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Broncos vs Chargers: The No Bull Review

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In a big division game, the Broncos got the job done and secured a win against the Chargers. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on what we saw on the field on Sunday.

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Man, this team sure does remind me of a team we just saw last year. As a fan of the Denver Broncos, it seems like no moment is ever safe, our offense is never “clicking”, and our defense is other-worldly. That’s how this game against the San Diego Chargers went.

Before I dig into critiques and all of that, let me just say that I appreciate the heck of what our team has been doing regardless of what nits and pics I have with any minutia player, decision, or scheme. At the end of the day, the Broncos are a winning football team, and that’s all I ever look for when all is said and done.

Offense

This offense is driving me nuts. One week after we seem to figure out how to keep our run game active and involved, most of that goes out the window. I get that our key piece (FB) had a dinged up hand, but don’t we have back-ups? Shouldn’t the plays still mostly work the same if we are coaching them up during the week?

The play calling was again to me front and center on the list of problems for the Bronco offense. It was absolutely mind-boggling at times.

  • In red zone on 3rd down we call a one man read short of the sticks early.
  • On 3rd and 15 and we call another outside screen that hasn’t worked all season.
  • On 2nd 14, no outlet pass route available for Siemian (this happened many times)

I will give props to the coaching staff for their 2nd and goal call later in the game as it was a great play design to have a slant route by Sanders right behind Green. That play is something they had to have been drilling as it was complete timing with a challenging window for Siemian to hit.

Also, let me call “Bull” on Gary Kubiak. In his press conference he said some nonsense about needing to figure out why so many more passes were called versus runs. Newsflash Gary: you are kind of in charge of that. I wouldn’t think you would need to figure out anything at all since nothing happens on offense without your say-so.

Quarterbacks

Trevor Siemian is a young, developing quarterback who’s ceiling still looks like a solid backup in the NFL from what I’m seeing. He seems smart enough to get the play calls in. He throws a nice looking pass. He’s athletic enough to run this offense. That being said, there’s some very real holes in his game that I’m seeing worth talking about after 7 or so weeks worth of games.

Either he is so scared of throwing to the sticks on 3rd down or his coach doesn’t call plays that have options that far (there were options on 2 of them that I saw, but the angle isn’t great on TV and none of us know the playcall). This tendency has shown up now in multiple games. It has gotten to the point that any time we’re in 3rd and 10 or more, I write off the drive as done because of this.

His downfield accuracy is poor which is why we see so many shorter routes being thrown. Even on his deep passes (which we thankfully saw more called this game and actually hit on 2 of them), he’s consistently under-throwing the routes. He’s an accurate enough passer as we obviously saw a better passing game from him this week than we did the week prior. The thing that I’m not seeing is many throws where he’s leading his receiver well away from contact in stride.

From a decision making standpoint, I actually think this game saw Siemian regress. He seemed to try at least 3 times to throw the ball to the wrong team and lucky for us only one of those got picked and returned for a TD. There were several more passes where he threw right into double or even triple coverage. The sad part to me is that if there’s 2-3 players on a route, that means something has to be open somewhere else. On a couple of those it looked like he locked onto his route and never even looked elsewhere which makes the safety’s job really easy.

I’m sure there are many out there in Broncos Country that will start guffawing about this talk on Siemian. Let me answer some of that now:

  1. Yes I know it is only his 2nd year.
  2. Yes I know he’s a 7th round draft pick.
  3. Yup...I know it isn’t all bad.
  4. No, I’m not saying squat about pining for anyone else...I think this team is what it is and we are likely starting Siemian the rest of the season unless he starts tanking.

And before you chase down that rabbit hole, yes, I absolutely can start talking about what he looks like fairly. I don’t need to wait another year or two. I’ve seen a ton of quarterbacks come and go and what great ones look like as they develop. He looks like a back up NFL QB.

Disagree? Go ahead. I’m just sharing an opinion after all. Before you get loud in the comments though, just keep in mind my track record. I’m the guy who told you all that guys like Ben Garland, Lance Ball, Tim Tebow, Rahim Moore, and Chris Clark were who they were. I’m not perfect by any means and have whiffed on my share, but I’m pretty darn confident betting on myself when it comes to the guys that suit up in orange and blue.

At the end of the day though, it is about winning. We can do that with this guy. Heck, we won a Super Bowl with a sad excuse for a QB for most of last year and on offense that was probably more inept than this one (I’ve got an article coming on this for both our offense and defense by the way...should be interesting).

Line

The discipline is lacking on this line. We’re still seeing too many penalties. Another big deal was in this game there were two times when the Chargers jumped offsides and no one on our line moved to lock in that 5 yard penalty. Did we lose IQ after Manning retired? Why aren’t our guys coached to react properly and get those easy yards?

Russel O’kung had his worst game as a Bronco this week. I’m honestly wondering if he’s got some kind of leg injury or something hampering his play as the sack he gave up was ole blocking at its worst. He didn’t have any lateral movement whatsoever that would have enabled him to do his job on that play.

Donald Stephenson also had a pretty poor game and was getting fairly consistently manhandled. From what I was seeing, he just didn’t have any goods that could stop Bosa from his bull rush.

That being said, the ends of the Chargers are both really talented players. Our tackles probably aren’t as bad as they looked in this game, but it is something to watch in the coming weeks. So far this season they have been the strength of the O-Line.

And if I’m going to ding the tackles for their play, let’s take the time to give a hat-tip to the interior line. ALL three of them played extremely solid. Matt Paradis, Max Garcia, and Michael Schofield were balling out and getting it done up front. I especially had my eye on Garcia early and really gave up watching him as he was being so consistent (in past weeks this wasn’t the case).

Running Backs

Booker runs with good vision finding a hole instead of barreling to a point and churning. Really maximizes what he can get from the blocking. I liked his outside run for the TD and he looked fairly solid on another outside run. I honestly think he’s going to have far better games than this as he wasn’t afforded a whole lot of good holes to hit.

One big ding on him was his very poor job of ball security on the fumble. That really looked to me like a kid that didn’t understand NFL speed quite yet. I think he thought he had about a half second more than he actually did before the defender hit him. The right NFL play there is to dive earlier or secure the ball and run it out of bounds.

Receivers

Demaryius Thomas had a pretty good game overall. The one thing I’d note was that his first route was pretty darn lazy. If he cuts sharper on his break, he gets a free step and probably makes that play work. He had a nice catch to get them out of trouble on 2nd and 10 from the 1 that was of monster importance and was the kind of play you look for a #1 WR to make work consistently. Late in the game, DT makes the catch I’ve been looking for for weeks on the deep shot where he goes up and gets it even with solid coverage.

Emmanuel Sanders had an up and down game which is odd. His OPI call early is something he should just know better than to do (though to be fair, it could have been a timing issue with the ball needing to be there quicker). The other head scratcher I saw from him was where he ran a sit down route at the goal line late and should have broken it outside. I did love him selling out to catch the long play action downfield pass though...much like DT we need to see more of those throws where you give Sanders a chance to go get it.

Green bad false start penalty. He showed up later in the game as a very real receiving option. Nothing flashy, but he ran good routes and soft hands. The 18 yard seam route he caught is something I want to see us throw to 2-3 times a game. If we can start working that route and some of the other options off that portion of the TE tree, it will go a long way to opening up this offense. Denver is in desperate need of more TE play involved in the passing game and I absolutely think Green is the one guy on the team that can get it done if the team will make those play calls and the QB will throw those routes.

Defense

What can you say about this defense that hasn’t been said already? They were again phenomenal. What is scary is that I see this defense getting into a groove at this point in the season and it reminds me a whole heck of a lot of what we saw last year. I’m honestly betting that it is playing just as well as our defense did last year through 8 games overall.

Now take that above statement and put the context around it...I just said that in week 8 after a game where we were missing Aqib Talib (our best corner hands down) and Brandon Marshal (our best ILB hands down). I’m really impressed with all the young guns who were asked to step up and hold down the fort (all of them did solid to spectacular jobs including Corey Nelson, Lorenzo Doss, and Bradley Roby) and the quality of the coaching that went into this happening. Also, the defense not missing a beat with Wade Phillips going down is a testament to the team and coaches.

Front 7

Shane Ray is getting so good with his edge contain game. I really feel like he’s an example of a young guy who is taking steps forward with every week that he’s getting to see play time. Even with Ware coming back, the kid has a role on this team and he’s holding down his side and creating pressure constantly.

Great job getting the fumble for Ware coming from the right side...sadly the refs didn’t want to call it what it was. There’s nothing in that replay that makes me thing the ball was moving before Ware’s hand was on the football. Also, didn’t Ware look good on 3rd downs? So glad we’re seeing him back on the field.

Corey Nelson had a few good coverage plays on RBs out of the backfield. Late in the game he gets caught in traffic and gives up a big yardage pass on a poor choice. You can’t really complain though...this kid was out there for 95% of the snaps and did a heck of a job as a back-up.

Todd Davis nice run stop perfect job shooting the gap. Late in the game he had some really great coverage in space...the best coverage play of his all season to be fair.

Jared Crick is still a liability against the run, but man, that cat plays well on pass rush situations. He swatted down two big pass plays in the game and was another thorn in the side of Rivers all game.

Secondary

T.J. Ward gives up TD to Gates early that was pretty darn tough to stop (great throw...what can you do?). He had a great blitz to get a sack on 3rd and long. He got caught flat footed in man coverage on Gates at the end of the 2nd quarter to give up good yardage. Honestly, we ask this guy to cover tight ends like this in press man and I don’t know how he’s not going to take some lumps in those match ups at times. He’ll have the same kind of game against Gronk in all likelihood in a few weeks. The only thing I see that we can do in coverage is roll a safety over the top or let him be the safety over the top and put a linebacker on the underneath coverage. T.J. honestly had a monster game and easily could have been the defensive MVP of it.

I’ve been pretty critical of Bradley Roby’s play so far this season, but wow, did he look good in this game. He had great coverage on 3rd down in man...right on his guy’s hip to defend the pass. Also that was a filthy play to cause the pick 6 by breaking on a route he knew was coming. His game was darn near flawless and showed that he definitely belongs in the No Fly Zone fo sho.

The other guy that we need to give some props to was Lorenzo Doss. This guy probably didn’t even know he was going to be suited up until Saturday. He filled in great for Kayvon Webster and showed that he’s got the goods to be on that field more. He had great coverage to start the 2nd half to tip the pass which D Stew hauled in. Doss also gets thrown on in man coverage on 4th down and makes a great play to knock the ball down at the end of the game. That was a big-time play in a big-time situation and we just had our 5th best corner on the team handle it.

Special Teams

Denver is one of the few teams that is consistently kicking off to the 1 yard line in order to force teams to return the ball. It is honestly a pretty darn smart play to bet on your coverage unit to be able to stop a guy from getting a 24 yard return...especially when you have a guy like Brandon McManus being able to drop it right at that spot consistently.

Justin Simmons had a total idiot play in hitting the punter on a 4th down to give them a 1st on a penalty.

Shaquil Barrett great block on extra point attempt...that kind of play is all effort and hustle.

You already saw I gave my game ball to Riley Dixon who’s hero punt out of the end zone helped seal the game. I can’t say enough about how big that punt was. Most punters have trouble getting a punt like that to travel 40 yards and he booted it for 68.

Final Thoughts

We’re getting to that point in the season where I think most of us have a pretty good idea who this team is. At this point, the 2016 Denver Broncos look an awful lot like the 2015 Denver Broncos.

I do fully believe that this team is still growing, learning, and gelling. I do think they can improve and especially on offense find some more production. That being said, short of some drastic moves (key free agent, trade, or QB change), I doubt we’ll see any kind of true evolution of the offense. The most realistic thing I can see happening is the team committing to getting excellent at running the ball. If they can actually do that, the offense will put up 20-25 points consistently of their own accord.

At the end of the day though, what is more likely is that we are going to keep asking our dominant defense to win games for us and our offense to keep doing their best to if not produce points, find a way to run more clock and give the defense enough rest in game.

I’ve seen the best way this story can end and I’m fully willing to see how things play out week by week as if you told me before the season started that at week 8 we’d be 6-2, I’d take it in a heartbeat.