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Broncos at Chargers: The No Bull Review

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The Denver Broncos lost for the second straight week. Let’s get real about what we’re seeing with this team and what concerns us about their play.

Denver Broncos v San Diego Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

First off, there is no reason for any fans to jump off the proverbial cliff. It took me awhile to get around to writing this just because I was quite bent about the product I was going to have to write about. We’re fans. We bleed orange and blue. But remember, it is only two games.

That being said, if you don’t have some serious concerns about what the team is doing offensively and how the defense is starting games, then I’d honestly question your sanity.

I’ve got a lot to talk about and we’re going to go a bit off script for this one (less stats and player talk and more perspective from a step back).

Let’s dig in.

Offense

So there’s a lot to really not like on the offensive side of the ball. We’ll get to the defense and the hole this team got itself into, but keep in mind that when we start a game and are down 10 - 0 in the first quarter, the offense is responsible for that big fat zero.

Play Calling

Many many many fans out in Broncos Country have pointed this out and they are absolutely on the same page as me - the play calling for the Broncos sucks. When a fan like me is guessing the calls two-thirds of the time, your team is too predictable. Worse than that, when the other team has a great defense called against your play two-thirds of the time it is even worse.

There’s just not enough variety in what the Broncos are doing. Our run plays lean toward the inside zone run the majority of the time. Teams are geared up and ready for it. Our pass plays are utilizing mostly vertical concepts with quarterbacks who are very clearly not comfortable throwing longer passes into zone concepts being utilized to cover the receivers.

Want to know what happens when teams stack 8 in the box and cover-1 on the back end? Look at the Cincinnati game. We blow teams like that out of the water. Teams that don’t have good secondary players though like to run zone stuff (Atlanta and San Diego come to mind).

A lot of us can see that as we watch the game, but the frustrating thing for me is that there are literal zone beating concepts that can be used to attack the weaknesses in those defenses. Shallow crossers, TE seam routes, timing routes, and screens are all great ways to do some serious damage, and they either aren’t being called or aren’t being executed.

Line

Remember how good this line looked in weeks 1 and 2? What happened to that? Either teams have figured out perfectly how to attack our line or the players just aren’t cutting it from an execution standpoint.

Max Garcia still looking like a liability at left guard. His inability to block with any consistency or understand his responsibilities on a stunt by the defensive line is soul crushing. Every lineman has a bad play, or even three, in games. I’m seeing this guy blow assignments more than that. A lot of time our QB is getting rid of the ball before it turns into a bad play, but the problem I’m seeing is that we have a guy who appears to my novice eye to be practicing bad habits.

Not all the penalties were legit that were called on the line (more on that later), but there were still many that were, and it has to stop. The guys holding are doing so because they are getting beat. They are getting beat because of bad technique or bad blocking calls. Either these guys aren’t getting coached hard enough or some of them don’t have what it takes.

I know Alex Gibbs would have a mouthful of some of these guy’s asses if he were still coaching here. I counted at least three times where our guys were combo blocking the same guy and letting a rusher (not blitzer, mind you) come free at the QB. That’s just dumb, and someone is not doing his job.

I do want to point out that this line has looked good this season. For whatever reason (injured starting tackles is a good one), the cohesiveness of the line looks like junk. That can be fixed. The coaches need to require better play from the players, and the players need to respond.

Quarterbacks

I’m not going to spend a ton of time here. MHR loves to talk QB, and we have a ton of stuff out there already. I will say this though - throwing five-yard routes on a 3rd-and-10 has to stop. I can see an eight-yard crosser, but not five. That’s not going to work with any consistency, and there has to be something better.

The other thing is both our QBs in the past two weeks have crapped themselves while facing zone defenses. I don’t expect them to be top 10 QBs who slice and dice zone defenses up like a hot knife through butter, but this isn’t rocket science. At some point you have to trust your guys and toss the ball up. Especially in the case of a player built like Demaryius Thomas. Especially in the case of a player who plays with as much heart as Emmanuel Sanders. Practice some specific throws with them and get comfortable, then use that confidence to make plays on game day.

Running Backs

I like the direction both of our backs are going. C.J. Anderson would have had a phenomenal game if it weren’t for the refs deciding that his runs were too good to let stand. Devontae Booker also played well, and my eyes tell me he has some tools on the field that I don’t see in C.J. (elusiveness, jets). I want to see these guys get a more even share of the carries. I think they will both be more productive that way.

Receivers

I see one guy in our group of receivers selling out to win a football game - Emmanuel Sanders. That dude should be chewing guys out on the sideline - guys like Jordan Norwood who aren’t even clutching the ball tight, let alone covering with two hands when contact is made, and guys like DT who are straight up playing soft.

I know that sounds harsh, but this dude has been playing patty-cake a whole heck of a lot since getting paid last year. He’s a guy with the physical talent of Von Miller, but he’s missing the heart in my opinion. He has his ring and his contract, and now he’s just going out there and doing “just enough.” I remember a time fondly where this guy played like his hair was on fire, and it straight up won us games with Tim friggin Tebow throwing him the rock. Dude...get your fire back. Your team needs you and you know better than anyone else that you can dominate regardless of how good the QB is behind center.

Defense

Is anyone else getting sick and tired of our defense starting slow? An elite defense doesn’t spot the other team close to 7 points on average on their first drive of the game.

These guys look so predictable at the start of games. Teams seem to be getting them into their base defense and just scheming to break it. It isn’t until we adjust that the defense starts winning.

I think these guys can do better. I’m not saying they aren’t doing their job, because they are, but with an offense that is finding its way, you have to stop putting them in holes to start the game.

Front 7

I’ve been a big fan of Todd Davis in the past few years, but the guy is a liability in pass coverage. It is starting to seem like any time an offense schemes a RB or TE on him in man coverage, that’s a win for the bad guys.

One bright spot in the game was the play of Von Miller. The dude had probably his most impressive run defense game ever. It wasn’t just him setting the edge either...he was also crashing down across plays to tackle rushers from behind.

Secondary

Chris Harris Jr. got targeted early with plays designed to match him up on tight ends who have a big size and height advantage. This was another scheme point I noticed. It was used a few times with big success where San Diego knew that the way our defense adjusts would require CHJ to cover a tight end. We can’t let them scheme mismatches like that (and to be fair to Wade Phillips, he adjusted after this happened early).

Special Teams

Jordan Norwood is a liability on Special Teams. He (like Latimer the past few weeks) constantly brings out the ball from the end zone in bad situations, consistently losing us yards. He also went for the ball on a punt while Chargers were around and could have given them the ball. Really I feel like Joe DeCamillis is coaching these guys to take swings at the fences when the new rules practically give us a double just for not running it out.

Final Thoughts

The refs were complete hot garbage. Their one-sided calling of the game made me sick. I’m OK with a crew that wants to call holding tight, but only if you are doing so on both teams. San Diego was holding more often than Denver (because our pass rush is so much better than theirs) and didn’t even get half the calls that Denver had for holding.

Two mystical holding penalties on what were just solid plays by linemen and one of them brought back a touchdown. And I do mean mystical. One of the holding calls was on Paradis...for stumbling on top of a tripping tackle (which is not to be called unless he stays and prohibits the player from getting up which he didn’t).

But aside from that, if this team continues playing this poorly will not win another game this year. That’s how bad the current formula looks. The offense has two young QBs who are clueless on how to throw against zone coverage, an offense that isn’t being flexible enough to change what it is doing in order to put the team in better situations, and a defense that is constantly giving up leads early as they feel out the opponent.

I don’t think we’ll stay this bad, but I do advocate for some change with the offense. Either the line coach, the coordinator, or the play caller needs to be on the hot seat. The team is not so bereft of talent that its just impotent on offense. Hopefully when Kubiak gets back this week he lights a few fires under several people on this team.