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Broncos at Saints: The No Bull Review

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The Denver Broncos pulled out a gutsy win in the Big Easy. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on their victory over the New Orleans Saints.

NFL: Denver Broncos at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

I have to say the Denver Broncos sure do know how to win football games. We do it with offense, defense, and special teams. Each phase showed up somehow or someway in this game.

Was it complete from start to finish in any phase? I don’t think I’d say that. But we can as Bronco fans and aficionados find something positive in each facet of the game especially when the team pulls out a gritty win against a very strong opponent.

Offense

I honestly felt like from a playcalling perspective, the team took a small step forward in this game. There’s still too many inside run plays. There’s still too many 5 - 7 step drop plays without bootlegs or moving pockets.

But there were some positive steps being taken: more throws at the sticks on 3rd downs (with surprise surprise...more conversions!), more throws to the tight ends, and some actual quarterback sneaks on short yardage situations.

My big hope as a fan is that we see the team really build on this and take another step forward offensively when we come back after the bye week.

Quarterbacks

Let’s talk positives first about Trevor Siemian: the kid can take a lick and keep on ticking. He had a LOT of heat on him in this game and kept fighting. That’s a positive. I also thought he had some really nice ball placement throws. His TD to Sunshine was an example of a very well thrown NFL pass.

The one thing that is starting to drive me absolutely bonkers with Siemian’s play is that he consistently stares down his receivers without either looking off the defense or bouncing to the next read in his progression. What is most worrisome about this is that he isn’t improving on this crutch that most young NFL QBs have. He’s played in enough games that this weakness should be a focus of his development by his coaches and either he isn’t taking to the teaching or isn’t being directed to improve in this area.

What is most scary is that defenses are absolutely keying off of his eyes and it is starting to catch up to him. Interceptions that have been luckily dropped many many times in earlier games have been getting caught. It is THE biggest thing he needs to change so that he can help give our offense a chance to be a more positive factor in the outcomes of our last 6 games of the season.

The next problem he’s getting is something Kubiak spoke about on Monday: he’s not keeping himself in a safe spot in the pocket and when the play starts to break down, he’s picking poor angles in which to escape which is leading to more pressures, failed plays, and sacks.

Finally, I’m questioning his ability to read defenses well. His last interception for instance he threw into an area of the field with 3 defenders. He thought his guy was going to cut his route outside (or badly misthrew it), but the problem was there was a defender directly in that path who ended up with the ball. Even if the receiver cuts that direction the pass is still likely picked off or the player gets completely lit up on the play.

I think the most exciting thing for me is that the team has two weeks with which to really clean up some of these bad habits with him. We’re going to need better play from the QB position if we want to be in a good spot for the postseason.

Line

On 3rd downs, the line’s pass blocking just isn’t holding up. Part of the problem comes from Siemian, but there’s just as much fault if not more in our linemen not being able to hold their blocks or redirect their assignments properly.

The big problems I saw in this one was Max Garcia at left guard and Donald Stephenson at right tackle. Stephenson got benched late in the game for Ty Sambrailo even. I’m interested to see if the coaches make a change at LG. Garcia has been playing poorly overall for quite a few games and the team really needs someone who can physically hold their spot down better than what he has been.

Sadly, while many in Broncos Country noticed the line had a fairly bad game, there was actually some really good play happening by Matt Paradis, Michael Schofield, and Russell Okung. All three of those guys played very well and at least from this one game looked like a solid foundation for our line to build off of.

Running Backs

Devontae Booker came out of the gates looking like a beast for us in the running game. He made lots of good power runs, quick moves, and showed good bursts of speed to gain yardage.

As the game wore on, the running game took a step back. The line seemed to be unable to keep opening up lanes for our runners to make gains through as the game moved on. I’m not sure whether this was from conditioning, scheme problems, or the defense adjusting. I will say both Booker and Kapri Bibbs were giving the effort. They didn’t get enough to wow anyone out of it, but they were both laying it out there on the field.

Receivers

Demaryius Thomas had a straight up monster game. This game was the closest we’ve seen all year to DT taking over a game like we all know he is capable of. His TD in the 3rd quarter is a play we should be seeing at least once every drive inside the 10 yard line. He should come down with the fade 7 out of every 10 tries. My favorite thing was that for the first time in what seems like a year or more, DT was playing with fire in his belly. He played mad, with passion, and his effort shined through throughout the game.

Jordan Taylor’s work early in the game was impressive. I’m not sure why we aren’t seeing more of him in games as he still looks to me like a very high ceiling passing option for our offense to use. I do know we use him as a backup to DT’s position, but the talent he’s showing is such that we should be finding more ways to use him by having him do some work at the y position as well.

A.J. Derby looks like a tight end that is definitely developing in this offense. It is a component the team has been missing. He ran good routes and looked to me to have a component of speed missing from our other tight end options. I’m flat out stoked to see if he can start giving us 3-5 catches per game. If he can contribute like that, the passing offense has a chance to really open up and look much more positive.

Jordan Norwood surely deserves a hat tip from me for this game. He got 3 targets, caught all of them, and looked like a very solid z player for the team when we went with 11 personnel. This was offensively his best work of the season.

That one handed catch by Andy Janovich was sick. That is all.

Defense

Man, this defense is so good. I don’t know if many of you realize it or not, but this defense just held a healthy Drew Brees offense with plenty of weapons to less than 30 points. That is a big win, ladies and gentlemen of Broncos Country and it speaks volumes to me to see them pull out a game like that being down two very significant starters in Aqib Talib and Derek Wolfe.

Front 7

Shaquil Barrett great job getting the sack in the 2nd half on a very athletic and physical move by him to get Brees’ ankle. He had an awesome TFL also and I still scratch my head when I peek at the snap percentages and see that he was only on the field for 20% of the snaps. He’s too good to not use and I’d argue he’s a better asset than Shane Ray (37% of the snaps in this game).

Jared Crick with the big play to force a fumble at the end of the game. I also thought he did his best work of the year in executing his assignments in run defense. It wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t getting blow off the play every time like he did last week.

The Saints did a pretty impressive job holding back Von Miller. He was fairly consistently chipped or double-teamed. He still got a QB hit in though and was close to getting sacks a couple of times.

Secondary

Darian Stewart had the game of his life against the Saints. He just seemed to be constantly in the right place at the right time, but that is what really good safeties in the NFL do. The big thing that you can tell from this game is that the guy has such a good eye for where the plays are going. We talk a ton about how much the corners for Denver study the game and I guarantee you that same precedence applies to what you see from D Stew.

Bradley Roby gets smoked deep in the 2nd half. He wasn’t even close to being in position after a double move. He also gives up a TD in the end zone in man coverage by getting out physicaled and not being able to stay with his guy. It wasn’t all bad though as Roby did a great job punching the ball out to give the team a big turnover. He had a couple of very nice passes defended as well. It wasn’t a dumpster fire of a game like he had against Oakland, but it wasn’t what I would call shiny.

Kayvon Webster showed up for me in a positive way. He had some really nice tight coverage on his assignments and broke up a couple of passes.

On the Saints first touchdown, T.J. Ward and Webster clearly weren’t on the same page. Webster should have taken the outside guy and left his guy to Ward.

Special Teams

That blocked extra point is worthy of some serious applause from Broncos Country. Joe DeCamilis deserves some props for the design. Justin Simmons deserves some props for the freakishly athletic block. Jared Crick deserves some props for legally keeping the center down and away from the leaping Simmons. Finally, Will Parks deserves some props for the scoop and score (even if he stepped out of bounds).

Final Thoughts

I am going to address that run back: it should absolutely have been overturned. There were 3 good angles that showed his foot crossing the line. Is it hard to see? Sure...the shoes are white and that makes it tough. I didn’t have to change gamma settings or zoom in to tell he stepped out though. The play standing was flat out poor officiating and as a fan of football, I want to give some serious empathy to the Saints’ fans.

That being said, even if the play gets overturned I like the Broncos chances to still win the game. It was still tied after all.

Beyond that, the team played very strong in this one. It was a big time win and every game we have left on the schedule is going to carry more and more weight. The opposition is very tough. The encouraging thing is that this team has shown for over a year and a half that it knows how to find ways to win games. This week it was on the ST.

I have to say, the bye week for the Broncos is coming at a perfect spot. It is put up or shut up time. The Broncos are in a great place in which to fight for a good playoff spot. Heck if we win out, we can even get the #1 seed...