It may have been windy during the Broncos game against the Raiders, but there was one huge gust when Justin Simmons high pointed the final pass from EJ Manuel. That gust was the collective exhaling of Broncos Country. A sigh of relief, as Oakland appeared to be headed toward a comeback win.
When Simmons came down with the game clinching interception, it was a big moment for him, and for the team. A division win, against a hated rival, bouncing back from a bad loss the week before. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. We can go over the biggest highlight, waxing poetic about A.J. Derby’s OBJ’esque touchdown grab, but that was just a sliver of this game.
The real tale of this game was in red zone efficiency. As Ian St. Clair and I discussed on the Mile High Report Radio post game recap, both teams had a zero percent efficiency rating. They were zero percent from goal to go, and from the red zone. The big difference? While Denver was 0 for 4 in the red zone and 0 for 2 in goal to go, Oakland never made it into the red zone.
That points to two rather distinct discussions. There is the negative, offense was bad. There is the positive, defense was good. That might be too simplistic, but in a way, Denver dominated against the Raiders. Oakland never made it to the red zone. Their lone touchdown was on a flukey 65 yard bomb to a player who had one catch in the game.
The score was not as lopsided as it should have been, but Vance Joseph made a good point after the game. While answering a question about teams committing to stopping the passing attack, Joseph observed that the passing game is where points are scored.
“You can give up 150 yards rushing and be in a football game, we just watched it. The pass game is where you make your chunk yards and where you score points.”
The Broncos gave up just 24 rushing yards, but Oakland still had a chance to win at the end. Denver rushed for 143, but couldn’t get the ball into the end zone but one time. It is an example of where the NFL is today, and the problems the Broncos have on offense.
Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy & Marshawn Lynch combined against the Broncos' run D this season: 50 carries, 95 yards, 0 TD.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 1, 2017
Unfortunately, the Broncos struggled once again down the stretch. At 3-1, they head into the bye with a winning record, but a lot of questions to answer. In two of their three wins, Denver has been unable to put teams away. The last second heroics of Shelby Harris and Simmons are great moments, but point to something bigger.
The Broncos don’t seem to possess a killer instinct. Yes, they crushed Dallas. And yes, the defense is dominating against the run. However, they had the Raiders on the ropes, and never landed a knock out blow. Brandon McManus missed a 29 yard field goal that could have effectively ended the game. That is becoming too common place for him.
And if Derek Carr had not experienced back spasms and been forced to leave, would Denver have been able to hold on? Maybe, but hanging on, rather than stomping on teams, can backfire. Where were the big plays to slam the door shut? Mike McCoy got away from the run too quickly once again. While Joseph is right about points coming from the passing game, controlling the tempo of the game starts with the run.
The #Broncos have 144 yards rushing. Imagine how much more they would have if they ran it on first downs more often.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) October 1, 2017
Trevor Siemian can win games, but only if the rushing attack is used correctly. C.J. Anderson rushed 20 times for 95 yards, and he should have had another 30. Jamaal Charles added 5 rushes for 33 yards. He should have had another 5 for 30. The only way Denver can win consistently is by using the running game to control the game. They did not do that against Oakland and it almost cost them.
The Broncos defense will win games. They have been doing that since 2015. But in the toughest division in football, Siemian and the offense are going to be forced to do more. They showed their capabilities against Dallas. Now they must find a way to duplicate that. No more hanging by a thread victories. Broncos Country can’t handle it. Well, maybe we can.