Welcome to week 7 of "Repeating Business". I will review the debacle in San Diego and take a look at Houston.
San Diego - Denver came to a mostly orange San Diego to play the Chargers and get a firm grip on the AFC West against the snake-bitten rival. The Chargers were 1-4 with all of their losses less than a TD margin. The Broncos were returning mostly healthy but without Gary Kubiak roaming the sidelines. The Defense started off, but were gashed to the tune of a 12 play, seven minute long drive where it seemed that Philip Rivers was untouched and picked the defense apart in the air to give the Chargers a 7-0 lead. Denver's offense responded with a punt after five plays. San Diego then took the ball and marched 75 yards, taking over TEN minutes off the clock. Fortunately Von Miller make a play to force a FG, but they were now down 10-0.
The Offense got nothing going having to punt again, but thanks to a Charger ST error, Denver got the ball at the SD 11. Could the Offense get a mere 11 yards for at TD? Nope! Not this night! Four plays, ZERO yards and a FG made it 10-3. The rest of the first half had three consecutive 3 and outs between the teams with Denver running out the clock to end the first half.
With the Broncos only being down 10-3 at the half, you would expect to have some kind of adjustment right? Nope. The defense clamped down after the first drive, but still gave up enough ground to allow more FGs. The offense was just as terrible as they were in the first half with a fumble, a missed FG and some 3 and outs with cherry on top being the OL getting flagged for a safety. They were able to redeem themselves after the Chargers botched fielding the ball during the free kick. They seemed to come to life with a TD to cut the score to 21-10. Denver's defense forced another punt and it looked like some momentum was coming back. C.J. Anderson caught a pass short, went around tacklers to get in for a TD. Sadly, Russell Okung was hit with a holding call to nullify the score. On the next play, Trevor Siemian was sacked at the SD 40. Demaryius Thomas then caught a pass only to fumble it away. The Defense forced another punt and the offense drove deep enough for a FG to make it 21-13 with 27 seconds left. Denver got the ball on the onside kick, but the offense could only get to the SD 45 thanks to Anderson not securing the catch and Siemain not getting the first down. With the final play, Siemian threw it as hard as he could, but the pass was not caught nor was it even close to the end zone. Denver suffered its second straight loss, but thanks to the Chiefs beating the Raiders the Broncos are tied for the AFC West lead.
As for my impressions of this game, the Broncos were just flat and lifeless the entire game. It seemed like there was no passion or fire the entire time. Some of that could be playing on short rest and rust on players that returned from injury. Maybe Kubiak not being there was part of it, but the staff knew what they were supposed to do. A lot of this can be pinned on the offense with having real predictability and Siemian's injury did no favors. Officiating was suspect with the Broncos having over 100 yards in penalties (compared to a mere 30 for the Chargers) and costing them in points lost and points given. Something else that I mentioned in the comments last week in Laurie's article was the leadership vacuum that currently exists. While DeMarcus Ware is still on the team and leading while hurt, the offense does not have a true leader right now. Peyton Manning's final season was not good, but his leadership was invaluable. He would have been tearing into the offense for the poor play if he was still playing. Alas, he is not coming back and a new commander is needed. Is it Siemain needing to get more of a fire and show some passion? Is it Paxton Lynch maturing into that said leader? At this point, nobody knows. Hopefully with Kubiak returning this week the ship can get corrected and on the right path.
One last comment on this game....the "color rush" unis looked great from the waist up. The jerseys looked classic and the helmets sporting the old school logo was very sharp. From the waist down, take that excess orange in the pants and socks and burn them to never see the light of day. I would love to see those jerseys worn full time with white pants from now on. As for the helmet, either the current one or the one worn last week would look sharp. Too bad the play didn't match it. Since that is off of my chest, it's time to take a look a the next challenger......
Houston - The Texans come to Denver on Monday night to tangle with the Broncos. They are led by someone we all know well, former QB Brock Osweiler. Osweiler cashed in big in the offseason, but the dividends have not paid out too well. They currently lead the AFC South at 4-2 despite his play and J.J. Watt's injury. Houston had an improbable OT win over the Colts where Indy had a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter and most of the fans had left the stadium. Osweiler had two TD passes in the final two minutes to force OT. In OT, the defense forced a Colts punt and Osweiler threw deep to get them into FG range. Nick Novak knocked in the FG for the 26-23 win on SNF.
For the Broncos to get the win, the defense needs to get to Osweiler early and often and shut down the run. Lamar Miller was a workhorse last game and it is crucial to get him stopped. Forcing Brock to make long gains will go a long way to get a win. The defense must stop giving up the big plays and giving up long scoring drives. On offense, OL consistency will be a must. While Watt is out, they have Jadaveon Clowney on the edge, Vince Wilfork in the middle with Whitney Mercilus and Brian Cushing backing them. The offense must find ways to move the ball. Running a no-huddle or speed offense to take advantage of the altitude could be a big key. Hopefully Siemain having additional extended rest could help with his passing. This game is huge because it could help determine playoff seeding later as well as keeping pace in the AFC West. With KC winning in Oakland, the division has tightened so there is no room for any more errors. Well, that's all I have and GO BRONCOS!