This game was a breath of fresh air for Broncos Country. The offense improved, the defense dominated, and we put a challenged team talent-wise (and injury-wise for that matter) in the dunk tank on national TV.
The big story to me in this game was the resurgence of the run game for Denver. Our past two losses compared to this game are like night and day. Everything about this team looks better when the run game works.
Let’s kick this off by giving some big time props to Gary Kubiak. Many of us in recent weeks have been talking about the completely predictable and simplistic play calling. What we saw this week was not that in the least. There were toss sweep plays, counter runs, audibles into timing routes, a nice bootleg, ample use of a very talented young fullback, and a partridge in a pear tree.
The big point I’ll make on the offense overall based off this game and what we’ve seen in the other 6 so far this season is this: the run game is absolutely key to every hope and dream we have for any semblance of sound offensive football this year. If we can keep running the ball, you are going to see a ton of winning. If we get back to sloppy run blocks and pass happy play calling, you are going to see a decent chunk of losses.
This is who Gary Kubiak is as an Offensive Coordinator (and let’s point out that he really is calling the show for the offense). You are not going to get a lot of today’s zone read or heavy option passing types of plays from him. That’s not who he is. His offense absolutely will still work, but the key is that it demands a lot of execution from the players and it relies on the running game to work.
Trevor Siemian had a solid game against the Texans. It was ho-hum in today’s NFL landscape, but I’m here to tell you that as long as he is the plan for 2016 (and he is...I’m doubting more and more each week that Lynch is going to be a starter this year), this is the best kind of game you are going to see from him moving forward (unless more teams sell out in cover-0 or cover-1 to stop the run like Cincinnati did...then you’ll see more big numbers). 150 yards passing, 1 TD, 0 INTs. That’s the bees knees for this offense really.
Also I want to note that this kind of offense should surprise absolutely no one that watched the Denver Broncos last year. We were far worse in the turnover department at QB and not much better elsewhere to be honest.
The biggest thing I saw from Siemian this week was his adjustments at the line. His audible for the TD pass to DT was an example of that crucial defense reading ability you want to see develop in your young QBs. He read man on the outside with no safety help and switched to the perfect call and made a pass that only his guy was going to have a chance at.
That’s not it though...there were a handful of audibles he made to change the team into some run plays that worked spectacularly. This was the kind of stuff all of us were going nuts about when Manning returned in 2015...sure he didn’t light up the field with the passing game, but changing into solid run plays in this offense is absolutely key.
Russel Okung again had a bad penalty game. The thing that makes me scratch my head is that in both of the past two games he’s held by straight up bear hugging his assignment. I’m not sure if the problem is hand technique or footwork, but he needs to clean it up as it has been a drive killer for the Broncos.
Really the whole line outside of that had a pretty darn impressive game. I saw a bad play here and there (Max Garcia and Okung from my notes), but not anything big, problematic, or consistent. What was consistent was our guys winning the trench battle the vast majority of the time. If they can keep playing at 80% of what they did in this game, we are going to have an offense we can be proud of for the rest of the year.
I can’t say enough about Andy Janovich. This rookie was the offensive MVP according to my eyes. His blocking was so consistently key when he was on the field. As a Bronco fan who’s been watching for decades, it honestly brought a little tear to my eye to see our run game straight up out power another team. It has been a long time since we’ve had that along side a punishing fullback leading the way. To add to it, he’s a dynamic player who can catch and run with the rock. I’m excited to see more and more of him as the season progresses.
Devontae Booker was honestly our runner up as far as impact players go. His high level of play spelling C.J. Anderson not only gave Anderson a rest, but provided some much needed motivation for Anderson to get his head screwed on straight and back to fighting his tail off for every yard. What I really like about Booker is that he reads plays quicker, has a little more patience, and a little more quickness to him than Anderson. He makes a great 1b to Anderson’s 1a.
Anybody know what happened to Virgil Green in the passing game? The dude was out there plenty, but saw no looks in the passing game and I just can’t understand why not. The tight end has long been a staple of the Kubiak offense and you can’t tell me it is a problem with Green’s play. I smell something fishy here...my tin foil hat tells me that either he’s in the doghouse or he’s got some injury hampering his ability as a pass catcher.
Emmanuel Sanders is still the man. 21.5 yards average per catch on 4 catches. I’d love to see us find a way to get him more involved. He absolutely should be getting more targets than DT instead of the other way around.
Speaking of Demaryius Thomas, what the heck needs to happen before this cat gets his head back in the game and plays with fire for 4 quarters? Don’t tell me he doesn’t have it in him...I’ve seen him dominate with Manning. I’ve seen him blow games open with Tim friggin Tebow. His drop in the 4th quarter was absolutely pathetic and isn’t something we should see from a “#1” WR. I’m just telling you what my eyes tell me: This guy looks like a guy who’s just out there to cash his check at this point. Ever since he got the big money, he’s looked like a guy who isn’t focused. I get that last year with a long hold-out situation and very little off-season work put in. But you get no such concessions from this Bronco fan this year. Dude should have had 10 catches for close to 100 yards and 2 TDs in this game. Instead he had 6 for 40 with 1 TD and one craptastic drop.
Also speaking of craptastic, how about Jordon Norwood showing a national TV audience the difference between a starting WR and a scrub backup? Drag your friggin second foot dude...you haven’t been in the college game for years!
Man you just can’t beat good, sound defense. We still gave up a good amount of run yards, but the way this defense plays we can handle that. Even in 3rd and short situations the pressure is on the offense as they know our guys are getting dialed in to make a play.
Can we get some early holding calls for our front-7? Because in the first quarter alone there were 3 of them as big as day right by the QB on big gains for Houston. What bugs me the most about this is that the refs were calling the same holds on our offensive line.
Shane Ray needs some love from Broncos Country. I heard whispers this offseason that he wasn’t playing as well as the Broncos would like, but I’m happy to report that on game day those whispers look as dumb as rocks. Ray has trouble here and there about penetrating too deep on run plays and taking himself out of the play, but that even looked better in this game. He didn’t score a sack, but he brought the heat as well or better than any other guy on the front 7.
Derek Wolfe had another potent game as well. He’s such a beast at RDE and has become such a disruptive player against both the run and the pass. He’s a player in his prime is week in and week out kicking on all cylinders. Any lineman who wants to know how to defend the run by holding your spot, then shedding your blocker and attacking the ball needs to watch video on Wolfe. He’s clinical about it.
Let’s all give a big time Mile High Salute to the No Fly Zone. They absolutely dominated the passing attack of the Texans. The coverage was as we have come to expect out of this world good. What was really impressive was our adjustments to cover the tight ends and running backs. We used more of our safeties in this game to handle that even using T.J. Ward more as a linebacker in sub packages to get it done right.
Ward and Darian Stewart both had absolutely monster games at safety. They were disruptive in both the pass and run game. They also both got some good hits on the QB . Their forced fumble absolutely broke the game open for Denver.
Also worth some superlatives is Aqib Talib. There absolutely positively is not a corner in the NFL playing better football than Talib is this season. Couple that with a fantastic absence of eye pokes and facemask throw-downs and you have a extremely effective weapon for our defense.
Let’s not leave out Chris Harris, Jr. though. He played a superb game as well and what stuck out to me about him in this game was how active he was in helping finish plays. He led the team in tackles which you usually don’t like from a corner, but if you go back and look, it wasn’t because he was getting burned.
The punt averages for Riley Dixon aren’t impressive, but I’d love to see his hang time numbers. He’s doing a great job giving teams no opportunities to return punts because of it and I honestly think it is by design based off what I’ve seen from his college highlights. Also, his one bad punt was actually a great job of getting the ball kicked - it was about to be blocked and he had to adjust.
This was a great win for the Orange and Blue. While I’m not chugging down the kool-aid given the quality of competition in this game, I’m more hopeful coming out of this game that our team can get back on track and back on top of the AFC West division.
The big thing to me is that the offense has got to trash their pass happy ways to start the game. Do what works. Pass it when the box is heavy. When it isn’t, line up Janovich and knocks some poor fool’s teeth in.
It almost seems to me like we let Dennison design our script for the week and he tried to get our passing game rolling. After 1 quarter of that junk, we scrapped that and went back to churning out the runs.
I’m fine with scripting your first 15 or so plays...but they should look a heck of a lot more like your core game plan instead of looking like the game plan of a 13 year old playing Madden.