I agree with one thing Vance Joseph said after this game: “There are no moral victories.”
Let me echo that for you out there in Broncos Country. You know I’m a fan who tries to see the best in our team and cheer them on. It is my generally optimistic side that makes writing reviews like this difficult because, like most humans, I don’t want to dig into things that feel negative.
There is no moral victory in this game. The Broncos should have won it. There were at least 3 opportunities they had to increase their point total. They were at home field in very visitor unfriendly conditions. The players worked their tails off and in some ways did a great job.
I honestly liken this game to the revelation I felt at week 7 of last season. The story back then was a clear understanding that Trevor Siemian was hot garbage. This week’s revelation is that this Vance Joseph led staff are unequivocally completely out of their depth.
The players played. The effort was there (aside from run defense...that’s one aspect we can lay on the players pretty pretty thickly, but more on that later). The coaches did not put them in position to succeed.
It’s almost like Broncos Country’s favorite young coach called up Vance this week:
“Hey Vance! Just wanted to wish you good luck this week and point out to you that I went through some tough times in Denver as a first time head coach too. Ain’t nobody who knows how to tear down a franchise like me!”
“Hold my beer…”
So Vance Joseph decided this week to take a more direct role in calling the defense. From a pass defense aspect that worked out well. But as far as defending the run goes, the Broncos faced a team with a back in Todd Gurley who can absolutely single-handedly take over a game and they looked like they were completely surprised that he was able to run the ball well.
The tackling effort was pathetic. The run fits at the edge were absolute trash. Our secondary tackled like what I imagine Tom Brady would tackle like if he were on defense.
Part of the problem is aging talent. Part of the problem is lack of effort. Both of these things are things that good coaches can help prop up.
Big shout out to Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Both of them brought the ruckus in the pass rush department with Chubb having his best looking game to date. He was technically sound, powerful, and displayed superb burst.
I also want to heap some praise on Todd Davis. I’ve historically been pretty skeptical of his pass defense skills, but for the 2nd game this season his pass coverage play popped in game and caught my attention. He looks every bit the most talented ILB we have on the team.
Conversely, why in the world do we have Brandon Marshall making top 10 salary for our team? His actual on the field ability and effort isn’t even top 20 if you include both sides of the ball. Heck...I don’t know if he’d crack the top 10 of my list of our defensive starters. He’s slow, passive, and is one of the big reasons our run defense is a dumpster fire.
Derek Wolfe also had a very bad game against the Rams. He got moved off his spot way too easily and too often, though if we’re being fair that issue was happening all along the front on defense.
Early in the game, Bradley Roby gave up another two big pass plays. He’s looking like another player who has lost a step and is mailing it in on this team. Being a starter in the NFL requires excellence, dedication, and consistently sound play. These aren’t qualities I’d associate with what my eyes see on the field from Roby.
Our whole secondary needs to drill tackling form this week and every week the rest of the season until it is fixed. Darian Stewart, Justin Simmons, Tramaine Brock, and Bradley Roby all had either plays with terrible angles at the runner or went for arm tackles that never work against stout NFL running backs.
Don’t let the stats or the final score deceive you: this offense under-performed on Sunday. As much as I’ve enjoyed some of the design aspects of Bill Musgrave, the play calling has to absolutely be questioned at a situational level.
We’ve been chirping about it for weeks now: the Broncos on a per play basis have the best run average in the NFL. The line is especially strong at run blocking. Why do we keep calling plays that put the fate of the game on the arm of Case “I’m a backup QB making bank off my one outlier season” Keenum?
I liked some of the passing game and concepts, but at the end of the half we needed that field goal.
Late in the game with time on the clock, we needed play calls that had a multitude of options at different depths for Keenum to throw to instead of deep routes on 2nd and short, 3rd and short, and 4th and short.
Case Keenum needs to go back to being a journeyman QB. He’s not a starter. Minnesota made a sublime move in letting him go. Us signing him would be considered completely derptastic if it weren’t for how his contract is structures (thank goodness!).
The overthrows are killing me. Twice Musgraves dialed up a fade in the corner of the end zone. The team got favorable one-on-one match-ups. We had taller receivers...and Keenum threw both so far out of bounds that there was no way they were being caught.
The fade has to be one of the easiest to prepare for throws in the NFL. You pick your depth of route with your receiver. You work it in practice over and over. Manning did it religiously. I bet Tom Brady and Drew Brees do too.
Keenum, I’ll say this to you: If you aren’t comfortable with what the coaches are doing, you need to speak up to them. You need to work with Musgrave to help get the game plan to match what you like and what you are good at. Also, if there’s something wrong, get the training staff involved...you didn’t throw like this last year...sure looks like something is off to me.
Losing Ron Leary is a big deal. That means instead of a rotation experiment with Max Garcia (who I’m frankly surprised is still in the NFL), we get Max Garcia as a starter again which instantly drops the level of our offensive line by a factor of 10. He got owned in this game just like he did all last season. He doesn’t have the power to play guard in the NFL and he sucks at processing stunts.
Garrett Bolles has taken a lot of flak for his holding call in this game and I’m here to call that nonsense. His “hold” was about as ticky-tack of a call as you will see on a lineman and sadly indicates that he has a reputation now among the refs where he’s not going to be able to get away with what every other left tackle in the NFL does.
Cheers to Billy Turner and Matt Paradis. You two are rocks on this offensive line and aren’t getting enough credit for the fine work you are putting in in the trenches.
Phillip Lindsay needs to be involved in the game plan in every quarter of the game. Plays designed to get him in space or have him speed to the edge just flat out work consistently. He’s most offensive coordinator’s wet dream as a offensive weapon and even with him looking so good every week, I just feel like he could be doing more.
Royce Freeman looked mortal against the Rams defense mostly because of a downgrade at guard play in the game. Nevertheless, he is a guy that needs touches. You can’t just run him 4 times in each half and call him a dud. He needs carries and is the type of back that is punishing to defenses late in the game when they wear down.
Emmanuel Sanders cost the team some very important points in this game by running his mouth. I get it...I even like it a little bit. But not right now on this team. We don’t have the coaching to make up for a 15 yard mistake like that and if we would have had the ball on the 1, I have the utmost faith that the team would have been able to run it in easily. All of that is a shame too as Sanders in this game was completely unstoppable. He’s another weapon that the OC is under-utilizing.
Courtland Sutton is continuing to round into form and is looking more and more like a #1 WR option as the weeks go by. He’s not there yet, but I can see the progress and confidence building in him.
Brandon McManus is Mr. Automatic this year. I’m getting a bit curious to see how many more weeks he can go without a miss (consolation prize for fans of a team who’s head coach sucks, I guess).
I didn’t honestly notice the punter in this game. That’s a great thing in my books. It means he didn’t need to be used much or did a decent job. Either way it is a vast improvement over last week.
Our once fine franchise is morphing into the Cleveland Browns and I for one hate it. John Elway made a terrible decision in getting a young “Yes” man to coach the team instead of getting a fiery A-type guy like Kyle Shanahan. He hasn’t been able to find a QB talent worth developing and keeps trotting out the old guard at offensive coordinator in a NFL world that is evolving at a high pace.
It is week 6 and I’m already considering what moves the team needs to make in the offseason. MHR’s chat is having ongoing discussions about QB options in both the draft and free agency.
I do think the team has a lot of very good talent on it on both sides of the ball. I just don’t think the current coaching regime knows how to utilize it effectively.