It has been a long time in my opinion since we've had a complete team top to bottom here in Denver. When I say that, I don't mean just the players. From General Manager to Head Coach to Defensive Coordinator to Players, we have the total package as a football team. Cherish it, Broncos Country. This is a rare thing in the NFL.
I gave my game ball to Gary Kubiak this week and I think it is worth typing a few more words. This team is building itself right before our eyes and it is truly being a winning work in progress. You have to credit the head coach with that. I've seen a lot of concern and complaints about Kubiak from our community in this off season (and more rarely recently). Sorry guys and gals, but he's doing a superb job and any griping about it at this point is just silly talk. What is he failing at? He's developing talent, instillinzg fight, adjusting his scheme to find solutions to overcome weaknesses, making in-game adjustments, and putting his team in position to win games.
My hats off to what he's done through this off season and 3 games. It may all fall apart. Chinks may show up in the armor of this team down the line for sure. Injuries could happen. But I guarantee you this team won't falter because of lack of coaching effort.
I like progress. What we saw this week was our team make an adjustment in order to get more offensive production. Kubiak and Manning worked on the offense during the mini-bye week provided by our week 2 Thursday night game and moved our play calls to more pistol instead of having Manning under center.
I like finding something that works. Don't get me wrong, I want us to do whatever it takes to win up to and including a 70 / 30 pass run ratio. I don't think that's best long term though. It is very important for our line to now work on improving their run blocking over the next few weeks so that we can be more balanced. It is integral to our success long-term this year.
I said last week that Manning's problem didn't appear to be his age or his body wearing down...it looked to be the awkward footwork of him having to take drops from under center and then read the plays. I'm firmly confident in this opinion at this point. We saw Manning throw accurately deep multiple times in this game and make big plays.
His accuracy requires good foot work and sound throwing motion. He generates power from his legs and core and needs all the time he can to make his read and get set for the throws.
Why are those reads so important? Can't he make them like any other QB after he gets his drop? He could, but it slows him down and takes away his biggest asset as a QB which is his ability to diagnose defenses and quickly make the right decision on where to go with the ball. Here's a great example of that.
On the 4th and 1 Manning's first option on the play is a shallow crosser to Emmanuel Sanders. When he snaps the ball, he sees the Linebackers dropping and knows instantly they are going to be in position to blow up that play. He then switches to his 2nd option on the play which is DT deep.
Ty Sambrailo needs to go back into the oven because that dude still ain't done. In a week where I really had no complaints anywhere else on the line, Ty looked outmatched fairly consistently. Is this a huge problem? Meh. He's a rookie. Sure we can excuse a little, but the problem is he's our starting LT and the job being done out there HAS to improve.
It was refreshing to see Evan Mathis improve his game (which he's done every week so far). He was a solid guard this week and that's why we brought him in. The next step for him (and the other linemen) is to improve on the run blocking. They need to open up holes and there were few examples in week 3 of that happening. Our backs need some creases to work with or we are going to continue to see the same pathetic numbers out of our backs.
Speaking of that, I really expected to see our backs get some more production this week, but that was not to be the case. C.J. Anderson has yet to show us his wicked jump step because he can't get to the open field where it is so effective.
Ronnie Hillman came up with a TD, but other than that his runs haven't gone for much. With him, I'd love to see more stretch plays to the outside, tosses, and routes in the flats. He can be a very dangerous weapon in space if we'd scheme to use him that way.
I liked what Juwan Thompson was bringing to the field. Our prayers are with you on a speedy recovery for whatever happened to your neck in this game JT!
Demaryius Thomas is rounding into form, but he has a lot of work to do. In a game where we had heroes in every corner, I'm pulling my no bull card on this guy. DT had 3 dropped passes that were completely catchable in the game and he had a huge turnover by reaching for the first down. I can excuse a drop here or there. I can also let the reach go. But at some point there's too much derp happening on the field for a guy who just got PAID to be a #1 WR. Everyone else may want to laud DT for the great catches and I'm okay with that to some extent. But let me just say you need to hit the jugs machine hard this week, son. You left at least 50 yards out on the field because of lack of doing the one basic thing you are paid to do: Catch the damn ball.
Emmanuel Sanders never fails to impress me with his big-time catches either in traffic or well defended. He's a fighter at WR and all in a 5'11" package who normally you would not choose to throw a jump ball to late in the game deep down the field. His catch there against near perfect coverage by Slay was tremendous.
I love seeing both our young WR getting some good action on the field. Bennie Fowler looked like the prototypical slot receiver who is shifty and quick with good hands and Jordon Norwood again had a consistent outing for us. They both have Manning's trust and they run solid routes. They also don't DROP THE FRIGGIN BALL!
Malik Jackson still impresses me from our line. He's a monster inside and is completely relentless in his pursuit of the ball. He is a big reason that our defensive front is being so successful at rushing the passer.
Antonio Smith also isn't getting enough credit from us for the job he's doing in the trenches. The guy is bringing it against the run and the pass very well and again isn't the guy getting the big stats because we have way too many phenomenally fast pass rushers outside. We appreciate the work you are doing Smith!
I'm starting to get a little worried about DeMarcus Ware because this week saw him on the field for 80% of the snaps. That was too much and at the end of the game he wasn't getting home as well as he was in the first half. I know he's a supreme talent and we want our best players on the field, but I think we get more production out of fresher legs. I would like to see Wade put in Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett more to rest Ware more.
I still hear grumbling here and there about Von Miller not getting sacks. If you see or hear any of that, please inform that person that they need to learn a little more about football. Von was a completely disruptive force of nature in this game. He had more hurries than I could count and only didn't get sacks because the offense was throwing almost all short routes in less than 2.5 seconds in order to avoid the sacks. He may not set the sack record, but by the end of the season I'd be curious to know how many hurries he gets credited with.
I'm tossing another No Bull card Brandon Marshall's way. He was a monster on the stat sheet, but his tweet I thought was very apropos. He had more than one play where he was the defender for a short pass and completely biffed it. I remember Tim not long ago chirping about him being the best coverage backer in the NFL last year. Well times have changed. It was only one game and I really do think very highly of Marshall as a linebacker. He just has some angles to clean up or some coaching on listen to on what to do in those situations in order to make the play.
Big hats off to Aqib Talib for this game. He was put on an island with what I consider to be the best wide receiver in the NFL and told to cover a guy that was bigger, taller, and probably faster (I haven't checked their latest 40 numbers, but on the field it looked like it to me). To hold Calvin Johnson to 77 yards on 8 catches with no TDs was a truly fine job.
Bradley Roby is in less looks playing more like Chris Harris Jr. of last year. He's being aggressive, fast, quick, and is taking full advantage of the film room. This guy was a great draft pick and he's going to continue to be a play maker in this defense.
Chris Harris Jr on the other hand looks like he's taken a step back this year. Is he over thinking it? Has he eased up because he's got his nice new contract? Is he just not fitting in the defense as comfortably as he did in the past? I'm not sure what the answer is. He's still playing mostly good football, but there are plays like the Roby INT where he's out of position or a little late to his guy.
David Bruton Jr. continues to impress me at safety. He's so good that Wade Phillips is using him in our dime WITH Darian Stewart and TJ Ward on the field. Bruton for years had the clunkiest hips in coverage, but I have yet to see that issue with him this season. Add to that that he is another guy that is obviously putting the time in in the film room and you have a really strong cover safety showing up week in and week out for the team.
While we're talking safeties, Darian Stewart is also a guy I keep liking more and more. Much like Miller, he didn't get the big flashy plays this week, but he was doing the little things you want to see from your free safety in this defense. He cleaned up a lot of trash against the run and the pass.
T.J. Ward was in his second game of the season and it was a much better showing for him. I like how he's being used and that he's not often being asked to man cover tight ends (he kinda sucks at that).
The only thing I really have to say here is that there's not much to say and for Special Teams, that's not always a bad thing. If I had access to PFF, I'd bet they rated both our punter and kicker well in this game. Our coverage units didn't derp all over the field. I sure wished we would have let McManus try that 60 yard FG though...
I'm not letting a game like this go by without calling out the referees. This game was absolutely horrendous officiating. Early in the game Detroit was getting away with murder on defense (like holding down DT's arm on a pass which was far more grievous than the bull hockey call they got CHJ for later in the game for the EXACT same thing). The officials called a false start on us when a defender was completely across the LOS. Detroit kept spearing our runners heads with the crown of their helmets which IIRC is against the rules and one of those hits put JT out of the game. The biggest problem I have was the calls weren't being enforced consistently unless you count being completely chaotic with them the whole game as consistent.
I liked this more comfortable win and thought our team showed more growth this week. I really liked the aggressive nature the Broncos showed on both sides of the ball this week. If we can clean up some turnover issues and drops on offense, we'll see some big numbers in short order from them run game or not. Hit up the comments and let me know what else you saw in this game worth noting and let's get primed for Minnesota!