Broncos Country expects playoff appearances from their team. I know I do. It is the one key thing I look back on after a season to measure its success by. This was not a successful season for our Denver Broncos, but I am at least hopeful for the future as we still have a ton of talent and a lot of heart and it showed on Sunday afternoon in Denver against our upstart rivals the Oakland Raiders (who are in my opinion 99% likely to be one and done in the playoffs as you can already see Jack of the River folding like a cheap lawn chair in this game).
The defense was again phenomenal in this game. Wade Phillips had the unit playing dominating, smothering football as well they should be against backup QBs and a team with their hopes floating away in the wind with their star QB out for the season. Our run defense was impressive. Our pass defense was as well. The defense has a lot to be proud of and a solid foundation of work to build off of for next season.
Shaquil Barrett quietly continues to play superb football to finish the season. His pass rush and run defense was on spot this game as he was disruptive against both with a short yardage solo run stop and quarterback hit. One thing that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet is how many times he caused pressure. For a guy that was only in on 56% of the snaps, his production was a definite plus for the team.
Jared Crick may have picked up a roughing the quarterback penalty, but his pass rush in the first half was pretty darn impressive. Matt McCloin was a hurting puppy and had to leave the game after Crick destroyed him twice in the same drive. He’s another guy whose numbers don’t jump off the stat sheet for this game, but he was in on 94% of the snaps and probably played his best game as a Bronco as far as balanced play against the run and the pass.
Cory Nelson made a great play for a LB shedding a blocker so he could stop a 3rd and 5 swing pass and got an assist from Von Miller to keep the ball carrier from getting the first down yardage. Early on this season I was worried about his play, but he’s really grown this year to being a solid ILB for our team. With Brandon Marshall out, he was in on 100% of the snaps and while my socks weren’t knocked off by his play, he’s a guy I think has a future in the NFL.
Von Miller’s run defense was again on display as he blew up a 3rd and short run with the help of Jared Crick. It was one of the better run defense plays we’ve seen from the defense all year as well. He even blew up a trick run play to force a fumble as well. He’s still in the business of showing off how good of an NFL player he is as he dropped into zone coverage on the outside and defended a swing pass his direction perfectly. This guy isn’t just a Reggie White type of player...he’s a complete NFL linebacker who’s amazing at pass rushing, great at run defense, and good at pass coverage. That’s a lot of progress since he first joined the team and a credit to how hard he works to be the best at what he does on the field.
Justin Simmons again gets a nice interception being in the right place at the right time. He’s a solid young player who has a bright future in the NFL and his play is something that is going keep safety from being anywhere on the radar as far as need goes this next year in the offseason.
Will Parks has had more of an up and down time on the field this year than Simmons, but he represented himself really well this game. His pass tip that almost was a interception by Aqib Talib was a great play by a defensive back. While I don’t see him playing as well as Simmons, he’s playing better and better. If he keeps putting in the work, he’s going to be the kind of impact player that T.J. Ward has been in his career with big hits and playmaking ability.
In the game that mattered the least, the offense finally put everything together and played a solid game from start to finish. We got an early lead, built on it, and then sailed the ship home to bring home a win for Gary Kubiak.
I’m proud of the effort, but there’s also a big part of me that feels frustrated that we didn’t see this earlier in the year with any consistency. I know the offense feels that way too.
Trevor Siemian’s first pass to Cody Latimer had the best heat on it I’ve seen from him all year. It was the tightest of windows with guys all around his receiver and he got the ball in there with a very accurate pass. His accuracy on deep passes looked poor in this game as he missed both Demaryius Thomas and Latimer on deep routes where they had their defenders beat. He also floated a deep pass short for Kalif Raymond who would have walked into the end zone if he was led properly. His interception into triple coverage was just dog poo in all honesty. It was a throw he should have known better than to even attempt.
I will say it was most disappointing to me to not see Paxton Lynch get some snaps in this game. I understand Kubiak wanting to finish with his guy and make sure the win was secured. I just think there’s a large chunk of Broncos Country that wanted to see the rookie get some snaps and it would have been nice for them and for the rookie.
Virgil Green and Donald Stephenson sprung the touchdown run to the outside by doing a great job of keeping their blocks on the edge. Really, the whole line played probably its best game of the year in both run blocking and pass blocking. There were issues, but they weren’t nearly as rampant as we’ve seen most of this season.
Justin Forsett had a nice powerful run in the 1st quarter that showed the kind of running this team has been missing for most of the season. Later in the game he got sprung for a 60+ yard run that was one of the best blocked runs we’ve seen from the Broncos all year long.
Devontae Booker had his best game as a Bronco as well running with power and speed to get good chunks of yards for us in the run game, a very nice TD run and a great screen catch he took to the house on a 3rd and 18.
Jeff Heuerman digs a catch out and turns it into a big play to start the game. I really liked what he showed in the passing game and look forward to seeing him stay healthy and build on what he accomplished this season.
Latimer finally decided to show up this season with a couple of nice early catches. He kept getting targets after Sanders went out and showed some decent route running and fighting for the ball.
Jordan Taylor got some really nice looks in this game and is a player that we definitely need to see more of next year. He runs really smooth routes and shows the kind of soft hands you want in a receiver. Next year I would hope to see more of him on the outside across from DT with Emmanuel Sanders in the slot.
Early in the 3rd quarter, Demaryius Thomas showed what he can do in the open field when you hit him on the intermediate throws with heat...he sliced his way around defenders for a big gain.
Virgil Green finally showed back up in the passing game and got a TD catch on a well designed red zone play. I still dig this guy’s game. His run blocking is probably the best out of our current group of TEs and he is a good weapon to be used especially in play action.
Brandon McManus’ miss wasn’t any real big deal to me. 46 yards in the NFL is no gimmie and he made up for it with some great kickoffs using his big leg.
I still see good promise in Kalif Raymond’s return game. He shows the kind of speed you want back there and hopefully he can build more consistency this offseason so that we can have an answer at returner.
I never like seeing our team end the season in the regular season. But I’m proud of the way they ended it. Losing for draft position is for the birds. End the season with a win, sock it to jokeland, and get ready to come back and fight next year. We still had a winning season and the team has a lot of promise on it. I’m excited to review the season some more for you soon and dig into what should be a very eventful and exciting Broncos offseason.
Let me finish off the season by saying a HUGE “Thank you for EVERYTHING, Gary.” I may critique the heck out of our coaches, players, and front office, but at the end of the day I have nothing but humble respect for the job you’ve done for us as a quarterback, coordinator, and ultimate team leader over the years. Thank you for the Super Bowl. You had a huge hand in bringing it home last year and I’ll treasure my memories of it and of you as the head coach forever.