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Broncos at Bills: The No Bull Review

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The Broncos got their first loss of the season. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on what went wrong, the little that went right, and what it says about the Broncos 3 games in to the 2017 NFL season.

Denver Broncos v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Well heck.

Denver rolled into Buffalo riding the highs of 2 early season home victories and came screaming back to earth against a team that looked like they wanted to win more than the Broncos did.

Trap game? Maybe. But I’ll say the team as a whole looked very unprepared for their first road test of the season and it wasn’t just a problem on any one side of the ball.

Defense

The biggest flaw I saw by the Bronco defense in this game was them getting lost by misdirection type plays. Tight ends blocking, then going out into routes. Play action boot legs. All of these things require discipline and in man coverage, Buffalo exploited the holes in the defense left by guys who weren’t staying aware.

The defense was still amazing against the run. Had they not had to fight so many battles with short fields, I doubt the score looks as bad. Still, the pass defense looked vulnerable and the defense did not in my opinion do their job good enough to win in this game.

Front 7

Let’s get some dirty-work out of the way first. Brandon Marshall, what happened to your pass coverage ability? I don’t know if it has to do with scheme changes or something else, but a player who historically has been a very solid pass defender has been giving up a lot of catches so far this season. He’s still killing it against the run to be fair and he even notched a sack in the game. I’m starting to worry just a bit though...in today’s NFL you can’t have your ILBs be liabilities in pass defense.

Todd Davis on the other hand quietly had himself one hell of a game. I doubt many noticed even though he was out there a heck of a lot more than normal (63% of the snaps). He had a sack as well and a nice QB hit.

Von Miller with a sick spin move to force a hold ruins Buffalo’s 1st drive of the 2nd half. Also noticed the game plan had Miller in coverage quite a bit. The Broncos employed a game plan that was trying more to keep Tyrod Taylor contained and less all-out pass rushing. That being said, Von got a sack and a whole bucket of pressures and hits that Taylor won’t forget. We’ll talk about his extracurriculars later.

Shelby Harris had a great power pass rush in the 2nd half which was a huge play that got the Bills out of FG range. He’s being used as a rotational guy even more so now that Kerr is available, but he’s still looking strong and impactful to me when he gets on the field.

Secondary

Chris Harris Jr. got taken to the cleaner by Matthews doing crossers multiple times this game. I’m not sure whether he got caught flat footed or just didn’t have the speed to keep up with Matthews, but it looked like a mismatch at times which is very rare to see from CHJ.

That being said, as I spoke about in the defensive intro, the No Fly Zone looked a little exposed at times in this game. I don’t think for a second that any of you should pay much attention to this talk about the Broncos “missing T.J. Ward.” If anything, we would have given up more air yards if he was still here. I think what you are seeing in this game was a team that started to take advantage of some weaknesses in the schemes of Joe Woods. I expect the team to dial down the fancy as the season wears on and find some better answers to the crossing routes that have caused them so much trouble in this game.

Offense

This game seemed like a little bit of a flash-back of the kind of offense we saw for much of the 2016 season: an offense that was plainly flaccid the later the game got with them needing to score points being behind.

Strangely even as the game was within one score for the vast majority of the game, the run game that was looking pretty good (especially when Charles was running the ball) was largely abandoned. Once again, the team asked Siemian to throw the ball 40 times and win it. It was as poor a choice this year as it was last year.

Quarterbacks

Trevor Siemian either had an off game or is starting to fall from grace after his lofty start to the season. On the offensive side of the game, the blame squarely belongs on his shoulders for our loss as his two picks (should have been 3...he’s so frigging lucky with defenders dropping balls thrown right to them) were both game killing derptitude of the lowest order.

Siemian’s first interception was an absolute crap throw. He was drifting to his left throwing off his back foot and not putting enough air under it to get it to his target. He had the right idea but his execution on the throw was very bad. One drive after a linebacker drops an easy pick, he decides to throw away a very good drive by again throwing off his back foot and not getting the ball out of bounds. For a guy who has been lauded as being so fundamentally sound as a QB, his form on some of his throws in this game was that of a runny cow patty.

Also, others have pointed it out and it is worth highlighting again: he has to stop churning backwards all the time. Yes, his O-line struggles at times with pass rushers. But in this game the QB was more at fault than the linemen much of the time. How do you expect a big guy like Menelik Watson to block a guy when you keep falling back and giving the pass rusher 2 directions to use to win instead of one?

Line

I thought the line overall looked much better in this game believe it or not. Against a very formidable front 7, they won enough.

Max Garcia again was absolute hot garbage in pass protection. He gave up multiple backfield plays and continues to be the guy that makes Menelik Watson look like a solid player week in and week out.

Garett Boles is the real deal. He and Matt Paradis especially had very very impressive games. If the team can do something about their left guard and right tackle, they will have a good looking line.

Running Backs

Jamaal Charles great effort on TD run. Showed great vision. All game his run game was very strong. I would have liked to see more carries for him given that he seemed to have the hot hand. I get that he’s a guy you want to keep healthy all season, but in a game where the guy is averaging over 6 yards per carry, I feel like you are shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t keep giving him the rock.

Aside from one really great run, C.J. Anderson looked pretty friggin mediocre to me. All season long he’s good for at least 3-5 plays a game where just runs into the ass of his blockers. Yes, he offsets that by breaking a really nice run from time to time, but given how he runs, they aren’t home-run hits, more like good doubles.

Receivers

Emmanuel Sanders was very active in this game with successful routes at almost every level of the field on the day. That being said, as the game wore on, I feel like the offense locked onto him far too much. If you want the offense to be truly dangerous, you need to offset Sanders with Thomas and keep them both involved.

Demaryius Thomas money catch in the 4th quarter keeping it away from the defender. Then on the next play pushes the defender to draw the OPI unnecessarily. That being said, I’m getting pretty sick of defenders that are about a foot shorter than him getting away with defensive holding and pass interference down the field. Both penalties should have been called about 5 times that weren’t. If that’s how they want to do it, I’d like to see McCoy force the ball at it more so that the refs are forced to call the penalties.

Special Teams

What in the unholy hell was that fake punt? Anyone? Brock Olivo and Vance Joeseph should be sat down in Elway’s office and scolded for that pooptastic piece of work. Let me say this again: I’m all for fake punts. I’d like to see about 5-7 of them per year. But there’s a time and a place to do it and deep in your territory down by only 4 points IS NOT THAT TIME.

Final Thoughts

Hats off to the Buffalo Bills. Their defense is legit good. Their offense is feisty as well and has some very athletic tools that are dangerous weapons. They wanted this game far more than Denver did and deserved the win.

The Broncos get a nice wake up call from this. With their heads getting big, hopefully this gets them focused, furious, and dialed in for a huge division game next week against the Raiders.

You guys also know I’m not shy about talking refs. No they weren’t the reason the Broncos lost. But HELL YES they were awful in many ways in this game. Sanders catches a ball and it gets called incomplete (he was not on his way to the ground...the defender hit him after he took a step forcing him down...watch in full speed). The Von Miller unsportsmanlike conduct was absolute horse crap. Let’s look at the rulebook:

ARTICLE 1. PROHIBITED ACTS

There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct. This applies to any act which is contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship. Such acts specifically include, among others:

Throwing a punch, or a forearm, or kicking at an opponent, even though no contact is made.

Using abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials, or representatives of the League.

Using baiting or taunting acts or words that may engender ill will between teams.

Any violent gesture, or an act that is sexually suggestive or offensive.

Prolonged or excessive celebrations or demonstrations by an individual player or multiple players.

Using any object as a prop, or possessing any foreign or extraneous object(s) that are not part of the uniform on the field or the sideline during the game, other than the football after a scoring play or change of possession.

Unnecessary physical contact with a game official.

Removal of his helmet by a player in the field of play or the end zone during a celebration or demonstration, or during a confrontation with a game official or any other player.

Now you tell me what Von’s “psyche” move fits under. Insulting? Please. Taunting? How? It was immature, yes, but give me a break with that nonsense. You can’t give a team 15 yards in a close game over something so asinine.

But back to it. Denver has a huge game next week against the Oakland Raiders. It is going to say a lot about both teams one way or the other.