This season is off to a super and very exciting start. Kansas City provided the second defense in a row that was going to cause us all kinds of trouble. Our offensive line looked shaky at best. We're on a short week with an away game no less. To win this game, our team needed grit, determination, and relentlessness. We needed a "Kicking and Screaming" attitude. Where John Fox's team would stick to the game plan and get rolled, this team showed us why John Elway made the changes he did in the off season.
About that line...
I was cautiously optimistic about our offensive line coming out of the preseason. Optimistic because they honestly looked pretty solid and mostly did a well enough job of protecting our QBs. Cautions because it was against vanilla pass rush schemes. Teams weren't throwing the kitchen sink at us in the preseason.
The cautious part was more no bull than the optimistic side in this case. Our line honestly is a hot mess of a work in progress. They couldn't open holes with any consistency at all. Battles are constantly being lost by them in multiple places on any given play in the run game.
Evan Mathis has a lot of work to do. He's our worst looking lineman in 2 games. I'm glad he signed on the cheap because he's not yet pulling his weight. I'm hopeful he's going to improve as the season gets going. He should be getting into game shape by the next game. I know he's got the goods, but obviously it isn't as easy as "plug and play" for NFL linemen joining a week or so before the season starts.
No bull thoughts on Manning
Game Balls: Two quarterbacks get 'em
When the Denver Broncos win, the MHR Staff gives out game balls. And after the 31-24 miracle comeback Week 2 victory over the Chiefs on Thursday Night Football, game balls we will give
I was absolutely bent about Manning in most of the first half. His throws still lacked accuracy. He's overthrowing long stuff and underthrowing routes as well. His pick-6 was either a terrible read by him or a terrible throw or both.
As the game wore on and we finally settled down I noticed what I think the big problem is: Manning does not have the form or function for the under center passing game that Kubiak is trying to instill. His footwork is awkward. His bootleg action is terrible (he doesn't have a pace that lets him throw from a solid base which makes his lack of arm strength painfully apparent).
You see, Manning throws with his body moreso than his arm. We've all noted this in the past few seasons. But if you watch him on his bad throws, he's always throwing off: His arm is at a bad angle because of an incoming defender, he is throwing off his back foot, he's half way through a bootleg and has to twist to throw, etc.
You want to know what happened in the 2nd half that had him looking better? He was mostly in shotgun other than some very easy 3 step drop timing passes. When he had to do 5 and 7 step drops and the offensive line wasn't winning, he didn't have time to make the necessary reads down the field. So you get bad throws, a pick-6, and a lot of people questioning one of the greatest QBs of all time.
Manning isn't washed up. He just has to have a strong base to throw out of. He needs room to step into his longer throws. He needs to be able to make his reads in timing and with footwork that is comfortable to him.
We saw in this game Manning go back to his style of play calling because the Kubiak offense isn't working well. Kubiak noted as much in his press conference:
"Like I said, we're trying to help him by running the football better and do some things. But we also know what he's very comfortable doing so we're trying to somehow find a medium between the two and we thing that will be good for our team. He took control and we got him in that environment. We struggled to run the ball but he continued to make plays"
Until the line gets more functional, look for us to go no huddle 11 personnel from the shotgun when things get hairy.
Thoughts on the passing targets
I really liked the work we saw from our wide receivers in this game. Whatever ails our offense is not the cause of the skill positions from what I saw. The routes ran were good. Even Andre Caldwell looked good on the field.
Demaryius Thomas looked more like the big dominant receiver that we're used to. I loved seeing him fight for the ball against the shorter defenders at the end of the game and blocking them out. He still doesn't look like he's 100% in game shape yet. I think better things are ahead for our #1 WR.
Emmanuel Sanders is darn near uncoverable. He's got too much speed and quickness and it really shows on 3rd down. When the defense has to play zone on 3rd and long it gives him the kind of cushion he needs to zip open for enough yards.
I also really liked what Jordan Norwood showed us in the game. He's got the goods to be the slot guy we want. His game so far reminds me a lot of Emmanuel Sanders though I haven't quite seen the straight line speed from him to be the deep threat Sanders is. He's got the quicks and the hands though!
One target that I would like to see better from is Owen Daniels. He had a couple of nice routes and catches, but he doesn't seem like much of a threat in the passing game. He doesn't appear to get separation on the seam routes that we'd like to see. This is the part where we start missing Julius Thomas a bit (well to be honest I don't...his attitude doesn't jive with the kicking and screaming thing). Our TE position looked like a strength this offseason, but that so far does not appear to be the case.
Miscellaneous points of interest
- 2nd and 10+ yards to go and you run the ball? I will always loathe running it in that situation. Yes 1/4 times you get a good chunk on a draw play there, but 3/4 of the time you are running a losing play.
- Our line was getting away with holding quite often I noticed...the flip side is that KC's were just as much if not more. At least the refs were consistent.
- 4th and 1 calling an end around was not a great play call either. The whole defense is going to be close to the LOS. End arounds work better when there's a legitimate threat of a pass that the secondary and backers have to worry about.
- Virgil Green got the job done on his TD catch. Those were some pretty good hands to be able to haul that in. I still like him as a receiving option, I just think he like Daniels doesn't have the jets to be a big threat.
First of all ladies and gentlemen, THIS is what an amazing defense looks like. I love aggressive, fast-acting, hard-hitting defenses. The depth we have also is a thing of beauty. Our premier guys are able to catch their breath on the sidelines without the defense missing a beat. I LOVE seeing Shaquill Barrett, Shane Ray, Kayvon Webster, David Bruton, Jr and all the other depth guys getting some play time.
The front 7
This pass rush is disgustingly good. There's power inside. There's speed and power outside. The linebackers fly to the ball. The run D is stout. There's just not much to complain about for the defense.
DeMarcus Ware looks fantastic...maybe even better than Von Miller through two weeks. I'm so jazzed that he's getting to rotate in and out. It is just what he needs to be a big player for our 2015 season.
Von Miller is a force of nature himself. We can't say anything that hasn't already been said about how good he plays. But make no mistake: his presence on the field makes offenses have to adjust.
Chris Harris Jr. looked like a mere mortal in this game. He had a couple of passes on him where his coverage was way too soft. I still love the guy, but he's not going to enjoy watching film this week.
Likewise, T.J. Ward would like to have this game back. He's not good at man coverage and got taken advantage of a couple of times in this game. At this point, I'm wondering if we can do something with the scheme that keeps T.J. from having to come up and cover.
Aqib Talib just looks like the #1 CB we thought we were getting when we signed him. He breaks on passes out of off-man coverage as good as anyone in this league. Did you notice after his pick that KC stopped throwing his way?
Miscellaneous points of interest
- I loved seeing the defense going after the ball constantly. I don't know why, but it seems in the past couple of years I remember lamenting that we didn't punch at the ball more often. Big props to Brandon Marshall for the game winning FF.
- Wade Phillips calls a friggin mean game. He doesn't let up. He doesn't go prevent. He has his team attack. If they get burnt, he has them attack some more. I LOVE THIS DEFENSE!
- I know its been said elsewhere, but I had it in my notes as well: 0 3rd down conversions in this game for KC. That is absolutely mind-boggling. Either KC's offense REALLY sucks or our defense is REALLY awesome or both.
Big props to Brandon McManus for hitting a HUGE field goal of 54 yards early in the game. That's a big-time kick without the advantage of altitude in the wind and it would have been good from further.
Also worth noting, we've dissed the ST coach in the off season as being JAG, but he sure does have our return coverage unit playing tight and solid. I'm much more pleased with what I'm seeing from the ST unit than what I've seen in the past. They to date this season are NOT a liability.
This was a statement win for our team without a doubt. We found a way to win against the odds. That's what great teams do...they kick and scream and fight and claw and scratch to get the win. No more waiting to see what happens. No more looks of bewilderment from the sideline for quarters at a time. We have a coach who wants to win and is active in his pursuit of the win. TYJE and Go Broncos!