That’s two in a row, which feels pretty darn good to this fan.
Why? We’re just 2-4 at this point, right?
Because it is growth, that’s why. We’re seeing an actual competent coaching staff for the first time in three years and this game was great evidence of it, especially on defense.
Vic Fangio is tinkering with his roster, and his scheme while he and his staff are coaching their asses off to get this defense trained up and ready to execute and this was honestly the first game that my eyes tell me that the defense is really starting to get it.
We finally saw an impactful opportunistic pass rush with contributions all across the line that led to turnovers by the secondary. That’s when defense gets fun.
I don’t think the defense is completely hitting its stride yet...part of the credit of the last performance belongs to a poor showing by the Titans’ offense. The coaches are lining up the chess board every week now, and it is starting to look like the players are starting to get a much better understanding of how to execute the plays properly.
Let’s kick this section off with none other than Colorado’s own Mike Purcell. I am absolutely loving what this cat is doing for our run defense. Having him in the middle holding it down with Shelby Harris kicked outside where he’s more effective is some really good medicine for this defense. Purcell had not one, but two TFLs in the game that everyone noticed. But the biggest difference he’s making for this defense is keeping the LOS sound instead of letting it get pushed two yards deep or more on every play.
Another guy we haven’t talked about much in this year’s NBR is Derek Wolfe. It was so cool to see him able to get two impactful sacks in the game, two TFLs, and two QB hits to add to it. That’s a frigging stellar game for a 3-4 DE.
Speaking of DEs, let’s give a big shout out to DeMarcus Walker who had himself a hell of a game as well with two sacks, two TFLs, and 2 QB hits. It is good to see the guy playing hungry and showing Broncos Country some of the superb technique we saw from him in college leading to big plays for the defense. Let’s add to it though: he did that in 24 snaps as a rotational guy. That’s what we want to see from a guy who hasn’t cracked the starting lineup yet.
Probably the darling of the whole group right now has to be Alexander Johnson, though. Johnson is a joy to watch at ILB compared to what we’ve been used to seeing the past couple of years for the Broncos. He’s got great lateral quickness, good instincts, and flies to the ball on every play. He finished this game with 1.5 sacks, nine tackles, one TFL, and two QB hits.
Chris Harris Jr. finally got thrown on more than a couple of times in this game and showed every young NFL QB why that’s a really bad idea. He had two passes defensed, one INT, and a forced fumble. That’s impact from a corner, and I really loved seeing him back at nickel off and on throughout the game.
I gave my game ball this week to Kareem Jackson and let me tell you I straight up have a Bronco man-crush on this guy. He plays with fire as a safety and those of you who have been reading my stuff know I absolutely love good safety play. He’s the glue that is helping everything work in this defense. He can attack the pass or the run and his play diagnosis is second to none on the team. All of this lead to a pick, a TFL, and a pass defensed. If you get a chance, take a peek at how the defense flows on the side he’s helping on any given play. The corners underneath play great technique because they KNOW he’s going to be at the right place to help.
Let’s not leave out Justin Simmons in our love fest for the secondary, though. He got a pick in this game along with a pass defensed and is normally playing the FS role in this scheme. Fangio is turning both him and Jackson into Pro Bowl-level safeties right before our eyes.
Last but not least, let’s give some love to Davontae Harris who started at outside CB for the Broncos as a second-year player and is doing a really sound job out there. I keep seeing things he could do better, but in general he’s staying in the right place, playing the right technique, and attacking the ball carrier which is what you want to see from your corners. He’ll learn better angles for tackling as the year goes on, but with our defense not being man-0 all the time, the team always has a guy coming over the top to clean up. Things will get exciting for Davontae when he gets to the point where he can be left on an island more often whether the scheme calls for it or not.
I’m not going to complain too much as any time you win by two scores, that’s a good frigging game in the NFL.
But I still feel like this offense can do a lot more than what we are seeing. In general it seemed like Rich Scangarello was playing it safe, given the defense’s proclivity for winning the field every time they went out there.
Joe Flacco had one of his worst games so far this year against the Titans. Granted, he didn’t need to do much given the competition, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth to see a good QB have an off day like this. The biggest thing dragging down Flacco’s showing was the INT, which was underthrown a little bit, but I feel more than anything, that pick was a poor showing for Noah Fant, who wasn’t aware enough to make a play on the ball in any way.
Do you all remember Garett Bolles? I do. Though he’s been playing so well I haven’t really noticed him. I like that. Let’s keep that plan going the rest of the year.
I do notice Elijah Wilkinson though, and that is not a positive experience. He’s getting beat fairly often and is honestly a pretty big factor in this offense keeping a lid on things. Hopefully we’ll see Ja’Wuan James get healthy so Elijah doesn’t have to keep holding down a position he’s not well suited for.
Ron Leary is looking pretty bad lately too out there. He’s good for 1-2 penalties a game now and just isn’t the solid guard we saw when we signed him a couple of years ago. I’m not one to say he’s ready for the bench, but he’s definitely inching closer if you watch the line play lately from the Broncos.
Royce Freeman, my boy, I’m not sure if you are hearing this enough from your coaches so I’ll say it here - can you stop trying to juke so much and bounce your runs outside so far? That’s not who you are, and the NFL players you are going against are too fast for you to make it.
Turn your frigging shoulders up-field and blast ahead for a few more yards instead. That is how you add to this offense. You aren’t a back like Lindsay, and you don’t need to prove anything to anyone about your ability to bounce outside. I bet you’d add damn near a yard to your rushing average in any one game if you’d stop bouncing outside so much.
Phillip Lindsay is getting all the attention when he’s out there and still had a solid day against a pretty decent Titans run defense. All I know is the dude keeps scoring TDs, and I keep getting free 6-packs of pop for it. Feed this guy the ball, coach!
Courtland Sutton is the man for this Bronco offense. The only complaint I have here is why aren’t we using him more? He’s a big play-making menace on the football field who went from a guy last year who looked tall and fast that could run go routes and catch jump balls really well to a NFL route runner who is a danger on any play to house it.
I liked what we saw from DaeSean Hamilton in this game. He had two really meaningful catches over the middle that were big gains for the Broncos. Hopefully he builds on that with confidence and becomes another serious weapon for this offense to utilize each week.
Diontae Spencer is going to house a kickoff return this year if teams keep kicking him returnable kickoffs. The guy has that legit speed you want in a returner paired with great eyes for finding the best angles for his returns.
It was relieving to see Brandon McManus hit a long one for the first time in a long time. He had a great game with 3 FGs that kept the game very comfortable for the Broncos as the game wore on.
As good as I’m feeling about this team, I can’t shake the knowledge that the team they face on Thursday is going to be a challenge of a different level. Nothing about this win makes the Broncos feel anything close to “right” yet.
But I’m encouraged to see a team starting to get a real strength in their defense that is starting to give offenses big-time headaches. If we can pair that with an offense that can keep a defense on its heels by scoring more 24+ a game, we can beat anyone in the NFL.