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Broncos at Vikings: The No Bull Review

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The Denver Broncos put up a valiant effort against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough.  Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on the game and maybe a little sunshine for Broncos Country.

Life, unfortunately, kept me from being able to watch the Broncos-Vikings game live, though I got some score updates along the way.

When discussing it on Monday as many at MHR were discussing the “what ifs” and “coulda beens,” someone suggested I skip the second half. My reply at the time was that the second half would be pretty easy to predict. Here’s what I said verbatim:

“Vikings have a massive run game — we stopped it. Then the Vikings found out what a problem we have in our secondary in the second half.”

Keep your chins up, Broncos Country. This isn’t a big deal. Just like everyone knows the Broncos don’t have an answer at QB yet (and they don’t ... calm it down, Brandon Allen fanboys), they also are missing answers at cornerback in a big way.

Defense

Vic Fangio is getting everything he can out of the team we have as it stands. I really like how dominant the front seven is becoming even though they are missing Bradley Chubb (which can’t be understated).

Probably the most impressive part of this game was how often we were able to stop the Vikings on 3rd down-and-manageable. Yes, they started converting them more in the second half, but if things bounce a little bit more our way here or there, this would have been a sideways game for the Broncos.

There is just no getting around the lack of talent at the cornerback position. I like what Fangio has been able to do with the equivalent of duct tape and bailing wire on the back end. But Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs were just too much for our young corners to handle.

Front 7

Von Miller had what was a very solid game against the Vikings. He made a great play in coverage on third down to make a nice stop in the first half. He also did his part consistently as a pass rusher with a never-give-up sack that Cousins held too long, plua a laundry list of plays where he tied up two defenders play after play and freed up the other linemen to do what they do.

Mike Purcell was a force against the run early and often. He was winning with penetration in this game which isn’t something I’ve seen him do a bunch of in his short career with us. I’m excited for this guy and what a future he has with this team. He’s the real deal at nose tackle in our 3-4, ladies and gentlemen.

Shelby Harris was an absolute monster in this game. He’s become a very talented and powerful player at DE who looks to me to be a real student of the game at his position. He used a fantastic series of moves to swim through two defenders on his first sack. His second sack was again due to superb technique as he used his power and leverage along with great use of his arm to ruin his opponent’s leverage and open himself up a huge lane.

Secondary

I know Devontae Harris is a young player with room to grow, but he really looks like a guy in this game that was just playing not to give up a big play. Diggs caught a big pass on him because he was unsure of his assignment and flat footed. On that TD pass right after the half, he was too slow to read the offense and get to his assignment which made for an easy pitch and catch for the Vikings. He also missed a gimme INT in the third quarter. I honestly lost track of how many passes were caught on the guy. It wasn’t just a bad showing, it was every bit as bad as anything Isaac Yiadom put on tape earlier in the season.

Dawson looked completely out of his element more than a couple of times in this game. It cost the defense another easy TD late in the second half. Honestly, the young corners had a rough outing and there’s just not a lot that the Broncos can do about it at this point.

Chris Harris, Jr. straight up got his lunch money stolen by Diggs on a wide open easy-peasy TD catch. Yes, a safety should have been rolling to help, but it doesn’t change the fact that the dude got smoked. Diggs isn’t the kind of WR you want CHJ on (which is honestly why you didn’t see that matchup much). He has too much flat out speed for Chris to be able to be in a position to make use of his excellent technique.

Did anyone see Justin Simmons in this game? I noticed Kareem Jackson on a really nice run stop, but where were our play making safeties in this one? This duo at safety are honestly one of the best duos in the NFL and for whatever reason they just didn’t seem to have much of an impact in the game.

Offense

This was hands-down the best game I’ve seen from a game-planning and scheme standpoint for the Broncos. I really enjoyed seeing creativity in the run game that Rich Scangarello put into the plan for this game. We had built in option plays that were confusing, and were really challenging one of the best defenses in the NFL. And if we’re being completely honest, they folded like a cheap lawn chair.

Add to that that we did it with a backup quarterback who completed less than half of his passes and it looks even worse for the Vikings. The cool thing is that with our team being out of the playoff race in all honesty, they have nothing to lose and are out there stretching the limits of what they have built for this offense. It is honestly fun to watch and hopefully we’ll see them throw Drew Lock out there to see what the kid has.

The one downside for the coaching on this side of the ball were how many penalties they got for illegal formations. That’s one thing they really need to clean up and get the players attention on because they are little things that put our offense in a hole.

Quarterbacks

Brandon Allen isn’t the quarterback this team wants, but I love that he’s not afraid of the field or the moment. I really liked his timing pass in red zone to Fumagalli for his only TD. It was on time and on the money, which makes it VERY hard for the defender to stop when he’s not in the right technique for the route.

His INT was straight up terrible though. That was a ball that never should have been thrown and even then was thrown to the wrong angle for the route for our guy to ever even have a chance. He has to make a different read there or just throw it away.

The most frustrating thing about his game was that there was more than one throw downfield that if he makes it with a little more power and distance, the receiver takes it to the house. There was one to Fant like that and one to Sutton that I recall off the top of my head.

Line

This honestly wasn’t the most horrible game for our team of the season. We still have problems at tackle (both sides). We still have up and down play from our right guard (Ron Leary). Probably the biggest whiff of the game though was Andrew Beck blocking no one to give up a QB hit on third down. He honestly just stood there and let the defensive end run right by him as he blocked air.

Running Backs

Loved the early use of Phillip Lindsay. Lots of pitches and counter action runs to let him work with space - which is his game.

Royce Freeman in the opportunities he got looked very good for Denver. He also had good success as a runner for the team and a really nice 14 yard gain on a catch.

Andy Janovich was a monster on the 1 yard TD run. I love seeing a guy run with power like that. He’s a hell of a fighter and hopefully after his season-ending injury we’ll see him back and ready for next season next summer.

Receivers

Noah Fant houses the first pass of the game if it is on target. He honestly ran some really nice routes in this game that put him in a position to use his size and length to make some easy catches as a TE. He shouldn’t be an option in a misdirection run though. He’s much too slow at accelerating to use the angles needed to make those plays work.

We all know Courtland Sutton is the man on this offense. On his first long catch he was getting completely mugged and still made the catch. It showed elite route running and concentration on his part. I really dug the trick play throw by Sutton. They obviously worked on the timing and the route and Sutton nailed it. I didn’t look at the end of the game to see what his coverage situation was, but I sure would have liked to get him some more targets in those red zone situations.

Welcome back, Tim Patrick. What a frigging playa! In his first action back for the season he killed it. He owned the trick play catch as he was smothered by a corner in bad technique and still made the concentration catch. This is the receiver that the Broncos need as the #2. He’s got similar size and speed advantages that Sutton has which means when teams double up on Sutton, Patrick is the kind of receiver that will make them pay.

Special Teams

It wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game, but what happened to Brandon McManus? He’s consistently inconsistent at kicking those 40-50 yard kicks lately. The team honestly needs to bring in competition for him next season. He’s only $1.25 million in dead money and isn’t kicking like a guy you should be paying top kicker money.

Final Thoughts

One thing I think was pretty junky about this game was how it ended. Sure, mugging the receivers play after play is a legit strategy (one that the Vikings honestly employed all game ... they seem to adhere to the idea that the refs won’t flag everything so they may as well be handsy on every play), especially with only around 10 seconds on the clock.

As a fan of the game, I really didn’t like the refs in this game basically letting the boundaries just fly out of the window. What stinks the most is that PI happened on three plays in a row and the last one happened on the last play of the game. I get that the game didn’t have any big playoff implications, but c’mon. Don’t let a team win a game by bending the rules play after play after play.

But sadly, the NFL likes having terrible refs so let’s move on to more positive thoughts about the team we cheer for since there’s really nothing that they are going to do about it.

I was talking to my wife about the game Monday night after finally getting to watch it as she wanted my thoughts on the game. Her big question was, “Why did our team just fall apart in the second half!?”

I don’t think the team fell apart at all. I honestly think that the Vikings were trying to do Viking things and they flat-out couldn’t. Our defense was straight up too good for them up front for them to do what they like to do and run the ball.

But that means you force them to air it out and sadly that means your young inexperienced corners are going to get lit the hell up - which is exactly what we saw. Yes, the defense as a whole shares in that responsibility, but there’s only so much you can do when you are two corners short of a sound starting 11.

I honestly think that if we just had one more guy like CHJ, Fangio could use scheme to help the last guy, but that’s not what we have right now. Look for teams to attack these young corners the rest of the year. They are the weak link in the defense and no amount of Von being a try hard at pass rushing will make up for it.

But what about you guys and gals out there in Broncos Country? It has been a couple of days. Are you still fuming over the loss? Can you see the bright side of the future? Who’s ready for Lock? This competitive season is done. Hopefully now we can focus on the future of the team, getting quality time for our coaches to develop talent and really sink in their schemes to the players as we finish out the season ... maybe we can even spoil some playoff hopes to boot!

Poll

What was your general take on this game?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    I’m encouraged. The coaches look like they know what they are doing and the team was ready to play.
    (631 votes)
  • 5%
    To hell with this team...they are losers and everyone should be fired.
    (49 votes)
  • 22%
    Until we get a QB, it is hard to tell...
    (203 votes)
  • 3%
    What kind of idiot has Von Miller drop back in coverage?
    (35 votes)
918 votes total Vote Now