If you’ve followed my work this year you know I’m a huge stats nerd. One I kept coming back to as I wrote last week’s GIF Horse was that Denver had earned an “estimated” 4.9 wins by Football Outsiders DVOA metric. That’s better than team’s like the Patriots, Steelers, and Washington. It’s also better than yesterday’s opponent, the Houston Texans.
Even with all their warts, this year’s Broncos team has looked like it was a serious contender in every contest outside of New York. They boast an elite running game and pass rush that buoys an average passer and woeful secondary. They’re flawed for sure, but the fact that they enter their bye week with 6 losses is a bit of a surprise. A schedule with 3 games against legitimate Super Bowl contenders didn’t help, but losses to the Jets, Ravens and Texans fall squarely at the feet of the man making the calls.
Throughout the season there has been questionable usage of personnel such as passing far too much when the run game is working or a jet sweet on 3rd and 2. Dead horses, and both fall at the offensive coordinator’s feet first and foremost. But in the most recent contest the decisions at the end of each half can’t be ignored. Clock management is where the best coaches separate themselves from the field and when the average Madden player knows Vance blew it, he blew it.
Six point swing with the bad coaching decision to try to 62 yarder.— mark schlereth (@markschlereth) November 4, 2018
By kicking a 62-yard field goal with time on the clock, Vance Joseph was gambling. There’s little in the way of statistical evidence to back up his decision without admitting as much. Perhaps he still had McManus’ 2017 practice kicks in mind?
”That’s a true weapon, guys. I mean, that was amazing,” Joseph said after practice. “That was what, 73 yards, maybe? In the first one, he just swung his leg and he was, what, two yards off.”
That’s about all Joseph could say that would justify the call, as McManus’ career make when the kick counts for something is a mere 57 yarder, made in 2015. If that was the only mistake Joseph made with special teams yesterday, the Broncos probably pull out the victory on a game winning redemption make. Instead Vance played it safe on the Broncos final drive of the game and settled for a 51 yard attempt to push his team past a Texans team that had scored all of 3 points in the second half.
WTF just happened??? pic.twitter.com/AQ4EMi4aMb— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) November 5, 2018
For his career Brandon McManus was 13-24 on 50+ yard kicks entering Sunday. He’s made 72.4% from 40-49 and 94.5% from anything closer. Perhaps Joseph could have had Case Keenum attempt a pass with time on the clock and a timeout to burn rather than run Phillip Lindsay up the middle for a 1 yard gain?
Or perhaps he could have used his brain instead of putting the team he coaches in that situation to begin with. Maybe he’ll figure it out at his next job. I’m still hesitant to say that Elway will part ways with the head coach he picked over Kyle Shanahan at the bye. It would create a perception issue for the Denver opening over the rest of the season, but there is little doubt Joseph is coaching on borrowed time now.
One name to keep an eye on at the year progresses? John Harbaugh. Reports started surfacing that he was on the hot seat going into the Pittsburgh game. Joe Flacco didn’t do him any favors and the Ravens now look like a longshot to make the dance. There’s already a Kubiak connection working in the Broncos favor here...
Pressure is mounting inside the organization on Harbaugh, sources say, as a playoffs-or-bust season is dangerously close to spiraling downward.
Would the Ravens fire John Harbaugh before they benched Joe Flacco?— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) November 4, 2018
“I’ve never been somebody that ever worried about keeping a job,” Harbaugh said, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN. “It’s always been, for me, dealing with a job. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years. No regrets.”
On to the links
Case Keenum had a great game but it was all for nothing.
Top performers On offense, tight end Jeff Heuerman posted his best stat line of the season as he recorded 10 catches for 83 yards and a score. Though his touchdown catch was his biggest play of the afternoon, he also has a couple of catches during which he broke tackles and tallied extra yardage.
I did not expect Heuerman to get 10 catches but Houston did go into the Broncos game with a huge weakness to tight ends. Something to keep in mind before you dump Le’Veon Bell for Denver’s tight end in fantasy football. I would still expect Courtland Sutton to take up the biggest slack with the Thomas trade.
The Denver Broncos had a shot to win it in the final moments, but a missed 51-yard field goal attempt by Brandon McManus resulted in a 19-17 loss to the Houston Texans. Here are five things we learned from today’s game.
Vance Joseph’s Cornucopia of Bad Decisions: It wasn’t just the decision to settle for a 51-yarder at the end of the game. At the end of the first half, Joseph sent out the field goal unit for a 62-yarder with 23 seconds left, despite the fact that Houston had two timeouts remaining. Brandon McManus missed, and the Texans ran two routine plays to set up Ka’imi Fairbairn for a 46-yarder. Which Fairbairn missed! Except Joseph went laughed in the face of logic and called the last-second timeout to “ice” him (which, in reality, continues to be nothing more than giving a kicker a free warmup kick). And then he went to the locker room for a halftime snack and dipped his french fries in mayonnaise.
That 6 point swing by Joseph really looming over this game now. #HOUvsDEN— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 4, 2018
When Demaryius Thomas was a kid growing up in Georgia, he and about 10 to 15 of his buddies used to go in a backyard and play a game they called, “Throw ‘em up, bust ‘em up.” The boys would gather, someone would throw the ball up in the air, one guy would catch it, then would have to beat, avoid, stiff-arm, drag and bust his way past all the other kids to the other side of the yard. Thomas didn’t play football as a kid. But he “was real good’’ at this game. All D.T. was doing Sunday at Broncos Stadium at Mile High was play a grown-up version of “throw ‘em up, bust ‘em up” against his buddies.
After the first quarter I expected the story to be D.T.’s performance as he was schooling Brock early and often. Then he disappeared until he started making mistakes near the end of the game, so this was a pretty interesting piece by Klis.
It appeared as though Thomas was going to be the goat in his return to Denver just five days after his trade to the Texans when his false start helped thwart the Texans’ last possession. The Broncos got the ball back at their 14 with 3:29 left.
Devontae Booker takes the hard hit to the hand on the ball but with elbow wide m, the backdoor love tap knocks it free easily m. pic.twitter.com/S3OdnvqkCd— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 5, 2018
A look around the West
Game Recap: Chargers squeak out another too-close-for-comfort win in Seattle 25-17 - Bolts From The Blue
The Broncos were lucky to play Seattle early in the year before Vance really solidified his “Football 101.”
The Raiders have been stuck on one win since Week 4. With a daunting schedule in the second half of the season, will they get another victory?
Hunt ripped off 141 scrimmage yards in the victory.
Mahomes is on pace to become the 10th QB to pass for 5,000 yards. He’s also getting closer to Peyton Manning’s single season touchdown record.
A look around the rest of the league.
Paradis going down and possibly being out for a while is a shame. Has been the most consistent DEN OL since 2015, missing 0 starts during that time. Super underrated player and an UFA after the season. Hope it’s not too serious.— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) November 4, 2018
Here are the injuries we’re monitoring on the ninth weekend of the 2018 NFL season.
It doesn’t matter who is playing quarterback. Jameis Winston last week. Ryan Fitzpatrick in Sunday’s 42-28 loss to the Panthers. Ryan Griffin in 2020.
Curtis Samuel covered a total of 103.8 yards on his 33-yard double-reverse TD run against the Buccaneers in the 2nd quarter.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 4, 2018
This is the longest distance covered as a ball carrier on a rushing play this season. #TBvsCAR #KeepPounding pic.twitter.com/R3Cen6ACep
“There’s no excuse for how I played out there,” Darnold said, via NJ.com. “I’ve got to play better. … I’ve just got to be sharper. I have to have a better plan once I get to the line of scrimmage. I’ve just got to know exactly where to go with the ball, and if one or two is not there [in the read progression], go to three. I’ve just got to have a better plan.”
“I don’t feel snakebit,” Peterman said, via the Buffalo News. “I never feel like I’m a victim or anything like that, you know? It’s football. It’s life. Things don’t always bounce your way. … You just have to be able to take it how it comes, learn from it and keep fighting forward, and I think we showed a lot of fight out there today, and that’s what I’m proud of, really for our whole offense.”
Reminder: the Bills signed a player this week who...— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 4, 2018
- Has won multiple NFL starts at QB
- Wears a QB eligible number
- Doesn't throw an interception on 11% of his passes
- Isn't Nathan Peterman pic.twitter.com/HiWQ5rxSZC
The prolific running back has to report to the team and sign his franchise tender by Nov. 13 or he won’t be eligible to play this season season.
”Honestly, no one cares anymore,” said Steelers guard David DeCastro.
James Conner now has more TDs thru #Steelers’ first 8 games than Le’Veon did last year (10 to 5), more missed tackles (51 to 35) on fewer touches (190 to 229), and has 8 carries of 20+ yds (Le’Veon had 3 all last year). At this point, what is Conner not giving you?— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) November 5, 2018
It could be because Talib hasn’t been on the field since he was placed on injured reserve in Week 3, and it could be in part because Peters has been dealing with his own lower-body injuries, but he has not at all resembled the playmaker of past seasons.
Jon Horn Celebration by Michael Thomaspic.twitter.com/UEbGFWq6uN— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 5, 2018
As someone who's taken both roughing the kicker and running into the kicker penalties, that was definitely the latter. Terrible call.— Cassandra, Pudgy Nobody (@ChrisWarcraft) November 5, 2018