When the Denver Broncos win we give out game balls, but when they lose we cover the highlights and lowlights of the disappointing end to the game. This week the Broncos fell 15-12 to the Oakland Raiders in a game the Broncos had to have to maintain the #1 seed in the AFC.
The game was a tale of two halves. Most of the highlights come from the first half and the lowlights the second. Let's get on with it.
Highlight: Von Miller was a beast early in this game with a sack and forced fumble early on. However, the Broncos defense has been so depleted with injuries that they couldn't stem the tide of momentum late in the second half. The teams came up with some big plays, but the offense was completely nonexistent for the entire second half.
Once again the Broncos defense proved it was elite, giving up just 126 total yards. 99 of those yards came through the air, while just 27 yards on the ground. How the Broncos lost this game is beyond me, but all eyes should be on Brock Osweiler this week. Is it Peyton's turn to make a comeback? I think so, though it may not make much of a difference according to this tweet.
Per-possession stats: Net yards: Manning 31.0, Osweiler 30.5. Points: Manning 1.24, Osweiler 1.52. 1st downs: Manning 1.54, Osweiler 1.78.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) December 14, 2015
Lowlight: Brock Osweiler had the worst game of his pro career. He consistently looked for the short, easy read. He dinked and dunked his way to four field goals in the first half, but then he just disappeared. Osweiler was 11 for 25 since getting 1st and goal late in the second quarter until the end of the game. The second half also included him holding the ball too long to fumble in the end zone for a safety and displaying a complete lack of awareness in the pocket as he took sack after sack. It's not all on him, but Peyton Manning would have at least made line adjustments to account for Khail Mack in this game.
Speaking of Manning, he is 87-0 as a starting quarterback when his team holds an opponent under 17 points in a game. Osweiler is now 2-1 under those circumstances. I like Brock and think he might be a long term answer, but this team has Super Bowl talent. It may be time to give the wily old veteran Manning one more chance to win back his job after this next game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Osweiler will need to take advantage of this next game in the worst way to keep this from happening.
Big mistakes equal big loss for Broncos
For the second time this season, the Broncos' offense could not score a touchdown against the Raiders, but this time around, the lack of red zone efficiency cost the game.
Lowlight: Running game. 17 carries for 28 yards by the running backs. You can't do that(unless you're the Patriots) and expect to win a football game. The offensive line sucked and was a reason why this unit sucked so bad, but they need to improve. They really missed C.J. Anderson today.
Lowlight: Michael Schofield was a frigging turnstile on ice skates in this game. He was outmatched, outplayed, and looked completely incompetent on the field. His technique was poor, he was too slow to get in position, and he looked weak to any bull rush that came against him. I can't recall the last time I saw a tackle wearing the orange and blue look so absolutely abused on the NFL field in the regular season.
Lowlight honorable mention: Gary Kubiak watched the whole game as his offensive tackles were getting owned repeatedly and ruining our offense. He sat back and called for over 50 passes from a young quarterback without giving any chip help from his tight ends on Khalil Mack. This was a failure of epic proportions and one I'm disappointed that he didn't own in his press conference. The lack of adjustment by Kubes was the nail in the coffin of our offense.
Highlight: Our front seven played outstanding football. The Raiders stopped doing deep drops in the second half to negate some of our pressure, but they still played a phenomenal game limiting to the Raiders to essentially one successful drive.
Lowlight: Dropped passes by seemingly the entire offense. Demaryius Thomas dropped a touchdown. Emmanuel Sanders let a 3rd and Goal pass on the 5 go right through his fingers (he might have gotten into endzone). DT dropped another easy third down conversion pass. Vernon Davis dropped a pass that would have converted on 4th down and he was wide open. Our offense hasn't looked that inept since the first half against the Chiefs in Denver.
Lowlight: Red-zone play-calling and execution. We reverted to Orton-era derping in the red zone. That can not continue.
Highlight: When our offense moves the ball and defense is fresh, amazing things happen such as -11 first half yards while amassing 12 points.
Lowlight: Coaching staff for the second time this year, unable to make key adjustments the second time we play a team. This will be BAD NEWS come playoff time when we will have to play a team for the 2nd or 3rd time in the season. If our coaching staff can't realize that you can't do exactly the same things you did the first time you played a team because that team will have made adjustments, then it doesn't matter who the 53 players you have on your team are, you will lose in the rematch, and it showed for the second time this year (KC and now OAK). Lets hope we don't make the same mistake against the Chargers the second time around. Or the Patriots or Steelers or Bengals the second time around when we play them in the playoffs. Because as of right now, I'm not sure we will learn from our mistakes
Highlight: Khalil Mack saying after the game that the Raiders "stole" a win from the Broncos. It's true. By every measure we should have won that game. Except we didn't because we let them steal it away.
Lowlight: The offensive line as a whole - 5 sacks and 7 QB hits allowed plus only 34 yards rushing total. I'll let my esteemed colleagues give the gory details on just where that O-line broke down.
Lowlight: Shiloh Ke'o. Signed fresh off the streets/Twitter, Ke'o had an opportunity to step up in T.J. Ward and David Bruton's absence. He took that "stepping up" a little too literally and blew coverage on a critical 3rd and 15 that resulted in a touchdown.
Shiloh Keo with one of the worst plays you'll see on Rivera's TD. Third-and-15, TE is covered underneath and Keo abandons deep coverage.— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) December 14, 2015
Ke'o may or may not get the chance to bounce back from this - word is this Denver secondary is a fraternity that holds itself accountable. We'll see how Ward and Bruton look health-wise this week; if they're in the game, the Broncos probably win vs. Oakland.
Highlight: That smothering first half effort by the defense. The Broncos came out blazing against the Raiders, taking away twelve yards of football field from under the Raiders' feet. It's bittersweet to recall that blistering first half, as we all now how the second went down. But even for the entire game, aside from one really bad play (see my Lowlight), the defense did its part Sunday. The offense let them down.
Lowlight: Gary Kubiak. I'm extremely disappointed in Kubiak's decision-making during the game, particularly when it came to protection and Brock Osweiler's general readiness. More on this in a post to come.