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Ultimate Fan: Now THIS is the game Broncos snap the losing streak

The road to 10-6 (14-6) starts now.

Denver Broncos v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

Well, Broncos fans, this season is not for the faint of heart/fandom, so it’s only appropriate that this week’s Ultimate Fan is also an MHR Hall-of-Famer and a regular commenter. It’s going to take a fan of Zach Eckels’ caliber to give this team both the criticism and love it deserves as it fights its way out of a “what-feels-like-an-unprecedented” six-game losing streak.

But let’s not lose too much perspective here. The team is disappointing all of us just two years after winning a Super Bowl, but this should perhaps have not been unforeseen. After all, the offensive line under a legendary quarterback was suspect and has only minimally been fortified while the QB position has maximally depleted. And then with a third coaching staff in four years, it stands to reason there would be growing pains. Obviously, we were all hoping for fewer big ones, but nevertheless, there is plenty to still love and enjoy about this team - as Zach is here to remind us.

Plus, this weekend is the Ring of Fame game for the Broncos, so if nothing else, enjoy the trip down memory lane to recall the magnificent history this franchise has thanks to coaches like Red Miller and players like Terrell Davis.

Week 11: Bengals at Broncos

MHR – First, did you watch the entire game to the bitter end? At what point did you know the Broncos could not make it a game? Be honest, did you want to turn the TV off?
Zach Eckels: I watched every painful second of that game and then stuck around to listen to the postgame interview where a smug Tom Brady was told he was now the winningest quarterback on the road. Did anyone else notice that little smile he gave when she mentioned the tie he broke was with Peyton Manning? If TVs weren’t so expensive, we’d be needing a new one after that.

As far as knowing the game was over, I lost a whole lot of hope after the kickoff return. I didn’t give up on our chances for a comeback until that final special teams mistake where Joseph failed to call timeout with too many men on the field. After that paired with the touchdown with 10 defenders, I pretty much went into autopilot while watching the rest of it.

MHR - While this defense has awesome talent, it is not playing to its elite potential. Talk about some of the moves by John Elway and Vance Joseph that are impacting Joe Woods’ unit - cutting T.J. Ward, moving Demarcus Walker to OLB, putting Shane Ray in over Shaq Barrett:
Zach Eckels: The decision to cut T.J. Ward appears to be a great one. I love our young safeties, and while there are definitely growing pains, they look to fit in with the No Fly Zone every bit as much as we could have dared to hope. Ward on the other hand is begging for playing time with the Bucs.

The second and third bullet points are tied together in my mind. I have no idea what Walker is doing on the bench when we desperately need that push up the middle. Anything that could give us a spark in that area should be attempted. That’s what is missing from our defense right now. If we could only stop the QBs from stepping up in the pocket, Miller and Ray would be crashing in on them in record numbers. Without that push, Miller and Ray are simply pushed on past and Brady’s jersey stays sickeningly clean (seriously, you couldn’t have bleached it any whiter after Sunday night).

Ray’s problem is that he only goes full speed, which exacerbates the issue when a QB can step up and contain is lost. With a good push up the middle, Ray would absolutely deserve the spot over Barrett. If we can’t establish that, Barrett’s contain is sadly more of a necessity than a stellar pass rush. Either move could help in my mind, and it’s driving me crazy that we aren’t switching anything up.

MHR - A lot has been talked this week about the poor communication and lack of discipline we are seeing from players on the field, which has sparked debate over how much is coaching and how much is execution by the players. Where do you come down on this?
Zach Eckels: It’s the coaching in my eyes. Vance Joseph is supposed to be a leader of men, and we are the most undisciplined team I can recall. Players are confused about their assignments, not communicating, and making stupid mistakes. They aren’t playing with heart, and I’m starting to think that it wasn’t Trevor Siemian who took away Von Miller’s fun, it was Vance Joseph.

We’re in such a terrible scenario right now where we either establish that revolving door for coaches or double down on what appears to be a terrible hire. He needs to find a way to lead and the players need to be cut loose to trust their instincts again. We have the talent on paper. There’s no reason for us to be playing half this terribly.

MHR – Adam Malnatti mentioned the five stages of grief after the loss to the Patriots. Where are you on this spectrum with the Broncos right now - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance...Or have you reached the “Eff-It” stage with this team?
Zach Eckels: I definitely haven’t accepted it yet. I’m past denial and anger, and I’m pretty sure I’m past bargaining. Right now, this team just has me exhausted. Depression actually sums it up quite nicely.


OK, just kidding...had to snap us both out of depressive mode.

So … turning our attention away from the disaster that was Sunday night, let’s talk bright spots. What still encourages you about this team?
Zach Eckels: We still have talent across the board. Our running backs are averaging 4.2 yards per carry. We have two great receivers. And, despite some regression, our defense still has some of the greatest players we’ve ever seen.

Most teams would kill to have one shutdown corner. We have three of them to go along with VON FREAKING MILLER. The talent Elway has bestowed on us is still there and still very capable of beating any team in the NFL when our head is in the game. If Brock can continue playing mediocre football, we could win out from here on. 14-6 until we ain’t.

MHR - Looking to the Bengals game, Cincinnati is in much the same position as the Broncos - coming off a loss, sporting a disappointing 3-6 record, having issues with the O-line, defense not being able to hang in the game and uncertainty surrounding the coach. Which dumpster fire survives this weekend for the win?
Zach Eckels: The difference between our dumpster fire and theirs is that our players haven’t given up on the coaches yet. Hearing Marvin Lewis throw Jeremy Hill under the bus this week for wanting surgery was pretty disgusting. Vance may not have a good grip on being a coach yet, but at least he still says all the right things (even if the PC responses get terribly annoying).

MHR - Among the many lowlights last week, a highlight was obviously Emmanuel Sanders. Do you think the Osweiler/Sanders connection will continue this weekend to give some spark to this offense that has definitely performed better of late?
Zach Eckels: How can you not love Sanders? Watching him go up against Butler was one of the few things that really made me smile last week. I fully expect that connection to continue thriving as long as Osweiler is under center. They have great timing and Brock trusts him completely. If Sanders can spread the field again (without having to play from behind this time), it will completely open up the game for our offense.

MHR - The Bengals’ defense will certainly cause our O-line some problems. How do you think the latest combo of Barbre/Stephenson plus Bolles and Leary can handle Geno Atkins, Chris Smith and William Jackson?
Zach Eckels: The Patriots weren’t the hardest test our line will face this year, but I think we were all pleasantly surprised at how well our line stood up regardless. Pair that with a smarter QB (Siemian burn), and I think they’ll hold up OK. Not great, but OK. The more we let them go on attack with the run game, the better though.

MHR - Vontaze Burfict continues to many skirmishes do you expect him to have at Mile High this weekend and which quarter do you expect him to be ejected?
Zach Eckels: Hopefully there’s only one skirmish that gets him ejected…before the game starts that doesn’t involve any of our guys. He’s the one name that keeps popping into my head when I tell myself we don’t have anything to lose this weekend. He doesn’t deserve to be in the league anymore after the crap he has pulled. When players start saying you need to go, it’s long past due. I’d love for an official to “unfairly provoke” him again and avoid any and all of his nonsense headhunting.

MHR - Our “No Fly Zone” has been more like the “Sure You Can Fly Zone” lately. How do you expect them to perform against A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell and what combination of man and zone coverage do you think will work best against this Bengals offense?
Zach Eckels: Our zone coverage has been killing us. We force them to do too much, their communication gets scrambled and responsibilities are dropped. Our bread and butter is the man coverage, and hopefully this matchup will be just what we need to get some of that swagger back. We have three cornerbacks who could shut down either of those receivers. We just need to let them play and take over the game. If we let Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby loose, we may give up a few plays here or there, but Green and LaFell are going to have to earn them, and they’ll be frustrated by the end of the game.

MHR - Defending the tight end and pass-catching running back has been an issue, but for once our opponent isn’t particularly strong there as its starters in both are out with injuries. Will this be the game our defense can contain tight ends and backs?
Zach Eckels: If the secret on our struggles in this area wasn’t out before the Patriots, Sunday Night Football did a great job of announcing it to the world. If the Bengals use their typical game plan, this should be a great game for us to get back on track. Joe Mixon has shown that he can be an all-purpose back though, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them experiment with that on us. The last thing I want is for a guy like him to have a big day against us, so I’m really hoping we’re able to contain him...and lay a few hard hits on him as well. (Simmons, I’m looking at you!)

MHR - Let’s play a little game I like to call “You can coach better than our coach” and talk about this week’s game plan.

You’re Mike McCoy, what kind of plays do you mix in Sunday to account for the pass rush but also consider talented cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard? How do you take advantage of Jamaal Charles’ speed/vision?

First of all, we have to let Charles chase the edge. The man is a luxury car and we have to quit treating him like an SUV. And we also have to quit worrying about him getting hurt and give him some extra snaps. What are we afraid of with his knees? If he gets injured and we don’t have him as an option, it doesn’t change much from how we’re using him now. But outside of Charles, we just have to pound the ball as much as possible. We need to beat them up all game long with the occasional shot at Sanders to keep everyone honest. You beat the Bengals with the run and we can do that if we just stick to it.

As Joe Woods, how much zone vs. man? Who do you put on A.J. Green? How do you take advantage of Cedric Ogbuehi, who might compete well with us for worst O-lineman? Ray or Barrett?

Man all game long. I let them line AJ Green up against whomever they want and challenge them to throw on Talib, CHJ or Roby. No more overcomplicating things, just let them take control of the game. I also put Walker next to Wolfe and tell them to bullrush every snap. If they would get the push I think they can, Miller and Ray would both be eating greedy all game long. And my bet is Talib would also add a notch to the Pick 6 record he’ll end up breaking.

Brock Olivo. Ugh. Is it possible to have a worse outing than last week? What do you do to avoid the major blunders this week?

Did anyone not love the enthusiasm for special teams that this man brought to the table? Man did he have me dreaming big on this aspect of our game. That’s over and done. Our special teams aren’t going to win us squat. They’re job is to not mess anything up. No more kick returns out of our endzone. When there’s any doubt at all, fair catch punts. (Also McKenzie is inactive.) When we’re kicking, we’re shooting for touchbacks. No more trying to be the team’s saviors. It’s their job to not be mentioned at all on Monday.

MHR - Last question - are you in the “Embrace the Tank” camp or with me in the “Rally your ass off every game” camp (could I have baited you any more for that - haha?) But seriously, what do you think is best for this team’s future as well as its morale?
Zach Eckels: As luring as a high draft pick is right now, I can’t embrace the tank. We’re better than that. I know the theory about a mediocre season being the worst of both worlds, but we’re a laughing stock right now and nothing is worse than that. There are no opponents left on our schedule who we can’t play with. And even if the final game of the season ends up meaning nothing but how high our draft pick will be, I will still want to destroy the Chiefs to ring out the old year.

MHR - Wait, THIS is the last question: A highlight of this game will be honoring Terrell Davis for his HOF induction and finally putting Red Miller into the Broncos Ring of Fame. What does it mean to this franchise to have had Red Miller in the 70s and Terrell Davis in the 90s?
Zach Eckels: The first head coach to take us to a Super Bowl and the first running back to carry us to a championship - you can't put a price on either of those things. Having those two accomplish what they did with integrity and hard work is as inspirational as it gets. Any franchise would have been lucky to have either of these men in their ring of honor and we get to induct both. It's a terrible shame that Red didn't live long enough to witness this honor. The recognition for both men is long overdue. These men aren't just great at football; they're the perfect role models for any young Broncos fan to look up to. Humble, hard-working and tough, they embody the character of our franchise. They manage to stand out in the very rich history of our organization. A big Mile High Salute to both of them.


Stats for Brock Osweiler? 21/32, 240 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Interceptions

Stats for each Broncos RB? CJ Anderson: 12/94, 0 TDs; J. Charles: 8/45, 0 TDs; Booker: 8/24, 0 TDs; Janovich: 1/2,1 TD

Stats for each Broncos receiver? Sanders, 150; DT, 50; Latimer, 25; Derby, 10; Heuerman, 5

Longest FG? 56 yards

Number of sacks to Osweiler? 0

Number of sacks to Andy Dalton? 4

Broncos player with the most tackles? Brandon Marshall

How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 3

How many muffed punts for the Broncos? 0

How many unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for Burfict? 2 and done.

Final Score? Broncos 27, Bengals 13

The Favorites

Favorite Broncos game EVER? Super Bowl 32

Team you hate to lose to the most? Chiefs

Team you love to beat? Raiders

Game most looking forward to this season? Chiefs on New Year’s Eve

Game you think will break the Broncos losing streak? This one

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? For the moment, Talib. The rest of the team needs his aggression right now.

Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Albert Elway, Jr.

Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Chad Kelly (followed closely by Bolles)

Superstitions on game day? None at the moment. I now spend the games focused on not cussing in front of our 5-year-old.

Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Chris Collinsworth.

Favorite sports cliche? Defense wins championships.

Favorite sports movie? “Any Given Sunday”

How did you become a Broncos fan?

I grew up closer to Denver than Kansas City and have always loved going against the grain. Thankfully for me, a relative from Boulder planted the seed early on and it grew strong. Thanks to her, I’ve loved the Broncos since I learned that the sport existed.


So what is your favorite sports movie?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Any Given Sunday
    (15 votes)
  • 11%
    Bull Durham
    (21 votes)
  • 24%
    Remember the Titans
    (46 votes)
  • 14%
    Rocky II (the best of the series, no doubt)
    (27 votes)
  • 4%
    Blind Side
    (9 votes)
  • 16%
    The Longest Yard
    (31 votes)
  • 11%
    (21 votes)
  • 3%
    (7 votes)
  • 4%
    (8 votes)
185 votes total Vote Now