The Denver Broncos faced their toughest opponent of the season in week three as they traveled to Cincinnati to face the Bengals with in a conference showdown between 2015 division leaders.
The Bengals team is well coached and has a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. Leading into the game I was very excited with anticipation because I knew this game would tell me the most about this 2016 Bronco team out of our first 4 games of the season.
The big thing I saw in this game is that the team (unfortunately for all the haters in the MSM and other team’s NFL fans) has not taken the big step backwards that all the talking heads were talking about this offseason. This team still knows how to win and win against really good teams (you taking notes, KC?).
I absolutely loved the progress of our playcalling in this game. Once Kubiak saw that the Bengals were putting 7-8 men in the box and taking away the run, he wasn’t hesitant at all to let our young QB air it out and use the pass to set up the run instead of our normal formula.
One frustrating thing for me in all this was seeing our team line up in shotgun so many times on 3rd and short. I get why: the line was fairly consistently losing the battle up front against a nasty as nails Bengal front-7. Nevertheless, one negative I saw here was that the line, while improved in comparison to last year’s line, still has a lot of work to do in order to be able to convert those short yardage situations consistently.
I loved the play calling on our big 4th quarter drive. We moved the ball down the field well. On the goal line series we brought in a FB to get the defense thinking run, then got the TD pass with a great play action call on the next play. Really, the majority of the playcalling in the 4th quarter was spot on.
The one thing I’ve feared this season was the health of our tackles. Both Russel O’kung and Donald Stephenson look like great book-ends for the line on the field, but when one or both of them are injured, the line play takes a significant step backwards.
Really the biggest worry I have for our offense is the health on the outside. O’kung’s health needs to be a priority and if that means sitting him now so that he’s healthy later in the season, I’d advocate that that is the direction to take (with my arm-chair coach’s hat on).
Ty Sambrailo made his return in this game, and he clearly didn’t look ready to my eyes. He was more of a turnstile at right tackle than Michael Schofield was last season. The play was just consistently poor with bad technique, slow footwork, and a couple of examples of him getting flat out over-powered. Sambrailo gave up a bad sack to Dunlap in the 2nd half. He was never a factor in blocking his assignment on that one. Also, as was pointed out during the broadcast, he lacked hustle on the 2pt conversion failure or Siemian would have had a lane to run through.
C.J. Anderson early looked shaky, tripping himself at times. I love how powerful he runs as one of the Bengal’s linebackers knocked himself out trying to take Anderson down with force.
Other than that, it was a pretty sad day for both Anderson and Devontae Booker in the run game as they averaged less than 3 yards per carry. The blame in my mind doesn’t really go on them so much as the line though. With the Bengals putting so many in the box and keying off the run, the line had to play extraordinary in order to have success in the run game and that wasn’t what happened.
I honestly hated hearing our WRs chirp about not getting targets last week, but color me wrong and serve me up a plate of crow. They got their targets and WOW, did they produce.
Emmanuel Sanders was very key early in the game. Getting involved in almost the whole route tree with deep, intermediate, and screen routes. He finished the game with 2 TDs and 117 yards on 9 catches. That’s a gaudy stat line for a WR.
Demaryius Thomas shows early that he’s still too big and too fast to cover getting a key illegal contact penalty in the red zone. Later in the game he coughs up a costly fumble and had an untimely false start. To redeem himself, he grabs the game sealing deep ball from Siemian way down the field out fighting his defender for the score. He wasn’t quite as loud as Sanders, as he only had 1 TD and 100 yards on 6 catches.
We really missed Virgil Green in this game. While the ball got spread around a lot, it seemed to me like we lacked a productive 3rd option that was consistently producing.
23 of 35 passes for 312 yards with 4 TDs and a big fat goose egg in the interception column. I tip my hat to young Trevor Siemian for his play in this game as it was outstanding. You have to say that that is darn fine work for a 2nd year QB in his first road game start ever.
One of my big worries this season was why isn’t this kid throwing the ball downfield? I still don’t know the answer, but we’ve seen he can do it and with good results.
Not only did he hit on the deep ball multiple times, the decision making was superb on each one. He didn’t toss it up into bad coverage situations and he was able to throw the ball at angles where his guy had a better play on the ball than the defender every time.
Another think I liked was his scrambling play in this game as he did a good job getting yards when he needed to, but mostly was looking downfield for open guys. Young QBs have a lot of trouble with this aspect of the game as they get happy feet and start focusing more on the pressure around them instead of trusting their senses, and keeping their focus downfield.
My last point on Siemian’s positives had to do with his 2 minute drill work. Siemian showed a lot of moxy right before halftime. He converted a 3rd and 1 to Sanders, then threw a perfect pass on an out route for the TD. The kid seems to have ice water in his veins no matter the situation. That’s a very good thing in my opinion.
Siemian early in the red zone still wasn’t sharp with his accuracy and missed two open routes on a 3rd and short. Siemian’s accuracy was really all over the place early in this game throwing consistently too outside or too behind his receivers. The promising thing here is that he seems to get better as the game goes on and hopefully that translates into better ball placement as he gets more and more experience.
While the run defense looked extremely shaky early on, I love seeing the defense adjust in game. There’s no way you can say this defense doesn’t miss Malik Jackson, but they are finding a way to get it done.
I’d love to see Wade Phillips retire and write “The Tao of the No Fly Zone”. This defense just doesn’t let QBs pass on them. I love the pride the secondary has in their play and I also love how semi-invisible they seemed in this game. A lot of times the less you notice the secondary, the better it is.
Early in the game, Cincinatti ran right at Sylvester Williams and got huge chunks. The inside linebackers weren’t keeping good gap discipline either. Most of the rushes on their early TD drive went right at the A gaps and we had no answer.
Billy Wynn and Jared Crick both flashed a bit to me after that first drive getting business done in the backfield and destroying their blocker. We need more of these guys to show up more consistently. The inside of the defensive front 7 is the one concern I have for this defense and it appears to be a lack of consistency in their play.
Dakoda Watson gets completely owned on the 2nd Bengal touchdown. He had the edge contain and completely got washed out. He needs to push his guy back and invite the back to run on his inside then crash down instead. There is no help to the outside on that play and he has to understand that and reroute the runner.
At half time, Shane Ray shotgunned a can of spinach and came out going nuts on the Bengals. He was a one man wrecking show on their 2nd drive completely ruining Dalton 2 plays in a row. He absolutely looked just as good as Ware has in recent games across from Von.
Aqib Talib laid the wood on A.J. Green early on with a short route giving him something to think about. Late in the 4th quarter on a big 3rd down throw, Green drops an easy pass hearing footsteps. I’m absolutely of the mind that these two things are related. WRs like Green can get scared when they get the #@$^ knocked out of them.
Keo comes in for Ward and makes a great coverage tackle on a 3rd and 10 play. What was really interesting to me was this was his only play on defense in the game. We really leaned on Parks when we needed a 3rd safety. I also think that is smart play by Dalton to go after a guy who showed last year that he’s vulnerable in coverage.
Chris Harris, Jr. played very well all game long. I kept an eye on him when the angle allowed in this game and man, was he pasted to his guy every time I looked. He didn’t get thrown on because he was consistently all over the routes the receivers were running at him and darn near got another tipped ball INT when they did throw at him.
T.J. Ward and Darrian Stewart are the super glue of this secondary. That can’t be pointed out enough. Their physicality and technical work is art for guys like me who love seeing good defense.
Latimer brings out a kickoff to start the game that was 4 yards deep with good hang time. It was foolish as he lost us about 10 yards. Hopefully DeCamillis works with him on the timing of his returns. He had a good one soon after, where the hang time was shorter. Later in the game another long hang time kick was returned for not nearly enough to make it worth the risk in my mind.
Keo joins the team to help on special teams - his first significant play is to give the opponent a free 15 yards by hitting him way out of bounds. The good thing is he made up for it later by recovering a fumble.
Shout out to Riley Dixon for some really solid punting work. He averaged 46.2 yards in his 5 punts in this game and being away from the friendly altitude in Denver makes that a pretty impressive number for a rookie.
We are undefeated at 3-0 to start the season. You can’t ask for more than this. Much like last year, I’m every moment of the game hopeful that the team is going to make something positive happen to either stay in it, get back in it, or seal the victory.
This is what winning football looks like. It isn’t Star Wars aerial attacks that consistently put 30 points on the board. It isn’t consistent shut-outs by a defense. That’s not how the NFL works today. Teams are too good and you have to adjust game by game, drive by drive, play by play.
The good teams ebb and flow as the state of the game changes searching for the way to victory. They fight ceaselessly as brothers with pride and power. We’re blessed as fans to see that happening each week from this team. THIS is Broncos Football, ladies and gentlemen.