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How bad are the NFL Refs hurting the Broncos this year?

Denver has 5 wins if 3 calls go their way. How dubious are they, really?

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys
The scariest thing in football.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last three seasons, I’ve grown increasingly used to waking up to a loss. Usually a night’s sleep does some wonders for easing bitterness and disappointment. At least for me, I feel as though it gives me some clarity on the game as well.

Which made yesterday morning almost funny.

Is there a better image to capture the Broncos’ 2019 season so far than Vic Lombardi’s above? Whether the call was missed or not, the question itself over the play perfectly encapsulates how this year has been. The NFL officiating is so shaky that each and every single game has a call or three that deserve extra scrutiny.

Now the call above could certainly be Offensive Pass Interference. It could also be Noah Fant boxing out the defender to create space for Joe Flacco to hit him with the ball. There’s enough gray area where it becomes a questionable call.

Obviously as a Broncos fan I’m leaning towards the latter. It certainly isn’t close to the most blatant OPI I’ve seen this year (hello Andy Reid and the Chiefs X5 or so times). Heck even the broadcast crew wondered about the call yesterday.

This one is even more questionable. I’m sure Colts fans would tell you it’s a textbook call and all that. So let’s check out what the NFL Operations site says:


No player shall grab the inside collar of the back or the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, or grab the jersey at the name plate or above, and pull the runner toward the ground. This does not apply to a runner who is in the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.

Note: It is not necessary for a player to pull the runner completely to the ground in order for the act to be illegal. If his knees are buckled by the action, it is a foul, even if the runner is not pulled completely to the ground.

So what it a horse collar? Notice that force to pull the runner down is coming from the front of the runner’s jersey where Johnson has grip. Maybe I’m just biased, but that sure doesn’t look like this:

A textbook Horse Collar tackle.

It’s going to be interesting to see if Nicki Jhabvala is right and Alexander Johnson is fined. It was pretty telling that Bradley Chubb wasn’t after his roughing the passer call against the Bears (after Elway mentioned how the refs told him they blew the call.)

I mentioned yesterday how the calls above don’t necessarily get Vic Fangio or Rich Scangarello off the hook. After all, the refs have been so bad all year it’s your own fault for leaving the game in their hands if there’s an alternative.

One good thing is that the Broncos’ two win season are three or maybe four (or five, or six after yesterday) awful calls away from a winning record. How is that good? Well, if the zebras inadvertently help Elway acquire an elite prospect in the 2020 class we can all look back on this and laugh. Either way I’m dressing up as a referee for Halloween. Few things scare me more.

Roughing the passer or blocked into the QB? It’s 2019, so who really knows.

Still Grazin’?

Over the weekend I had a fun conversation with Jabberblog’s Walker Kelly and thought it worth sharing. Kelly is a Lions fan, so he has a different perspective on awful zebras as well as the Broncos. It’s lightly edited for clarity.

The NFL refs seem to be an easy source of blame every year, but how much worse would you say it’s been this year?

Significantly worse. Obviously the refs cost my Lions a division game against Green Bay and they probably cost the Broncos the game against Chicago as well. It’s laughable that the richest league in the world doesn’t have full-time officials.

The fact that the game between Kansas City and Green wasn’t even one of the 10 most egregiously bad refereeing performances of the season is telling.

This had the feel of what one would label a “makeup” call.

If you were the Broncos sitting at 2-6, would you start thinking about tanking this season? Why/Why not?

What’s the definition of tanking the season? Would I look to trade Wolfe and maybe Davis? Yes. Would I start playing younger guys way more and transition to Lock? No.

What would it take for you to deal Wolfe and Davis? And would you look to part with Chris Harris Jr?

5th round picks minimum, and no, not enough CB depth.

Would you look to move Von Miller at the deadline?

God no. That would be stupid.

So you said you wouldn’t move to playing younger guys or transition to Lock. Why is that?

Well, playing younger guys a lot more. Obviously you want to work them in to see what you have, but I wouldn’t want to put them in situations where they’re very likely to fail. Lock just isn’t ready. Playing Flacco allows you to evaluate everyone else on the offense more effectively.

One thing Broncos’ Country is pretty concerned about with the Drew Lock situation is if Elway passed on a 2020 QB without knowing if the Missouri Tiger can play. You mentioned you wouldn’t rush to play Lock, would you consider a first round QB?

I’d consider a first round QB only if Eason were available at the pick. Otherwise I’d wait.

You have Jacob Eason over Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow?

Tua isn’t going to be there, and yes I do have him over Burrow.

What about Eason’s game catches your eye? I haven’t watched him a ton just yet.

His base is really strong, he has elite arm strength, he can fit the ball accurately into tight windows, and he throws well moving both left and right. Very reminiscent of Matthew Stafford.

He sounds a lot like Justin Herbert, who Elway is rumored to adore.

Herbert isn’t quite as accurate and doesn’t do as well under pressure.

Gotcha. So last weekend you and I were working through hypothetical draft scenarios as to whether you would rather have the first overall pick or two picks in the 20-32 range.

If you were the Broncos with the 2020 draft looming, what would you prefer and why?

First overall. Even if you don’t want a QB, just take Andrew Thomas or Jeffrey Okudah. They’re both incredibly good.

How steep do you believe the drop off is from Thomas or Okudah to the corners and tackles that’d be available at the end of round 1 or the top of the second?

Alex Leatherwood is a guy I really like in the late first, so maybe not huge there. But Okudah is far and away the best CB in the draft. Paul Adebo has speed concerns, Kristian Fulton has trouble finding the ball sometimes, and Hall just broke his leg.

If I told you Fangio loathes corners who don’t tackle, how would you rank those guys?

Adebo, Hall, Fulton.

With Okudah at the top?


Do you have any sleepers at each position that Broncos Country should keep their eyes out for the rest of this college season?


Ben Bartch, St. John’s (MN)

Hakeem Adeniji, Kansas

Scott Frantz, Kansas Stats


Reid Harrison-Ducros, Duquesne

Essang Bassey, Wake Forest

Cam Dantzler, Mississippi State

Oh man I love me some Hakeem Adeniji. So realistically the AFC West is going to run through Kansas City for the foreseeable future. What would the Broncos need to do this offseason to make a jump up to legitimate contender status?

Sign Tom Brady?

But honestly, there’s not really anything that will vault the Broncos to instant contenders. They need to fix the OL and the back end of the defense first, then figure out the QB situation.

Then go from there.

Do you think a strong spring could get them into wildcard contention or are things too far gone?

Wild card contention is possible, but not with either Flacco or Lock at QB.

So you’d chase an upgrade at QB?

Yeah I’d be looking at Teddy Bridgewater in free agency for sure.

Your Broncos Links

Joe Flacco ruled out versus Cleveland Browns with neck injury - Mile High Report

The Denver Broncos have ruled Joe Flacco out with a neck injury against the Cleveland Browns. Brandon Allen will get the start.

Sorry, Joe Flacco, you own this loss too - Mile High Report

The quarterback called out Rich Scangarello in his post-game presser for not being aggressive in the final offensive drive. But the QB forgot to include his own total ineptitude in the defeat.

Denver Broncos: Fan irritation replaces fervor - Mile High Report

It’s no longer easy to discount all the problems with the Denver Broncos.

Denver Broncos 8 winners, 1 loser in 15-13 loss to Indianapolis Colts - Mile High Report

The Broncos found a way to lose another game in the final seconds. The good news is we’re halfway through the season.

9 things we learned in the Broncos 15-13 loss to the Colts. - Mile High Report

If the 2019 Broncos were a movie, It’d a Groundhog day.

Denver Broncos Film Study, part 1: The ‘ugly’ Joe Flacco on third down - Mile High Report

The word “ugly” is too kind for Flacco’s third down play.

The Denver Broncos’ defense did more than enough - Mile High Report

Holding your opponent to 15 points should be good enough to win. Apparently, not for Denver.

Where do the Denver Broncos go from here? - Mile High Report

Call me crazy, but the 2020 Broncos are two pieces away from playoff contention.

FMIA Week 8: Nick Bosa, Defensive MVP? Plus, inside Watson’s incredible TD pass and Belichick stories – ProFootballTalk

There’s a cadre of young players, I’m told, led by Phillip Lindsay, Bradley Chubb and a couple of others chafing against the unhappiness of some vets left over from the Super Bowl team of 2015.

The Winners and Losers of NFL Week 8 - The Ringer

Here’s my advice for the Broncos: If you’re winning by one or two points, and the other team has the ball in the two-minute drill, don’t rush the quarterback. Just hang out and let him do whatever he wants back there. I know this sounds like a bad idea, but actually pursuing and nearly sacking the quarterback in these situations is clearly leading to Denver’s downfall.

Midseason MVPs For Every NFL Team | The Draft Network

Simmons’ progression from last year to this year has been impressive. He’s shown greater comfort and more confidence in an array of different coverage roles, and he’s been in on 100 percent of the team’s defensive snaps so far this season.

Why won’t the Broncos take another scoop of Drew Lock right now?

Even though Lock could not practice during his first six weeks on injured reserve, his development in the cerebral aspects of learning how to be a professional quarterback continued. He participated in meetings. He stood on the sideline with a radio receiver in his ear for all games. He was a fixture at practice, often seen during the open-to-media periods near the quarterbacks and their coaches. Last week, as the quarterbacks would work on their drops, Lock would be several feet away, going through drops of his own, even though he wore a workout T-shirt while his teammates wore practice jerseys. There seems to be little more he can do while he waits.

NFL Draft Links

Broncos currently hold 7th overall pick halfway through season - Mile High Report

Fire up those mock drafts!

Jordan Reid’s 2020 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 | The Draft Network


Justin Herbert

QB, Oregon

The Broncos are in a bit of a tough spot. John Elway still believes that the team is somewhat of a contender, but the results so far this season say the exact opposite after a 2-6 start. Patience are running thin in the Mile High city and the franchise still has no clue what they have in rookie second-round quarterback Drew Lock.

Even though the former Mizzou QB has yet to set foot in a regular season game, that shouldn’t keep the team away from seriously thinking about drafting a quarterback. Offensive tackle and cornerback are also huge needs, but getting the quarterback right supersedes that.

Herbert is an interesting case because he really hasn’t done much to move the needle in any direction for his draft stock this year. The same positives and concerns that we had about him coming into the season remain the exact same, but his character and potential remain unquestioned.

NFL Links

Bruce Arians: “Referees aren’t held accountable” – ProFootballTalk

“Everybody except one guy saw the ball out, blew a quick whistle,” Arians said. “My biggest thing is referees aren’t held accountable. Coaches get fired, General Managers get fired, players get cut. Referees aren’t accountable. And it’s a shame. It’s been there 40 years and now we’ve got a new agreement and it’ll be that way for 40 more years.”

49ers getting offers for C.J. Beathard – ProFootballTalk

According to Matt Maiocco of, the 49ers have taken calls from multiple teams offering late-round picks for a guy they’re not using at the moment.

Bill Belichick on Lamar Jackson: “He’s definitely a problem” – ProFootballTalk

Two weeks ago, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talked up Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson before Seattle hosted Baltimore. And that didn’t keep Baltimore from winning the game.

Jets trade Leonard Williams to Giants – ProFootballTalk

Word that the Jets were open to trading defensive lineman Leonard Williams was proven correct on Monday, but Williams won’t have to change much about his daily routine.

The Patriots, the 49ers, and the Pursuit of a Perfect Season - The Ringer

New England and San Francisco both rolled Sunday to stay unbeaten at the NFL’s midway point. What makes each team so special? And does either have a chance to run the table?