The Broncos Country Tonight crew was in the studio Monday night to break down the Vikings game, and during the second hour Ryan Edwards and Ben Allbright had a really interesting discussion based on a “what if?”
Pretending that what did actually go wrong in a game didn’t happen is generally a bad idea. But in the Vikings game where so much good did happen (trust me on that), it’s interesting to wonder if you’d think differently about the team, about the coaches, even about the GM, if one of the three passes in the end zone in the final 10 seconds of the game had been caught.
Because, first of all, the Broncos offense - behind a backup quarterback in only his second NFL start, on the road, facing a 7-3 team - had a 19-play drive at the end of the game with a chance to beat the Vikings.
So even though the Broncos gave up a 20-point lead, as a projected 10.5 point underdog, it was always going to be a success if this team could hang in there with a contender.
And facing a top-tier defense, Brandon Allen connected with Tim Patrick and Noah Fant to convert two of three fourth downs while running 11 yards himself to get the third and keep the drive alive when it mattered.
I made a comment Monday that the Broncos were playing with house money to be up 20-0 on the Vikings at their place. And to end up losing was more about how good the Vikings truly were than about how bad the Broncos might be. I also loved this comment from 55below:
“Yeah, we lost. I get it, but the youngster was composed, alert and did a pretty good job of taking what the Viking defense gave him. That was a nineteen (!) play drive to end the game vs a damned good defense and a home crowd yelling their heads off. 13 of Allen’s passes came on that final drive and none were intercepted. He knew when to throw it away. There were no fumbles, and as I recall only one sack. All in all I felt good about how those guys responded to adversity. An awful lot to like going forward.”
And that was exactly the point from Edwards and Allbright - there’s a lot to like and now is the time for the team to take advantage of really testing the roster before the offseason.
Asking Broncos Country to consider “what would the narrative if Broncos had succeeded at the goal line,” Allbright laid out the extreme reactions:
There would be the crowd that wouldn’t be happy no matter what because of the defense giving up four touchdowns, and there would be the crowd that would be so excited for the gutsy win that they would probably have “more exuberance for Brandon Allen than is warranted.”
But in the end, the hosts noted that regardless of the outcome in the Vikings game, the takeaways should be similar - “look at what this thing could be when it’s firing on all cylinders.”
So the best-case scenario for this team, according to Allbright, would be to use the final games to really see what this team might be - see what Drew Lock has, maybe even watch Brett Rypien for a game; try some players out like JuWann Winfree; give Cyrus Jones a few reps; get Justin Hollins a few more reps; ask the veterans if they want to play for legacy or if they want a break; see what Broncos have with Dre’Mont Jones and DeMarcus Walker.
“Then you have a really good grasp on your roster going into next season with a defense that looks like a top five-caliber defense that is getting back Bryce Callahan, Bradley Chubb and DeVante Bausby,” Allbright said. “An offense that looks like it can be something with a quarterback that can move - whether that’s Allen or Lock. You probably get a new left tackle and probably add receiving depth through the draft.
“And then all of the sudden you have a team that can compete. Philip Rivers is falling off. Kansas City is vulnerable; they can lose games. The Raiders have an offense but still need help on defense,” Allbright added. “This division is wide open next year. I think there are a lot of good things to take away.”
Edwards and Allbright also briefly discussed four plays from the game to both highlight the good stuff and try to understand some of the not-so-good.
Brandon Allen’s INT at the goal line just before halftime
Leading off the review, Edwards mentioned Brandon Allen’s interception at the goal line - the first play in a potentially crushing blow to the Vikings who had just coughed up the ball in a kick-off return on their own 17-yard line. While there was some debate as to “whose fault” the interception was, Allbright noted that even though Noah Fant appears to give up on his route at the end, Allen needs to pick up the fact that the Vikings are in Cover 3 and the middle of the field is not an option for a good play.
“More than one person is at fault here. Noah Fant didn’t finish his route but the real fault lies with the quarterback here because he misdiagnosed what’s happening on the play,” Allbright said. “[The Vikings] clearly tipped their hand to Cover 1 or Cover 3 ... and you have to know that the middle of the field is closed with either one.”
Although the rookie tight end should finish his route and maybe contest the safety for the ball, Allbright notes that the rookie recognized the coverage and the QB needs to as well.
Mike Purcell’s TFL on Dalvin Cook
On his first play back in the game after leaving for bruised ribs, Mike Purcell stuffs Dalvin Cook for a one-yard loss. Allbright wanted to mention the play to point out what “a warrior” Purcell has been for the defense and to say more than once that the Broncos need to get him a long-term deal asap. I could not agree more. Since Purcell joined the line, the Broncos’ run defense has been amazing. Holding Cook to just 26 yards on Sunday is a case in point.
“Mike Purcell has been the heart and soul of this defense since the Jaguars game,” Allbright said. “Get that guy wrapped up in a long-term deal A.S.A.P.”
Shelby Harris. Enough said.
With three sacks and a forced fumble, Harris had the game of his life on a day that the entire line had a great game. Edwards also used the talk on Harris to mention that
Brandon Allen to Tim Patrick for a first down on 4th-and-6
Last year when Emmanuel Sanders was hurt and the offense needed a clutch play, Patrick was often the target.
“Fourth down, game on the line, Broncos throw to who else but Tim Patrick and he converts,” Allbright said. “He is a big body with some speed and he is a very valuable addition to what the Broncos do.”
After two days to get past the loss, how do you feel about this team moving forward?
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Just a few key pieces missing
AFC West champs in 2020, baby!
Broncos are still years away