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Broncos vs Chargers: The No Bull Review

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In a battle for the basement of the AFC West, the Denver Broncos came out victorious. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on the Denver Broncos’ most recent game.

Coming into this game, the Denver Broncos were 3 - 8. Around 20,000-season ticket holders were no-shows for the game. The only thing remotely interesting was the Broncos finally starting rookie Drew Lock.

Losing didn’t really mean much.

Winning didn’t really mean much ... no matter how vehemently some may defend the idea. Sure, everyone likes a win, but this late in the season everyone knows what the Broncos are. They are a rebuilding team trying to figure out how to play actual good football and trying to find their starting quarterback of the future.

No matter how much apathy this writer could muster, just seeing a new guy under center had me excited. I’m the guy that goes off the eye test more than anything else. I like to read between the lines. I like to see body language during ups and downs. And with quarterbacks I like to see technique from different sets and how consistent they are.

As meaningless as the game overall may have been, this was honestly the most interesting game of the 2019 Denver Broncos’ season for this fan.

Offense

The game plan for the Broncos was exactly as one would expect for a team trotting out a rookie QB: lots of running and a conservative passing attack. I wasn’t surprised really and wasn’t disturbed by this either. I think it was a smart move by the coaching staff. You want your young QB to get a decent shot at a win.

I liked some of the innovative play calls with the run game (especially the read / option play that had the two tight ends back as fullbacks). I also liked how Rich Scangarello utilized the boot action for his quarterback to help neutralize the pass rush and buy time for Lock to look downfield.

Twenty-three points isn’t anything to call home about, but I call it a solid outing for this offense.

Quarterbacks

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t some other-worldly look at a bright future that we saw from Drew Lock’s first NFL start. You can’t tell me that it didn’t look decent, though. One of the things I like most about Lock’s game is the heat he can put on a pass. That was evident early with his completion on 3rd down to Hamilton to move the chains. I also loved the touch he put on the first TD pass to Sutton. On his second TD pass to Sutton, he reads the play inside out perfectly and hits the open guy in the end zone.

The downsides I saw from his game were the same ones I saw in the preseason: He’s not “into” his footwork consistently like you want to see. Because his arm is so strong, he can overcome a lot of bad foot positioning. That can work as he’s not the only QB in the NFL to do that (Cam Newton and Matt Stafford come to mind), but it is an area we’ll hopefully see some growth in as he works to hone his craft.

All in all, I know he’s been the talk of Broncos Country for the past week and a half. Let me just say that we shouldn’t make more or less of this one game than what it is: a good NFL start by a rookie QB.

Line

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As bad as this offensive line gets harped on, I can’t help but give them all credit for the work they did in this game. Yes, there were problems here and there, but Lock was kept mostly clean and the run game worked even when the Chargers knew it was coming. Believe it or not, I thought Garett Bolles had a pretty darn impressive game at left tackle.

The big problem I saw from a blocking perspective came from the tight ends though. None of the guys blocking in the game did a decent job of it which to me is really disappointing. Being the kind of TE that is willing to get physical with a pass rusher can be a huge advantage for a team and right now we have nothing but liabilities in this arena.

Running Backs

How much should we laud Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman for this game? I didn’t really note much during the game that stood out to me from either of them. The Broncos game plan was pretty close to the LOS and involved a lot of runs. This made it pretty easy for a decent defense like what the Chargers have to focus in on the run and keep them fairly bottled up.

Receivers

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If Courtland Sutton gets a legit QB to throw to him in the next season or two, he is going to be an NFL superstar. That one-handed TD catch was nothing short of amazing. The fact that he has been as productive as he has been while being double covered consistently (because his game is no longer a secret to other NFL teams) makes it all the more noteworthy.

But what needs to happen the most for this offense to take a step forward is for a legitimate 2nd WR to step forward and make defenses pay consistently for rolling coverage Sutton’s way. This week’s game plan saw a focus on DaeSean Hamilton to be that guy and he just plainly isn’t. For at least the 2nd time this season he had a big play pass hit him in the hands and dropped the ball. That’s just not acceptable for a guy that brings nothing spectacular in the way of size, speed, or athletic ability to the table.

Defense

The defense did a pretty decent job of keeping the Charger run game in check. Yes, Melvin Gordon had a good day at the office with 5 ypc. But what is encouraging was that his long was only 19.

The bigger problem for the defense of course came in the secondary. Our young corners got taken advantage of a couple of times for big touchdowns which you hate to see, but with this Bronco team you have to expect sadly.

Front 7

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Wolfe looked like a man on a mission early with a sack earned by great penetration and burst. He got another sack in the 4th quarter with persistence as Rivers held the ball a little too long. It was a real bummer to hear he was injured and won’t be back on the field this season. Derek Wolfe has been one of my favorite Broncos since he was drafted and I hope to see him back on the field next year for the orange and blue.

Alexander Johnson even hobbled a tad with a knee brace was still looking like a monster on the field. He showed some really great instincts a couple of different times getting a TFL.

The pass rush really missed Von Miller and while we were able to get some pressure up the middle, the Broncos just didn’t have the kind of talent on the outside to generate much.

Secondary

CHJ gave up an easy third-down conversion ... not once, not twice, but three times. While he didn’t get burned for a TD in this game, his performance on third down was honestly abysmal.

Will Parks gets sack on a nice blitz off the edge. I like how Vic Fangio is using Parks who strikes me as a kind o swiss army knife kind of player. He’s not the best tool at any one job, but he can do a lot of different jobs decently in a pinch.

Special Teams

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

I’m honestly not understanding why there’s any back and forth at all with Fangio about his decision to not let Brandon McManus go for the NFL record at the end of the half. Fangio was 100% wrong and it isn’t something that is up for debate. His nonsense about going for that messing up the kicker’s technique strikes me as something a coach would say to cover his own ass. I’m not sure what the reasoning is for Fangio not letting him go for it, but the situation doesn’t get any more perfect than one second left at the end of a half for that kind of attempt.

Final Thoughts

The story for the Broncos 2019 season is now all about the rookie Drew Lock. We’ve all seen the writing on the wall for this team for more than a month now.

That’s a good thing to me because it is going to put a lot of light on Lock and hopefully we’ll get some meaningful idea of what his future will be with the Broncos. I will say I’m pretty encouraged to hear Dalton Risner mention Lock’s work ethic from his time being roommates with him this offseason. That dedication to learning is what Lock needs if he is going to be anything special at all in the NFL.

As always, share your thoughts with me in the comments. Who stood out the most for you in this game? What did you like / dislike about Lock’s first start? Was Fant’s passe day due to unfamiliarity with Lock?