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Broncos vs Raiders: The No Bull Review

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The Denver Broncos won an early season “must-win” game against the hapless Oakland Raiders. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on the Denver Broncos’ most recent game.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Just win, baby.

Yeah, I’m going there. Pound sand, jokeland with your talk of AFC West division titles and postseason success. We have taken your coaches and now we have broken your will. Now get your overrated butts back in the AFC West cellar and fight with the Chargers over a bone.

While I’m on my tangent, can we talk about how spineless Oakland’s team is? I mean have they even heard of the phrase, “Next man up?” Yes the QB is very very important, but can anyone on your sideline sack the hell up and play some football when your starter goes down? From Jack ‘o the River to the defensive players, there’s just no fight in the eyes of the faders when Carr goes down.

But enough trash talk. Let’s get back to talking about the Broncos...good and bad.

Defense

This defense is absolutely phenomenal at defending the run. That’s still a decent place to start on that side of the game and translates on the NFL field even in today’s pass-happy offensive game. Let me take to the time to lend my humble opinion to the narrative that is out there: this is no illusion. The backs and lines Denver have faced aren’t push overs. The Broncos are setting one heck of a standard about what teams can and cannot do on offense.

I’ve got more to say on this from a wider viewpoint, but I’m going to save that for my 2017 season 1st quarter review coming later this week.

Front 7

Derek Wolfe and Domata Peko were monsters up front. The 4th down stop in the 2nd quarter had everything to do with those guys getting their push up front and controlling the line. Like much of the rest of the game, the trenches were owned by Wolfe, Peko, and Gotsis.

Shaquil Barrett is so good at penetration against the run. He caused a big TFL in the 2nd half. He also spent the majority of the game swarming into the backfield causing pressure which is something I’m both getting used to seeing and very comfortable with. I still see absolutely nothing that tells me Ray should start ahead of him after the bye.

Brandon Marshall got thrown at a lot early, but handled himself in pass coverage much better in this game than he did in the first 3 of the season. Yes, he got beat once that I saw, but he also was solid in coverage in plenty of other plays that more than made up for it.

Secondary

Will Parks had some very nice man coverage in the 1st quarter running right in his guy’s hip pocket. Again later he makes a great stop on a short crossing route on 3rd down. Late in the 4th quarter the Raiders drive down the field and have an easy TD on Parks except that Cook alligator arms the easy score. Aside from that, this game was a big time coming out party to my eyes for Parks. It was the best work I’ve seen him put on the field so far in his young, promising NFL career. Simmons had the play everyone is going to remember from this game, but Parks had a better game overall believe it or not.

That being said, Justin Simmons straight up won the game with one hell of a ball-hawk play out high pointing a WR at the end of the game. That is something you’d never see T.J. Ward do and hopefully puts to rest the talk of the Broncos making a mistake in letting Ward walk. His play was very solid all game as well. I’ve seen some pretty shaky coverage plays from him early this season, but he was dialed in and roaming the deep field well all game long.

Darian Stewart got smoked by a guy who had way too fast of jets for him to keep up with. The TD was an excellent play design by Oakland executed perfectly. They took advantage of Denver’s very common method of switching guys between Talib and Stewart and got Steward matched up with a kid that he didn’t have the legs to match.

Chris Harris Jr. doesn’t see a lot of action in most games because as we all know, he’s got the best corner technique in the NFL and as such most QBs are too smart to throw on him. That being said he’ll give up a short pass from time to time playing off man coverage and will make the tackle every. single. time. Seriously...his tackling is so good. He wraps the middle on guys he can match up with and wraps up ankles perfectly on guys he can’t due to size difference.

Offense

Color me underwhelmed. The Raiders defense is one that our offense should have absolutely feasted on. Their secondary especially. Nevertheless, after the first quarter, there just wasn’t much fireworks to be had in what is looking like a troublesome pattern for the season so far.

Quarterbacks

Trevor Siemian had a nice, efficient game that on paper looks decent enough. Heck, it got us the win and if anything, we should give the guy some praise for not throwing the rock to the other team for the first time this season. I’m happy with these results, but my eyes continue to see some negatives worth talking about.

The biggest is that he looks way too hesitant throwing the ball. On 3rd and 15 he had a crosser over the middle to Sanders was easily there but he didn’t throw and instead scrambled back and forth until he was sacked. As the game wore on he seemed more and more uneasy and unsure. I’m not sure if it was due to a change in coverage by Oakland or what, but past the 1st quarter, there just wasn’t much positive happening in the passing game and it wasn’t because guys weren’t getting open.

Yes, it is fair to say his line isn’t blocking well enough. Yes, it is even fair to say the run game isn’t doing enough either. But at the end of the day there may come a time where we need a QB to win a game for us (like week 3). Right now, we don’t have that kind of guy on the field judging from what we’ve seen so far this season. The winning formula for Siemian is to play with a lead, keep his pocket squeaky clean, and have a run game cranking along. I’m just saying that this is another thing that looks pretty good on paper.

Line

Max Garcia gives up a sack early in the game. I’m not going to lay off this guy and his garbage pail play. No he didn’t do any worse than we’ve seen the rest of the season, but that’s the problem. He’s consistently bad at playing Guard at the NFL level. I can’t believe that this is the guy who’s the best option on the team to play left guard. If that truly is the case, we have some very woeful problems with our offensive line coaching and development.

Ron Leary had a rough go today with a couple of costly penalties. He’s still more good than bad as he owns it the majority of the time in both run and pass blocking.

Also I find it absolutely nuts that with as bad as Menelik Watson plays, I saw what happened on the field on Sunday. Donald Stephenson comes in with his big chance to show why Denver restructured him and kept him a place on the team only to see him let Mack get by him WHEN he had help from a RB! You have GOT to be kidding me. All he had to do was side step half a foot to keep in front of Mack instead of thinking the back was going to take over.

The two guys I didn’t see much? That would be Matt Paradis and Garett Bolles. Know why? Because both of them doing a darn good job against both the run and the pass.

Running Backs

I want to let you in on a little joke: “C.J. Anderson is an awesome starting running back.” Yeah...that’s the joke. Yes, he has numbers, but I hope a lot of you out there in Broncos Country are using your eyes. The one consistent story about Anderson so far in 2017 is that he is getting propped up by one or two good runs per game. You look at the stat sheet and see 4.8 ypc with 95 yards on 20 attempts. Yeah, but dig deeper. Take away that long run of 40 and you get a better picture of what he’s bringing to the field as a starter: 19 runs for 55 yards or 2.9 ypc.

That’s not good, Broncos Country. As a matter of fact, that’s pretty frigging weak. I expect that kind of play from a home run threat 3rd down back type guy who only gets 10 touches a game, but every once in awhile he breaks one big. For a starter, I want a back who gets 4 ypc or more without getting propped up by big runs.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m a big advocate for big runs counting, but what I’m trying to speak to is the need for our offense to be productive and stay ahead of schedule. It seems nuts to me that a big physical back like Anderson gets his yards the way he does. There are a lot of plays every game where there is no hole and Anderson just runs into his blocker’s back instead of cutting back or bouncing outside. It is maddening at times to see.

Jamaal Charles had another very productive game. He’s getting very close to breaking one every game. He is such an elusive runner that gets bunches of yards off making guys miss. I really think that if his knee doesn’t get cut in this game, he would have been the talk of the day with 10 - 15 carries. He is easily twice the runner Anderson is and it is consistently showing up every game.

Receivers

A.J. Derby had the most filthy TD catch I’ve witnessed this season. One handed by the tip of the football and keeps his balance well enough to scoot into the end zone. That catch was a work of art. Later in the 2nd quarter he has a bad drop on 3rd down because he doesn’t look the ball all the way in before he tries to make a move. I’m hoping the team works him into the gameplan more as he looks like the TE we’re looking for: good deep, intermediate, and short with really great hands.

Bennie Fowler has some really good rapport with Siemian. He’s got a big catch radius like DT, and with all the time they’ve spent together, Siemian knows very well what spots to throw to for him. Strangely enough, as good as he consistently looks, in this game he only had the two early targets while Demaryius Thomas was targeted 5 with only one actual catch. :/

Special Teams

Isaiah McKenzie is a weapon in the return game. He hasn’t broke one yet, but he’s contributing quite bit of field position advantage to the team. It was pretty telling to see Oakland at the end of the half use a QB throw away on 4th down rather than punt to him (smart play by them by the way).

Loved seeing the disciplined play by our return team to stuff the fake punt. Can I just say that that fake punt was stupider than the one we tried last week? Seriously...who fake punts that far on their own side of the field when the game is still only one score?

Also, let’s give a shout out to Riley Dixon for some absolutely superb punt work in this game. His punt in the 4th quarter that hit inside the 5 was all technique on his part to keep the ball in the field of play. I almost took this out because his last punt was atrocious...he completely shanked it. Had we not got the INT, his poor punt would have been a story.

Final Thoughts

I know I do a lot of critiquing here and it can sound overly negative at times. My apologies. I love this stuff though. I love digging in and talking about what needs to get better. But let’s set that aside for a moment and get positive.

This was a nice statement game early in the season for the Broncos. All offseason and early in the first few weeks of the season the talk has been about the division belonging to KC and Oakland. The Broncos are a young team with new coaches. This game meant more than normal and shows a lot of moxy by every level of the team. The defense played big. The offense did good and didn’t give up any key turnovers. The special teams unit played well. The coaching was good. The Broncos played good football in every phase of the game. They belong in the discussion for the division crown regardless of how much the MSM and other AFC West fans may not want them to be.

Hit up the comments with your thoughts on the game. Also, as I hinted at earlier, I’m going to be doing a review of the first quarter of the season later this week in place of the Conversation Corner / 5 questions series. Feel free drop some feedback below on any questions you’d like answered or areas you’d like me to focus on.