Merry Christmas, Ultimate Fans!
It may take a bit of Christmas magic for the Broncos to finish this season at .500, but our Ultimate Fan - new to this series but not new to being a fan of this team - is in the camp that desperately wants to see this team win on Monday night (my kind of fan!) Because as “ManCalledHorse” notes, losing becomes a bad habit, so “win out!”
And our ultimate fan has been around long enough to remember the days before the Broncos were used to winning, so he’s optimistic this team and this franchise can finish the season strong enough to go into the offseason with the right attitude for turning it around next year.
But let’s not get into next season just yet. Broncos still have a tough road game playing against the hated RAID-UHS in their longtime stadium for the last time, and even though both teams are out of contention, they’re both playing for some pride.
Given that the fan bases hate each other, it’s a good week for a Broncos win as far as I’m concerned, and a good time for the Broncos to have a lot more pride than the Raiders.
Yeah, we know some of you want the #Broncos to lose out for a better draft pick...but you NEVER choose to lose to the #Raiders (well, at least @jezru and I know this...@timlynch1978 is hopeless). #DENvsOAK #BeatTheRaiders #SomethingSomethingBroncoshttps://t.co/KlKGb85aHP— Doctor of Words (and tights and positive thinking) (@docllv) December 21, 2018
Week 16: Broncos at Raiders
MHR - Grrrrrrr...What was your initial reaction during the Browns game to the loss? After a few days to reflect, how are you feeling about this season overall?
ManCalledHorse: I was saddened by VJ’s decision to kick that field goal; he was trying but made the wrong decision. Now the feeling is a sad mix of disappointment, frustration and growing apathy.
MHR - Broncos will be playing on Christmas Eve against a hated rival, but neither team is playing for anything other than pride. Is that enough for the Broncos this weekend?
ManCalledHorse: During playoff runs it was crucial to get home-field, so every game mattered, but this year, missing the playoffs again is a dismal feeling. These players are professionals who, at least in the Broncos case, will be auditioning for a new coach next year. The Raiders will most likely have the same coach, so in this game, Broncos’ players have more to play for.
MHR - The loss of Chris Harris Jr. was certainly felt against the Browns, especially as the Broncos secondary had to go to its 47th cornerback at one point in the game. Yet, the defense still grabbed two INTs and held Baker Mayfield to just 17 points. How did you feel about how Joe Woods called that game and “worked with what he had?”
ManCalledHorse: With a pair of Pro Bowl corners (i.e, Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib), Woods may have been able to do more to confuse coverages and disrupt Mayfield. Without those two, the best he could hope for was to try and minimize the big plays. Which he mostly did.
MHR - On the flip side, what do you think about the offensive play calling overall? Phillip Lindsay offered some critical comments about using him against a stacked box all game. Agree with him?
ManCalledHorse: We knew this was coming. The Browns watched what the 49ers defense did and adjusted their defense to stop the Broncos’ only offensive weapon - Lindsay. “Football 101” says the Broncos should then take advantage by throwing the ball. CK had his chance and did his best. The play-calling was mostly very basic and conservative. How is it that once again our TEs were rarely used?
MHR - The Raiders have been a joke this season, but they score points. Can the Broncos’ defense stop Derek Carr & Co?
ManCalledHorse: Can a ‘street’ free agent cornerback make a big interception that sparks the offense into scoring? If so, then maybe we have a chance. If the secondary plays passive, look for Carr to pick our secondary apart.
MHR - Case Keenum and the offense haven’t been able to crack 20 points the last two games (and have barely done it this season). But the Raiders’ defense has possibly been worse than the Broncos offense. How do the Broncos score on this team?
ManCalledHorse: The Raiders have given up over 2,000 rushing yards already this season (Broncos have rushed for 1,725 yards) so if the Broncos O-line can open some holes for Lindsay, he could have a big day. Courtland Sutton needs a big day too, so I expect (hope for) targets in his direction.
MHR - Vance Joseph is a dead man walking according to some unofficial official reports, but we all knew it was coming. Can he still be effective the last two games to get the team some wins and confidence?
ManCalledHorse: VJ is coach enough to know if he wants to continue in this business he will be judged somewhat by how he finishes here. Unfortunately he will continue using the coaching “skills” that got us in this mess in the first place.
MHR - Von Miller and Phillip Lindsay were the only two Broncos named to the Pro Bowl. First, how great is it to have both a seven-time Pro Bowler and the NFL’s first undrafted rookie (from your alma mater, no less) going to the Pro Bowl? Second, do you believe Chris Harris Jr. and Emmanuel Sanders were snubbed by not getting a first-team spot (even though they couldn’t play)?
ManCalledHorse: We are jaded and almost “expect” Von to be Pro Bowl every year, but he would not be there without those game-changing strip-sacks! He works hard and gives back to the community, so there is no one more deserving. And Phillip Lindsay …wow! We are all familiar with his story now, and I believe he will just get better. Glad he chose the Broncos! If Harris and Sanders had finished the season, Pro Bowl for each of them. Unfortunately injuries diminish the appeal of a good partial season and voters want to see players play not on crutches.
MHR - What is your hope for the Broncos in these last two games - win, lose, just score some points?
ManCalledHorse: Losing multiple games is a bad habit. It seeps into the subconscious of players, and when, on the verge of victory, things go wrong, they lose games and think “here we go again.” It should not be tolerated. Win out!
MHR - It’s obviously been a tough season. If the Broncos finish 8-8 or 6-10, would that be much below where you expected or right about what you figured for this team back in the preseason?
ManCalledHorse: I had them at 9-7 in the preseason, thinking a veteran journeyman QB would stabilize offense and with some new weapons they would score more points. Offensive play-calling has been erratic, and VJ’s habit of having players ill-prepared for games has held back the talent on this team.
MHR - What kind of coach would you like to see come in for the Broncos (what kind of traits and emphasis do you think will be important given the current team)? How much of a “hot seat” is John Elway on for this next coaching hire?
ManCalledHorse: After the Josh McDaniels mess, John Fox was a good choice to repair the team and fix McDaniel’s damage. Elway could choose a similar, established veteran coach to calm the waters again. Riskier option is to go for a new, forward thinking coach who has an eye for where NFL offenses are heading and can inspire his players. This option has a higher upside, but after the VJ failure, one more misstep by Elway (another coach failure would be a big one) and his role within the team will be questioned.
MHR - As an admitted “salty old Broncos fan,” how do you compare the game today to that of 70s and 80s - better, worse, just different? How do you like the fast, athletic pass-rush-heavy Broncos defense today compared to the Orange Crush?
ManCalledHorse: The Orange Crush was something so new to us, we followed this team through some bad times and bad games and now they start winning with a so-so offense and this relentless, suffocating defense. Opposing WR’s suddenly developed alligator arms on crossing routes and RB’s were stuffed on goal-line stands that proved to be game winners. The defense we had in SB50 was more exciting to watch, the quickness of Von Miller flying around the corner and knocking the ball from a QB’s hand is like lightning striking the field. Completely flips the momentum of a game. That defense stands nicely along the Orange Crush, each with its own identity and SB legacy.
MHR - What is your all-time favorite game between the Raiders and Broncos?
ManCalledHorse: There have been some good ones, but the one I think really changed the dynamic (where the Raiders always seemed to win) was the Oct. 16, 1977 game. There was a quiet confidence with the team leading up to that game, and us fans felt it too. Then that one stunning play. One play where a 36-year-old journeyman kicker “ran” toward the left on a fake field goal and with no Raider thinking to cover him, caught a TD pass from holder Norris Weese. Broncos won that game 30-7 and from then on, the Raiders knew that this was not the same Broncos team they had gotten used to beating.
Stats for Case Keenum? 12/40, 204 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Stats for each Broncos RB? Lindsay, 10/85 yds, 1 TD; Freeman, 8/33 yards
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Sutton, 5/40 yards, 1 TD
Longest FG for McManus? 32 yards
Number of sacks to Keenum? 3
Number of sacks to Derek Carr? 4
Broncos player with the most tackles? Todd Davis
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D?
How many challenge calls will VJ miss? All of them
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? 3
Final Score? Broncos, 14-10
Favorite Broncos game EVER? SB32 Elway “helicoptered” into history
Team you love to beat? Patriots, Patriots and anyone we play on MNF
Favorite game this season? LA Chargers on the road
Toughest game (left) on the schedule? LA Chargers at home
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Emmanuel Sanders
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Terrell Davis
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Phillip Lindsay
Superstitions on game day? Mute the TV on crucial 3rd downs
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Phil Simms
Favorite sports cliche? “What he brings to the table.”
How did you become a Broncos fan?
Mid-70s I started listening to Saturday Colorado Buffs football games on KOA – and enjoyed Bob Martin and Larry Zimmer’s commentary. We were just driving home from church on a Sunday, and I was messing with the car radio and I accidentally heard them calling a Broncos game, also on KOA. When we got home, I asked my dad if I could watch the game on TV and he said “good luck.” We lived in rural Southeast Colorado and got poor quality TV reception from Colorado Springs stations but luckily I found the game. Black and white TV and the picture would fade in and out, but I kept watching. And now, 40+ years later, I still watch.