I'm about sick and tired of hearing all the fuss and bull about this Denver Broncos team. They have done nothing but exceed expectations against a very impressively challenging schedule to win yet another AFC West crown and secure home field advantage in the playoffs.
"They don't have an identity."
"Their offense is a mess."
"Their defense is slipping."
"Osweiler is too young."
"Manning is too old."
"We aren't winning impressively enough!!!"
This football team can lose their Divisional Round playoff game and I'll still be damn proud of them. They have scratched, clawed, kicked, screamed, and furiously fought to earn every friggin' win they got this year. It took a still under-appreciated defense, an aging HOF QB, a young inexperienced backup QB, RBs who are running their tails off with inconsistent holes being opened for them, an offensive line that has been poor, a receiving corps that plays their tails off under all of the above, a front-7 that has the most impressive depth I've seen in my living days on this earth in Denver, a secondary with otherworldly talent (albeit with not as much depth), and a whole convoy full of one thing I wish Broncos Country would talk more about: HEART.
We can nit and pick all we want about any of them, from the front office to the players, as much as we want, but for crying out loud give a friggin' Mile High Salute to the effort the Denver Broncos organization has put into the product on the field for us this year. Cheer your hearts out Denver Broncos fans! Your team has been leaving their blood, sweat, and tears on that field for you and have done a helluva job for us.
On to the week that was, and our final No Bull Review of the 2015 regular season. Broncos 27, Chargers 20 - let's break it down.
Let's get the meat and potatoes out of the way right off the bat. Take off your tin-foil hats, Broncos Country. Gary Kubiak did not plot some back alley plan to spring Peyton out at the end of the season to usurp Brock as the future Broncos QB. He didn't pull wool over anyone's eyes. The only thing Kubiak did in this game was his job. Peyton got healthy and was suited up. Our team has a lack of what did I mention back when I reviewed our last loss? Oh yeah...leadership.
After the team derped the ball over to San Diego not one, not two, not three, not four, but five times and let them stay in a game that that talent-less four-win excuse of a team had no business being in, Kubiak made the only call any decent NFL head coach would make. As sappy as it sounds, this team needed a spark. They needed a leader on the field. They needed to believe with confidence in themselves and their brothers. Well played, Kubiak...well played indeed.
First of all, my hat is off to Brock Osweiler. I say this as a Broncos fan (not a Manning fan or an Osweiler fan or any other bull): Brock's play was not costing us the game. He was doing a very decent job and looked like a QB who's team was struggling in his 7th NFL start and searching for a way to get it done. Brock needs seasoning ladies and gentlemen. He needs more play on the field because the game still hasn't slowed down for him yet. There's no shame in that and he looked very good throwing the rock for us in this game. Thank you for getting us down the stretch. Thank you for dealing with a difficult situation in getting benched. I think the world of your future as should you.
I will say that I didn't want to see Peyton Manning suit up again for us this year. He really is a liability to the team moving forward. Everyone may get starstruck that the sheriff is back in the saddle, but not this Bronco fan. But I do think him playing right now is pretty darn perfect and I go back to what I said early in the year when he was setting the NFL record books on fire with his interception rate: all Peyton has to do is be average and protect the ball for us to do great things in the postseason. 9 attempts with 5 completions for 69 yards 0 TDs, and 0 INTs looks absolutely outstanding to me. This team can win the Super Bowl. Just guide that rudder and lead the team to the promised land.
The No Bull Review is nothing if not quick to call out the dead-weight on the team. I'm sorry, Michael Schofield, but you have absolutely no business ever playing right tackle again in the NFL as a backup or otherwise. It is that bad. You are Lance frigging Ball levels of terrible on the NFL field (the readers that have been following me for years are gasping in astonishment that I would say that to anyone right now). The biggest spark this team got was not Peyton Manning coming on the field, it was Schofield going to the bench.
Seriously, outside of Schofield, the Denver line played a pretty solid game overall. Matt Paradis still had a little trouble at a couple of spots, but at other times he played very well (especially in the run game). Louis Vasquez had the best game I've seen him play in weeks. I though Max Garcia had a couple of gaffes that were pretty bad, but much like Paradis, he had some monster plays to make up for those. I'm honestly encouraged for our line heading into the playoffs. We've seen them late in games (overtimes multiple times) take over and help our team charge forward to victory in extreme situations.
Are they the most talented line in the NFL? No way...not by a long shot. But these guys have the goods to get it done.
When your line starts blocking open some holes, really good things happen. Ronnie Hillman averaged 7.8 ypc with a TD and over 100 yards. C.J. Anderson averaged 6.3 with a TD and 95 yards. That's some serious friggin running right there and sure does look to me like what you expect out of a couple backs in a Gary Kubiak zone blocking running scheme that is being executed properly.
Demaryius Thomas is finally starting to play the way I know he is capable of. He willed himself to that touchdown against San Diego like a monster that would not be denied. THAT is the Bey-Bey we know and love. For the record, that "drop" he had I don't put on him for one second. His defender was in the middle of slinging him sideways (no call by the way on that over the top interference).
Emmanuel Sanders plays with so much heart, and for the first time in ages it cost him. With so much traffic around him he really should have just got down instead of fighting for yards at the 5.
I also liked Jordan Norwood's play in this game. He looked like a reliable outlet as a #3 WR to me and I hope he continues to get used more.
The biggest thing here was our defense playing its way through a tough opponent who knows how to go after weaknesses. Credit to Phillip Rivers for the big time smarts to pick on the weaknesses. Think about it. Where were the plays coming against us time and time again? It was our back up players.
For his part, I thought Wade Phillips dialed up a pretty good aggressive game and did his best to keep another outstanding NFL QB from picking his way to an upset victory. Even though we got burned a couple times on the blitz on 3rd down, I loved that those were coming in. More of them worked than failed and the losses were small in the grand scheme of things for the most part.
I love the ferocity of our defensive line. Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson, and Sly Williams played outstanding all game long and were disruptive forces of aggression who consistently beat a lesser opponent which is what you expect from good players.
Our linebackers were disruptive as well with huge contributions from Danny Trevathan and Todd Davis. I thought all of our pass rushers did a very good job too in rotation with impact plays from Von Miller showing up big time.
Aqib Talib...I have no idea what caught you napping on that 80 yard TD, but I sure am glad you got that out of your system in the regular season. That is the kind of play that can end a playoff game. Make sure you watch that tape and get that junk figured out.
I think the biggest thing I saw from the secondary from this game was the excellent play by Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward. Those two guys are really big deals to this defense and I sure hope I'm not the only fan who noticed in the back half of the season how much better they are than the depth guys behind them.
Don't let Keo's INT fool you either. He was playing a deep zone (much like Rahim Moore used to...10-15 yards deeper than the play that was being made) and picked off a pass that was either tipped or sailed badly on Rivers.
I don't know what else to do, but I honestly don't want to see Josh Bush on the field at all this postseason. He's just not ready for the NFL level at safety in the postseason and neither is Shiloh Keo.
I'm saving the best for last though. Bradley Roby had the best game of his career and I for one really appreciate it. I've been seeing a lot of mediocre play from him this year, but it was all outstanding coverage this time around. Big time props to Roby for some really great passes defended.
I didn't notice Britton Colquitt sucking! Well done Brit!
I also loved seeing Brandon McManus knock down 3 field goals in a huge game for the team. Keep that same mindset as we head to the playoffs. You are a leaf on the wind.
Our warriors get a nice week off to rest and recuperate while the scrub wild card teams get to battle it out for a chance to come play football at our house on January 17th. While watching this game did I scream? Did I cry out in agony as our guys turned over the ball? Did I yell at the refs? You bet your sweet 8lb 7oz baby Jesus I did. But the hell if I ever thought for one second that this team wasn't going to get it done. I have seen it against far tougher teams than the San Diego Chargers (no offense guys...your team just lacks talent in a lot of ways) this year in games with more pressure on them than this one.
This team is everything I've been hoping for since a cold January day in 1999 when I saw a colossal friggin football hero ride off into the sunset with the Lombardi trophy in tow. This team has heart. They have power. They have a coach who is going to put them in the best position he can so that they have the opportunity to win it all. Win or lose this postseason, this is a team I am proud to cheer for as a long time fan of the Denver Broncos dating back decades.
I'm cheering for my team this postseason.
I'm cheering for Pat Bowlen this postseason.
I'm cheering for Bronco Mike.
I'm cheering for all of you in Broncos Country who haven't gotten to see your team hoist that trophy.
Bronco up, get your war paint on, and let's get this thing done!