Welcome back Broncos fans to the Ultimate Fan Guide where we like to analyze our favorite team while wearing Orange-colored glasses and drinking Orange Kool-Aid (and pants are always optional).
But none of that means we can’t be a little critical - or possibly even worried - about the team we love. Luckily, most of the time we don’t have too much reason to be either and we can just cheer for the good guys doing it right.
The Broncos are coming off a slightly shorter week after a solid team win over the Texans on Monday night plus some bad news Thursday that C.J. Anderson could be out for the season, but they know the job they need to do this week - namely, beat a team that got the better of them just a few weeks ago.
SaguaroBronco is a regular here at MHR and a returning UFG, hanging out in the comments occasionally and contributing banter often over on the CIWT, and he has some excellent insight about how the Broncos get revenge this week - with two of my favorite things ... balance and aggression. (*also, Saguaro grew up in Denver the same time I was getting into the Orange & Blue out in the Fort...so we’re like soul-fans...which is cool).
But I digress...let’s get down to business (oh, and enjoy the Bolts From The Blue staff mostly predicting San Diego’s win in Denver. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA).
Week 6: San Diego at Denver
MHR – Monday night’s game was a vast improvement by both offense and defense – as well as coaching – from the Broncos. What from that game had you the most excited about the rest of the season?
SaguaroBronco: Adding some balance and unpredictability to the offensive game plan. I liked seeing a balance between run and pass on offense, Janovich back up to playing approximately half of the offensive snaps, variety in offensive play calling, and safeties more involved in TE/RB coverage (which had been the Achillies heel in several of the drives in the Falcons game and a couple of key plays vs. the Chargers).
Not the least – I liked seeing Kubiak back on the sidelines and in control of his team. It seemed like his migraine symptoms were sapping the effectiveness of the team during the Falcons game, and his absence during the Chargers game led to some curious decisions.
Full disclosure – I was traveling during the short week and was unable to see any of the Falcons game and much of the Chargers game, so comments on those two games are based on highlights I’ve seen and game stats/recaps that I’ve read on MHR and elsewhere. (*editor’s note: you didn’t miss anything in those two games!)
MHR – The offensive line with all the regular starters (Stephenson, Okung, Schofield, Paradis, Garcia) seems to be working well and getting better. Do you like the potential of this line and what improvements would you still like to see - especially against Joey Bosa this week?
SaguaroBronco: I’m glad that they looked a bit more cohesive on Monday night and seemed to help out with getting the offense out of the funk that they seemed to be in. That said, I’m still concerned with the O-line penalties that killed momentum on a few drives. It seemed that the penalties were committed from a need to recover after getting beat due to poor technique. That might be recoverable against the Texans but could create problems with more talented foes in the future, like Bosa, etc. I’m hoping that continued health and playing together as a unit will continue to allow the line to develop the continuity and teamwork it needs to open up the running game and protect the QB.
MHR – Many here (if not all) are ecstatic about having a true fullback in the lineup, and by every statistic, whenever Andy Janovich is in the game, the running attack is much better. Recalling the Howard Griffith days, do you see Jano helping the Broncos get back to that kind of football?
SaguaroBronco: I’ve been a Broncos fan for a long time (beginning a couple of decades prior to Griffith’s heyday) and have fond memories of Griffith’s contributions to the team, in general, and to Terrell David, in particular. It’s a different time now, with different rules and personnel, but I still see the value in of having a talented fullback that can add some variety to the offensive attack – not only in lead blocking, but in pass pro and receiving and running as well (I loved his touchdown versus the Panthers and was hoping he’d punch it in against the Texans on Monday. And from my vantage point, he did).
From what I’ve seen, Janovich seems to have the stereotypical fullback lunch-pail mentality, which is a good fit for what the Broncos are trying to build where the team is much more than the sum of all its parts.
MHR – Trevor Siemian still isn’t perfect but he keeps getting better (while also showing up his former teammate last week). Where do you see Siemian in our line-up down the road – 1) as the Broncos’ quarterback of the future 2) QB1 just until Paxton Lynch can get fully acclimated to the NFL, or 3) ‘who cares, he’s our QB now and he’s winning.’?
SaguaroBronco: I’m gonna go with Door No. 3 on that question. I take the position that the coaches and front office have a lot of information that we fans never see, so I’m going to take it on faith that they are putting out the best team that they can to move toward the goal of finishing the season lofting a Lombardi.
I don’t expect them to get it right 100 percent of the time, but they’ll be right more often than this fan sitting 1000 miles away. I’d be ecstatic if both Siemian and Lynch progressed to the point that some team was willing to give us a Matt Flynn-type deal for one and we had a franchise QB for a decade plus with the other.
MHR – The defense had come out soft early in games the first six weeks and then came out on fire Monday night. Do you anticipate that same energy the rest of the season or was that just because of prime time and facing Osweiler?
SaguaroBronco: I’m not sure that prime time is much of a factor (the Chargers game was on TNF, the Falcons game was widely distributed (although, unfortunately, not in DC where I was that day), the Indy and Bengals games were featured games those weeks, and the Panthers game was the season kickoff . And arguably the best opening performance of the defense was the Bucs game where Talib made the early pick and that game was less widely covered than any other. If it takes playing a former backup QB who went somewhere else for greener pastures to get the team fired up, the Broncos need new leadership among both the players and the coaching staff.
I don’t know that I could point to a single cause of the opening series defensive issues this year, but I think the squad was embarrassed that their early miscues were partial contributors to the "Ls" against both the Falcons and Chargers. I anticipate that they’re more proud of their performance against the Texans and want to carry that feeling forward for the remainder of the season. We’ll find out this week by the attitude they bring with them to "welcome" the Chargers in to Mile High.
MHR – Philip Rivers has some great weapons with Travis Benjamin, Melvin Gordon and Travis Henry. What do you want to see from Wade Phillips and this D this weekend to prevent Rivers & Co. from the end zone?
SaguaroBronco: One of the adjustments that I saw against the Texans was bringing the safeties more into the fight against both the tight ends and running backs. T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart both had big games on Monday night and didn’t let the middle of the field open up for Houston (either in the passing or running game).
MHR – More surprisingly in our first matchup was how pathetic the depleted Chargers defense made our offense look two weeks ago. What needs to happen for this Broncos team to have more of a "Texans" game than a "Falcons" game?
SaguaroBronco: Health and balance – I think it hurt a lot to make the switch to Lynch with a partial playbook (necessitated by the injury to Siemian the prior week), but it was compounded by the disparity in run-pass balance (which forced Lynch to drop back 35 times and run himself 6 times compared with only 18 runs to the backs). In addition, Denver’s offense was out Green and Stephenson against ATL. Monday night, the offense was much more balanced and healthy. They’ll look much better if they can keep both going forward (although only one of the two is really under their control).
MHR – Injuries are always an issue and can be a big difference in a game and even a season. How much of an impact will it be to get DeMarcus Ware back (this week or probably next) and how big of a problem will it be having C.J. Anderson out indefinitely?
SaguaroBronco: Getting Ware back is important as much for his leadership (which is always harder to do from the sidelines) as for his play. However, he’s explosive in taking down the opposing QB and hurrying throws when he doesn’t and takes some of the pressure off the opposite OLB (Von must be licking his chops at the opportunity). He also will be able to increase the OLB rotation, which will help provide a fresh pass rush when the opponent needs to be shut down (or put out of their misery) in the 4th quarter.
It remains to be seen if Booker can step in and take on the role of a bell-cow running back or if Kapri Bibbs (or even Juwan Thompson elevated from the PS) can step in and help out in a backup role.
MHR – Which players on the Chargers are the biggest threat for our team this weekend and how do we stop them?
SaguaroBronco: Rivers has a personality that makes him easy to hate, but you have to respect what he’s brought to the table for the Chargers over the years. Even when the Chargers are having down years, he seems to be able to make it tough on the Broncos to count him out. In order to stop him, Denver needs to get in his head, whether that’s due to strong pressure from the front 7 making him feel uncomfortable behind his line or the No Fly Zone thoroughly blanketing his receivers so he has no options to throw to. Preferably both.
Denver needs to avoid giving up a big run to Gordon (like his one 48-yarder last time) and keep him looking more like his 46 yards on the other 26 attempts (1.8 yards per carry).
On defense – I’m not sure how they were able to shut down the Broncos offense in Week 6 with their depleted squad, but Denver needs better offensive balance than 50 pass attempts versus 15 runs to the backs.
MHR – Which Broncos defensive player NEEDS to be this week’s star?
SaguaroBronco: I don’t know that any one defensive player NEEDS to be a star this week. The Broncos D looks better when it plays as a team and feeds off each other - when the front 7 applies pressure to the QB so the No Fly Zone gets the opportunity to make some INTs and at the same time the No Fly Zone’s tight coverage gives the front 7 time to get to the quarterback for a loss and/or fumble.
Whomever ends up as the "star" for the week will be the one who is the most opportunistic in turning the efforts of the rest of his teammates into a flashy play - or four - that makes the highlight reels.
MHR – Which Broncos offensive player NEEDS to be this week’s star?
SaguaroBronco: With the injury to C.J., Booker may need to step up and star as the No. 1 RB this week in order to prevent another unbalanced offensive attack that makes it easy for San Diego to defend.
Stats for Trevor Siemian? 20/27, 240 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Number of carries/yards rushing for Broncos? Devontae Booker – 20 carries, 85 yards, 1 TD; Kapri Bibbs – 5 carries, 20 yards; Andy Janovich – 2 carries, 32 yards, 1 TD
Number of yards receiving for Broncos? Demaryius Thomas – 5/65 yards; Emmanuel Sanders – 8/95 yards
Number of sacks to Siemian? 1
Number of sacks to Philip Rivers? 3
Broncos player with the most sacks? Shane Ray
Broncos player with the most tackles? Brandon Marshall (if he’s playing)
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos? 2 of each
Final Score? Broncos 27, Chargers 17
Favorite win you’ve watched the Broncos accomplish? I’ve seen more than a few over the last 40+ years, but the one that stands out the most is SB XXXII, where they took the final step to the pinnacle of the NFL season (it made up for several previous disappointments at the end of otherwise fun seasons with memorable games). Last year’s Super Bowl was close with all of the adversity that had gone on through the season but ending with a win that few outside of Broncos Country predicted. Honorable mentions include the 1977 AFCC, The Drive, The Fumble, SB XXXIII, John 3:16, Manning’s 7-TD game over the Ravens, Last Year’s AFCC…
Team you hate to lose to the most? Patriots
Team you love to beat? Raiders
Game most looking forward to this season? Patriots
Game most worried about this season? Patriots (same answer for both, as the winner of this game will likely have the inside track to the #1 playoff seed, and therefore the "easier" route to the SB)
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Chris Harris Jr. He’s an indispensable part of the best secondary in football (and I love watching great defensive secondary play), has a great attitude, worked his way up from a CFA but still maintains his humility (even playing a position that has a fair share of divas) and continues to work to improve even though he’s at the top level of his profession.
Favorite rookie/young guy on the team? I’ve got a bit of an Arizona Wildcat rooting interest for Will Parks (and was glad to hear his name along with the words "Denver Broncos" during this year’s draft). Janovich is also growing on me with the qualities I mentioned earlier.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? In different eras – Randy Gradishar and Rod Smith. Both guys were hard-working, career-long Broncos who should be in the HOF
Superstitions on game day? Not much, I’ll usually wear a Bronco T-shirt during the game and I’ll usually wear an orange golf shirt and dark blue jeans to church prior to the game, but more to show support for the team than any kind of belief that the clothes I wear really have any impact on the performance of the team.
Favorite Broncos jersey color combo? I like them all (well maybe not the vertical stripe socks), but have a sentimental attachment to the old "D" helmets, orange jerseys and white pants.
How did you become a Broncos fan?
I grew up in Denver and really got drawn into the excitement of the 1977 season and the original (and only) Orange Crush defense. As a kid who was learning the game, it was a great time to get into football in Denver. Then while I was in high school, the Broncos traded for kind of a good QB coming out of Stanford, who became the face of the franchise while I was in college at Colorado School of Mines (and amazingly, he’s still contributing to the team all these years later).
My memories of fall Sundays are much more about watching Broncos football than turning aspens. I got to watch the Broncos in three Super Bowls while I was living in Denver and now have seen them in five more - winning three of them -while I’ve been living in Arizona.
This is definitely my team, and I’ll always primarily see the Cardinals as an impediment to me being able to watch the Broncos from my home several times a year (although they do afford me the opportunity to see the Broncos live within a relatively short drive from my home approximately once every eight years).
The Broncos were the theme of the surprise 50th birthday party that Mrs. Saguaro threw for me, and I’ve passed along the Bronco fan gene to both Mrs. Saguaro and our daughter, neither of whom have ever lived in Denver.