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12 things we learned after the Broncos’ 27-16 loss to the Packers

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Plenty of plays the Denver Broncos will want back, but lots to like in this loss to the Green Bay Packers.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers
Lindsay looked like a Pro Bowl running back.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in the Wisconsin rain and muck are a lot of positives. The Broncos may have dropped to 0-3 for the first time since 1999, but a lot of young players flashed the kind of promise you hope to find if you’re looking for young core players.

Here’s what we learned today.

1. Bryce Callahan may not play in 2019.

A little over an hour before the game, it became clear the Broncos corner wouldn’t be able to play. That alone wasn’t a big surprise, but word emerged that there is a concern he may not be able to suit up this year.

If that’s the case, it’s a pretty unfortunate turn of events for both the Broncos and Callahan. He was a late free agent signing last spring, and his signing bonus looked pretty low for a player of his caliber, which suggests there was some concern around the league about his health.

Hopefully, Callahan can get back to health and contribute this year or down the road. If not, the Broncos can move on from him in 2020, but according to Over The Cap it would cost them a little over $6 million in dead cap.

2. Todd Davis suits up

On a more positive note, Todd Davis was active after missing all of training camp and the preseason with a partial calf tear.

3. Aaron Rodgers does Aaron Rodgers things early.

On the Packers opening drive the Packers shredded the Broncos secondary and capped it off by getting a free play touchdown. I mentioned prior to the game how dangerous Matt LaFleur’s early script would be, and it lived up to the hype.

4. Derek Wolfe may be down for a while.

In the second quarter the Packers ripped a run out of the gun with Jamaal Williams. That alone hurt, but in the middle of the play Derek Wolfe took friendly fire from Will Parks and had to be carted off.

5. The Broncos tackles got exposed. Again.

Garett Bolles got beat on the Broncos second redzone drive that turned into a field goal. On the following drive Elijah Wilkinson was badly beat off the edge and gave up a strip sack to Preston Smith. On the day Joe Flacco was constantly under siege despite play calls to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible.

It wasn’t just the pass game either. Both tackles had plenty of issues blocking for the backs as well.

Early in the game I saw some complaints by fans because of the methodical way Denver marched down the field. If you’re looking for big plays, you may want to pray Elway finds better tackle play in 2020. Munchak and Scangarello are trying to hide the bookends as best they can through three games.

6. Rich Scangarello calls a strong game.

It’s hard to fault the Broncos offensive coordinator for Bolles and Wilkinson looking mediocre against one of the best edge rushing duos in the league. It’s also difficult to fault him for the refs robbing Denver a second touchdown in the second quarter.

Personally, I loved the way he called the game.

Down 24-10 in the second half, Scangarello didn’t panic and move to the passing game either. Got to give the first year coordinator a ton of credit where it’s due. It isn’t his fault Flacco and Fant turned the ball over.

By the time Denver moved to true comeback mode, it was 27-16 and clearly time. Unfortunately, the Broncos issues at tackle continued to haunt them.

7. De’Vante Bausby shines with more playing time.

On a couple of different occasions Bausby showed off the kind of patient aggression Fangio’s corners need to have to thrive against underneath passes in Lambeau.

His performance continued into the second half. Time and again, Bausby showed the kind of coverage I expected after watching his preseason. It certainly looks like he’ll get more opportunities going forward. A promising development.

8. Noah Fant’s roller coaster day.

It’s understandable if you’ve been a bit impatient with the Broncos first rounder so far, but remember how notoriously slow tight ends are to develop. In the first half of the day he shows some promise of things to come with a nice snag from Flacco to keep the offense grinding.

In the second half, Green Bay’s Jaire Alexander stripped him to kill their chance at tying the game. Keep in mind Alexander is quickly heading towards elite corner status and his ball skills have been notoriously good. Also remember the conditions Denver played in today.

Still, it was a painful reminder of how far away Fant is from a finished product.

With that said, it was very encouraging that no one on the Broncos let Fant’s rookie mistake throw him into the doghouse or haunt him. Late in the game with the offense facing third and 14, Flacco still trusted his tight end to come up huge.

9. Josey Jewell’s exposed in coverage.

I know some Iowa fans may cringe at this, but it’s probably time to circle back and realize Josey Jewell has serious limitations in coverage. The Packers certainly did when they dialed up a fullback wheel to give their checks notes Danny Vitale (who?) a 27-yard catch to get them in the redzone.

10. Dalton Risner & Phillip Lindsay show heart and grit.

It’s going to be hard for any score to top this touchdown as my favorite for the 2019 season. 4th and ball game and these two lifelong Bronco fans show what it means to never say die.

11. Courtland Sutton looks like a burgeoning star. Again.

Going into the game I wanted to see if Courtland Sutton would see any coverage from the Packers Jaire Alexander. By and large he drew Kevin King’s coverage as the Broncos’ number two option. He made the most of the opportunities presented to him. Flacco looked to him early and often on passing downs, including this third down shot:

12. The pass rush quietly does its part.

The box score scouts will continue to cite how Von Miller and Bradley Chubb did not get a sack on Aaron Rodgers today. Anyone who watched the game will know both of them and others made their presence felt. Green Bay finished the day 2-8 on third downs and Rodgers completed a little over half his passes.

Final thoughts

Losing sucks. No way around it. Still, this Packer team looks like a legitimate Super Bowl contender and their defense is going to finish among the very best in the league this year. Minus the turnovers, the way Denver played today gives a lot of hope for the days ahead Broncos Country.