which sets up more light boxes which sets up the deep ball. It is complimentary offensive football at its best.
Manning hit stuff all over the place. I loved seeing a big return of his levels crossing routes. That is his bread and butter and where you get him to be really dangerous because he can make easy reads quickly and not be so predictable.
Also I thought his accuracy was a big tick up in this game. He wasn't perfect, but the dude was money getting the ball in easy spots for his WRs to catch.
For a couple of games now we've seen the offensive line putting some pieces together. The pass blocking has been pretty darn steady really. The run game has shown some signs of life. This week though the line consistently showed some confidence and execution that I had not previously seen in any of our games in 2015.
Big shout out to Michael Schofield who had such an awesome game in both the run and the pass. The kid is really getting comfortable out there and looks like a big draft win for Elway. He's likely our Right Tackle for the foreseeable future to my eyes.
Also worth talking about specifically was Evan Mathis. His blocking has gotten back to "all-pro" good in the run game. He's where we're getting consistent play in the run game on the left side. His combo blocks were straight up art in motion unless you were a Green Bay linebacker...then they were more like a power uppercut to the junk.
Ronnie Hillman got the start last night and looked very good getting both the nitty-gritty inside runs and the outside zone runs where he was able to use his superb speed to get the edge and make big yards for us.
More impressive was a resurgent C.J. Anderson who finally looked like himself out there on the field. He had a whopping average of 7.2 yards per carry and broke 100 yards in the game. I saw his burst a couple of times where he stuck his foot in the dirt and shot downfield for good gains. I also saw his vintage tackle-breaking. Either he got a fire lit under him by not being the starter or he really was pretty dinged up and the bye week allowed him to get his foot right.
THAT was what a 70 million dollar WR should look like on game day. Demaryious Thomas caught everything headed his way. He showed speed. He showed power. He broke tackles. He made absolutely sure to catch the ball before looking for defenders. Well done and much love, DT.
The big story for receivers had to be the tight ends in my mind. Both Virgil Green and Owen Daniels rocked it on the crossing routes and the mid-range stuff that you want your tights ends to catch in order to keep the chains moving. They combined for over 100 yards in the air on 6 catches. That's not too shabby at all.
I was so excited to talk big about Andre Caldwell on his touchdown catch. Then I saw the replay. C'mon son! You can't shove the dude out of the way. Just beat him with your juke. You have the jets for it!
What accolades can we laud this defense with that haven't already been said? They are absolutely the best defense in the NFL. I don't care how you want to measure it. Pound for pound, scoring, lack of scoring by opposing offenses, or the intimidation factor. They have it all. After Manning threw that late pick, the offense looked regretful that hey had to go back out. Their will was broken. That is the sign of a dominating defense.
Let's get this party started with my game MVP: Derek Wolfe was a friggin MONSTER in this game. Play after play I was noting him blowing up the line sideways to help stop runs. He was at times taking on 2-3 guys on his way to make a play. The guy is an amazing run defender and he unfortunately doesn't get the credit he deserves for what he brings to the Defense because it isn't a sack statistic. When your leading tackler is a lineman you know that guy is doing something right though.
Another guy who caught a lot of people's eyes was Antonio Smith. He showed exactly why we brought him to Denver: he's a great pass rusher. He was in on a sack and a nice pressure hit as well on Aaron Rodgers.
Also worth shouting about is the play of our inside line backers. Both Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan were all over everything. They have taken to this defense so well and that probably gets a little overlooked by many too. They don't always get the flashy stats, but these guys are a big part of why this defense is so good...the middle of the field is no weakness either in the run game or in the pass game in large part to their play.
Finally I'm going to give some props to a couple of back-up guys. Larentee McCray and Shaquil Barrett were both phenomenal in rotation. Another reason this defense is so good that some may overlook: our backup OLBs are both talented and reliable. There is no drop-off when Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware step off the field for a breather.
The announcers during the game were really all over this: our secondary is the best in the NFL. That's just an actual thing at this point. It is no longer debatable. Chris Harris, Jr., Aqib Talib, and Bradley Roby were all over EVERYTHING that Green Bay was trying to do. They were not surprised. They were not taken advantage of. Aaron Rodgers only threw for 77 yards because that was all he could get! For those of you who like to watch film, check out CHJ in this game. It is a friggin clinic on man coverage.
Also I loved seeing our dime package which had Roby back as more of a safety. I noticed this a couple of times and have been in love with this idea since the off season when we were all talking about the possibility.
Here's a tidbit I've been pondering: In thinking about how our secondary works, I'd bet a dime to a dollar that our corners are 3 of the best at studying the game in the NFL today.
My big issue on ST was Emmanuel Sanders trying way too hard to make something happen this game. He was making dangerous catches and not calling fair catches that should have been called. If he keeps it up, we're going to lose the ball sooner rather than later. Hopefully they can clean that up over the next couple of weeks and make sure we're making the best choice for the team overall with the fair catch or not decisions.
Brandon McManus is nailing everything. I'm sure glad he only got 2 attempts at Field Goals this week.
Yeah, I'm going to be that guy: The refs sure were working hard to help out Green Bay in this one and I found it insulting as a fan of the NFL. They didn't even try to even out the penalties later in the game when it was over like what I normally see. Denver: 11 penalties for 93 yards. Green Bay 2 penalties for 15 yards.
I'm all about the roughing the passer call on Bruton if you want to call the roughing on Matthews for going low on Manning twice. Call me crazy, but aren't those rules there to protect both QBs?
Also, the phantom defensive holding call on Chris Harris Jr is just silly. How do you see a thing that doesn't happen?
Finally, I'm getting awfully sick and tired of teams defending Von Miller by holding him the whole friggin game long. He's so fast and good that the refs just let the linemen hold him. Aaron Rodgers had so long in the pocket to throw in the first half because of this. Had his line not had such a huge advantage he would have been sacked at least 3 times that I noted.
Back to us though, I'll leave you with a few interesting items of note from the snap percentages:
- Ryan Harris saw 60% of the snaps at LT while Tyler Polumbus saw 40%
- Evan Mathis saw ~77% of the snaps at LG while Max Garcia saw ~23%
- At WR, Bennie Fowler got on the field for 46% of the snaps while Andre Caldwell got 37%