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Broncos at Cardinals: The No Bull Review

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The Denver Broncos put together their best game of the season against the Arizona Cardinals. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on this game and what it says about the team and coaches.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

What a well deserved win for Broncos Country and for the Broncos players. I love the story of this game: Von’s guarantee, the drummed up drama about how terrible the team is (which isn’t true...but more on that later), and the suspense that led up to this game.

I really felt like this was a huge game for the team. If the Broncos didn’t win, this was going to be the final nail in the coffin from me on the Bronco’s season. I’ve already made it pretty clear what I think about the coaching staff in my previous reviews.

So now we have something to look forward to if only for a couple more weeks.

Offense

This game was like a microcosm of the season for me when I look at how the offense was called and executed.

The team very obviously has a great deal of talent in players like Phillip Lindsay, Emmanuel Sanders, Matt Paradis, and Courtland Sutton. At times, that talent shines for impactful, big plays.

I even like how some of the play design works that goes into those big plays. The way Bill Musgrave uses motion, personnel grouping, and different action out of the same formations is something we haven’t seen from our offense in years.

But the big problem with the offense is how it is called. Our site has been harping on this for weeks: why do you keep passing the ball when the biggest liability on the offense is your quarterback? Why do we not lean on the running game more that is so obviously working with both Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay? Why do we have Freeman run on early long-to-go downs, and have Lindsay run on short yardage situations? When we are up by multiple scores, why do we keep 11 personnel out there and run into heavy boxes?

None of this impacted this game because we faced a team with clearly inferior talent and ability to match up to us in any area of the game. But let me leave it at this: the Broncos keep losing close games largely in part to Musgrave not being aggressive early and leaning on a very potent run game.

Quarterbacks

Case Keenum is still JAG when it comes to playing QB. We saw a lot more effective offense overall, but his throws are still not accurate. He’s still staring down picks into double coverage. I found his play in this game very underwhelming.

Yes, we can win lots of games this way. We did this all season back in 2015. But it will be in spite of, not because of the play we see at quarterback.

Line

There’s not a lot I have to complain about from this offensive line. Our young guards in Max Garcia and Connor McGovern played well. Our tackles held the edges well enough. It wasn’t overly impressive, but it wasn’t a big issue that was leading to sacks and multiple TFLs in the run game.

But let me say this: there’s been lots of whining in the MSM (especially if you listen to the local radio stations in Denver). It is largely nonsense. Stink takes a duece on Bolles’ game every other day and it is absolute hyperbole. Others as well have called out the line as being weak. I just don’t see that. Billy Turner is the best right tackle we’ve seen in 2 years. Connor McGovern is playing mostly enlightened football at RG. Matt Paradis is still one of the best centers in the league. And everyone’s favorite punching bag, Garett Bolles has a holding issue, but outside of that plays pretty decently at left tackle (yes he needs technique work...so what...watch his play late in games and tell me how bad he sucks...I’ll wait).

Running Backs

Phillip Lindsay is a masterpiece of a weapon. Who is Christian McCaffrey? I don’t know...and I don’t care. We have a more impactful player in this young stud who went undrafted. The guy is not a football player...he is a football weapon. More of the team’s offense needs to develop plays to get him in space. He needs to be one of the focal points of the offense because it will open everything else up.

Royce Freeman has had his 2nd rough game of the season in a row. I would point out that one of the big things they need to do is give him formations with more blockers. Musgrave keeps running him into stacked boxes in -1 situations expecting him to flat out beat a defender who has a free run at him. That’s not how this works. Freeman is not Barry Sanders. He needs blockers to hold up the bad guys and give him creases to work with.

Receivers

Big shout out to Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders has been one of my favorite players to watch on the field since he’s joined the Broncos. He plays all out every game and just like Lindsay, he’s a very dangerous player with the ball in his hands in open space. I loved the trick play call and that Sanders got to throw a TD. I guess I’d just have loved it more against KC next week instead of a hapless Arizona team that I don’t think we needed tricks to beat.

Defense

This was easily the best defensive game I’ve seen from the Broncos in more than a year. We turned the ball over, stopped the run, and had sublime pass coverage. I don’t know if it was Joe Woods or Vance Joseph calling the plays, but they did a solid job.

More importantly, I saw SUPREME effort from the defensive players. They looked hungry and wanted to eat the opposing team’s children (H/T Derek Wolfe).

Front 7

The run defense problem we’ve seen recently wasn’t the fault of the linemen, but they absolutely killed it up front in this game. The Broncos have switched to more of a space-eating front with Domata Peko, Derek Wolfe, and Adam Gotsis. They looked the part in this game clogging holes and creating time for the linebackers to crash down and bottle up the run with them.

Secondary

Bradley Roby was possessed in this game. That was not him playing football. The ghost of Deion Sanders straight up took him over and drove him like he was playing Madden (shush...I know Deion is still alive….just roll with it). If Roby can play like this the rest of the season, we can make the playoffs. He attacked the ball, turned his head on time, every time he was defending, and stayed in stride with every guy he lined up with.

Chris Harris, Jr. is always awesome. He had a superb pick-6 that I saw coming from a mile away. The guy deserved a play like that honestly. He is only one guy that does his job at the highest level every week and when the ball never comes your way (because there are far easier targets out there), it has to be frustrating when you want to win ball games.

Special Teams

Brandon McManus needs some love every week he keeps batting a thousand. It is pretty refreshing and completely unexpected to see a guy kick so well every week.

Final Thoughts

Next week is now the telling game. Can Denver go into KC and steal a win from one of the NFL’s best teams? They absolutely can. But I would argue all they need to do is play them competitively and it is a win for us.

It starts with the Broncos learning from their loss to KC a few weeks ago. They can’t just all out rush Patrick Mahomes. They need to treat him like they do Russell Wilson and form a pocket around him, then collapse it instead of allowing him to escape and extend plays.

Aside from that, the most important thing is that the coaching staff keeps working on being better. They should not at all pat themselves on the back for this win. They still have the same flaws from a coaching aspect and they need to put the players in position to win instead of fitting round pegs in square holes.

Either way, this was a heck of a fun game to watch as a fan. I’m encouraged to see more games like this in the future because I can tell that the team has a great deal of talent by what they did this week.

What about you, Broncos Country? Well deserved win? Coaches making strides? Players making plays? Hit me up in the comments and share your thoughts on the game and what you took away from it.