Hits and Misses
Opinions are fun (that's why I do this stuff). We'll see how much of this I can handle, but I'm going to try to add this section as part of my review on what hits and misses I had from my game preview. It will likely be a bloodbath more often than not, but hopefully we'll see enough hits to make the game previews worthwhile. If not, it will be here for amusement which is just as good as well. I can eat a plate of crow as well as anyone.
The game didn't go as I had thought it would in general, but there were definite pieces here that rang true.
- The front 7 for the Ravens are kinda good. I called for us to get a few sacks (we had 4) and some TFL (3 by my count without going over the game logs).
- Our match ups in the passing game: advantage Denver. The WR talent for the Ravens lacks, but our guys did their jobs and shut their passing game down.
- Brandon McManus - I totally held my breath on the first three kicks and he did make a big difference in the game.
- About that passing attack... I called for a 300 yard passing game. Unfortunately this may have been a case of me chugging the kool-aid all off season about Manning and letting my hopes get ahead of me. More on that later.
- Final score: I had both teams in the mid twenties. I overvalued our offense and undervalued our defense by the looks of it.
Does the sheriff has a bit of a hitch in his giddyap?
In his post game conference, Manning said he's call his performance "fair". I think that is quite a bit generous of him to say in all honesty. First though a caveat: Yes I get that this is one game week 1 of the season. That being said, this isn't call the "no bull" review for nothing.
I don't know if the problem is the new offense (though it looked pretty much like the old one to me). I don't know if the problem was the Raven pass rush. I don't know if the problem is a lingering problem with his loss of feeling in his fingers.
What I do know is that Manning did not have any semblance of touch on the ball deep or to the outside. We've seen this story before. This looks like Manning at the end of last year. He's overthrowing everything deep. He's missing outside passes to the sidelines. When you can only threaten the passing area within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage minus the sideline throws, you are making your passing offense very easy to figure out. Baltimore didn't respect the down field throws because we couldn't hit them. Most of the coverage was zone concepts meant to defend the intermediate passes and break down on any short throws.
Yes the pass rush got there at times, but there were plenty of times that he had no pressure and 2.5 seconds or more to throw and he couldn't make it happen.
24 out of 40 for 175 yards and a pick-6 doesn't cut it. Yeah. I watched Elway win a Superbowl with a similarly unimpressive stat line...but leading up to that game he didn't constantly look this poor. At the end of the day, I'm not saying Manning is washed up. But I'm calling this strike one.
Fret not about the run game
I liked what the run game looked like in the 4th quarter. Most of us did. Ronnie Hillman lit a spark for the team and got things going. C.J. Anderson was finding the small creases that showed up (they weren't always there to be had). Other than that we had three solid quarters of not much available on the ground.
Not every team will be as sound against the run...look for better ground numbers Thursday in KC.
It is worth noting that the offense being used sure does look the same in a heck of a lot of ways. For about 58% of the plays we were playing out of 11 personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers). For about 36% of the plays we were playing out of 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends, 2 wide receivers). There was nary a fullback play to be seen (for what its worth we run 2 plays out of 01 and 2 plays out of 10 to account for the other snaps).
Maybe the offense is a work in progress. Maybe we're saving some fullback looks for later in the season (I hope so). Maybe we had no great tight end options pan out in the preseason and it forces us this direction. Or just maybe we're letting Manning use what he's most comfortable with since we're paying him millions to lead the team so that we have our best chance of success.
I'd like to see some of the Kubiak creativity I've seen over the years though. We're going to keep seeing delayed blitzes until we have solutions. Here's a solution for you: work in some more RB screen options or chip blocks then flat routes as your outlet for the blitz. There were yards to be had in the game during our sacks, but our plays didn't have anyone in on short routes as good options to take advantage of from what I saw.
Other thoughts on offense
- Emmanuel Sanders looked awesome. He was a 1st down making machine and I'm excited to see him on the field.
- Demaryius Thomas didn't look very dominant. That part of his game still hasn't returned to us after his hold out in the off season. Maybe it needs a little more conditioning.
- I'm not knocking the line a ton on this game. More than one of those sacks were protection call issues, not guys getting beat. I thought our tackles Ryan Harris and Ty Sambrailo held up very well and they were my biggest worry.
- I'm excited to see Jordan Norwood in the game. He looked great in the preseason and in almost every way better than Cody Latimer (year two, practiced with Manning at Duke and you still aren't #3? CMON SON!).
Let's dig into some of what I dig most about our team: dominating defense. Our defense won that game hands down. Yes it is about the team and the Broncos got the win. But our team needs this kind of win. Our team needs to know that they are the Denver Broncos, not the Denver Mannings. We can win games with him or without him and week 1 was proof of it.
Let's talk pass rush
It is only one game, but I sure do love seeing what I expected to see this season from our defense. We are THICK with pass rushing ability on this team. DeMarcus Ware got home for a sack, Brandon Marshall had a great blitz for a sack, and we had all kinds of pressure on Joe Flacco from both ends and good push up the middle at times.
The other thing I noticed that some might not was how we were rotating our guys out. We had many times where Demarcus Ware and Von Miller were on the sideline as we let Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett take over. They didn't get on the official stat sheet, but they didn't let up the pressure either. Our starting OLBs were in on 76% of the snaps. I'd like to see them get to a place where they can maybe take a few snaps less, but it is a good start.
THE best secondary in the NFL
Again, it is week 1. The secondary for Denver looked absolutely amazing though. Every team is going to have a couple of lapses and we did late in the game, but otherwise, Aqib Talib who could be the MVP of the game looked like a physical shut down corner. Talib's inside press technique on his INT play was text-book and should be required video for corners learning how to play. Chris Harris Jr. was again completely amazing in coverage. I saw flashes from Bradley Roby (looked to me like he did get a hand on the ball that Steve Smith dropped) and Kayvon Webster as well.
I really was looking forward to seeing the Ravens team test our secondary deep. They never really had the opportunity to do that. Our incredible pass rush didn't allow them the time to try that out much.
Big shout out to David Bruton Jr. who filled in for T.J. Ward admirably with more great coverage like I noticed from him at the end of last season. His coverage on the final play is every bit as important to the Interception as Stewart attacking the pass.
I gave my game ball to Darian Stewart who showed Denver what a ball hawking safety should actually look like in action.
I really can't find anything to complain about here. I love an attacking defense and we did that all game long. At the end of the game we didn't get too crazy with blitzes as we often sent 4 out of a nickel look, but when you have pass rushers like we do and the other team is only keeping 5 in, it is still a formidable threat.
I loved not seeing much zone up front from our guys. We kept man coverage going underneath most of the time and it really showed off the strengths of our defensive backs well.
Brandon McManus was cold hard straight cash, homie. He banged home four field goals. Don't take those first two for granted people...56 and 57 yard field goals are not gimmes even in the rarefied air of Denver. More games like this will see him endeared to the fans as another great kicker in the storied history of Broncos kickers.
I'm probably one of the minority, but I liked seeing Emmanuel Sanders in the return game. He's smart and dangerous. He knows when to fair catch and when to try to make something happen.
What do you guys think? Any other big points I missed? Discuss in the comments as always. What can we do better heading into KC?