Look Broncos Country, I get it. We’re in uncharted waters here.
The Broncos have started 0-3. The defense looks completely flaccid. The offense puked up turnovers that in essence killed any hope the team had of winning in Lambeau Field.
After a red-zone inept loss to the Raiders the team had a game stolen from them against the Bears and somehow, this game all of a sudden loomed large in the eyes of the fanbase. This was a “must-win” game to many.
Honestly though people, that’s nonsense. Green Bay is a team that is light years ahead of us in roster development with a set in stone legit top-5 NFL QB in Aaron Rogers.
I gave us a puncher’s chance of winning this game and puncher’s don’t win when they make critical mistakes and drop their guard.
The defense looked a lot better in this game from a coverage standpoint outside of the one deep TD pass that we gave up early in the game. We defended the run well enough and got Green Bay in many off schedule 3rd downs which helped the defense do a fairly decent job in some ways.
The elephant in the room
But what is absolutely killing this defense is its lack of pass rush and any talk of it being due to short yardage situations is absolute nonsense at this point. The team had plenty of 3rd and long opportunities and Rogers had ALL DAY to pass.
Von Miller does NOT look as fast as he did last year. It isn’t scheme for him. It is ability and execution. I would almost hazard to guess that Von’s bulking up has predictably (because we’ve seen this before, remember?) cost him quickness and speed. He’s sealing the edge, playing zone coverage, and running to the ball very well, but when you watch his pass rushing snaps, he’s just not getting it done against single or double teams (which to his credit he still faces plenty of).
The problem isn’t just that though. The defensive line up front just doesn’t get good push in the middle. Derek Wolfe is too slow (and always has been...pass rush isn’t his bag honestly), Shelby Harris gets no push at all from the NT position. Adam Gotsis looks mostly like a younger Wolfe and doesn’t get penetration either. DeMarcus Walker has seemed okay at times, but he doesn’t appear to me to be big enough to enforce his will.
Is it a scheme thing? Maybe.
Is it a talent thing? Could be.
Is it a snap percentage thing? That could be it as well.
Adjusting to Vic Fangio’s style of defense was always going to take work. We’re 2-gapping up front, we have lackluster ILBs behind the line, and our OLBs are seeing more snaps than they ever have by a large margin.
About the secondary
Chris Harris Jr. had what was in my eyes his worst look in a game he’s had in years and years. He gave up some pretty big passes that was absolutely abnormal for him. One was a back shoulder throw and the other a comeback route he was playing way too safe.
But probably the brightest spot of the whole game was De’Vante Bausby getting his shot on the outside this game and absolutely killing it. He looked calm, knowledgeable, and impactful in this game and in my mind stole Isaac Yiadom’s job if I were calling the shots.
I’m not quite sure about the wrinkle this week of playing Kareem Jackson at slot while having Parks at S. Jackson had a fairly poor game and didn’t seem to be as on top of things as much as he was in weeks one and two. I don’t expect him to consistently be poor at slot though...once he acclimates to it and gets comfortable it could be a move that helps this defense immensely.
The Broncos offense was supremely frustrating to me. One one hand, they looked very competent and able early in the game. But on the other hand, their penchant for turning over the ball absolutely killed us in this game.
Flacco isn’t the issue
I’m standing by my opinion so far this season that Joe Flacco isn’t anywhere near the top of the list of problems for our team. Sure, he’s got some throws you want back. Yes, he’s held the ball a little too long at times where I’d rather see him throw it away. But he’s still playing better than anything we’ve had in years.
For the running game, Phillip Lindsay finally showed up in this game. That TD run where he was stuffed for a loss of 1 and broke multiple tackles (with a big help from Dalton Risner) was some big boy NFL playing if I ever saw it.
The O-Line looked better
And to the offensive line’s credit, the pass blocking and run blocking both looked improved in this game. Yes we gave up sacks, but in my mind those are far more on the receivers for not getting open and Flacco for holding the ball too long that anything else.
Tight ends in action
Noah Fant getting the ball taken out of his hands was probably the most pathetic thing I’ve seen so far this season short of Garett Bolles’ poor technique. Hold that damned ball, dude!
Conversely, Jeff Heuerman looked like a boss at TE for us. Don’t hold your breath though people. He always has one or two good games a year before he gets injured.
Use your weapons
If there was one thing I would like to change on offense, it would be that Rich Scangarello schemes more situations to get Courtland Sutton in one-on-one jump ball situations and tells Flacco to just throw it up for him. It isn’t that Sutton isn’t giving us enough, it is that I see him week after week looking like the best player on our offense and wish we could get him even more involved.
If you look at the stat sheet you may want to say the same for Sanders, but from what I saw, he was really covered well by Green Bay in this game. I don’t think it was his week to get targets. Look for him to get back to big plays with better match ups.
I think one of my biggest irritations this offseason was John Elway’s continued talk about not rebuilding. I find it pretty funny to see his hand being forced in that regard with what is happening early in this season. I honestly think he expected to be 2-1 right now and on our way to competing for the division.
Honestly though, I can live with this 0 - 3 start. We have a new coaching staff with a VERY different scheme on both sides of the ball. The Broncos can still get to that level I talked about this offseason (7 - 10 wins), but they really are out of wiggle room at this point. Our schedule gets a little easier in the next couple of weeks and they need to take that opportunity to build some momentum if they are going to look anything close to a John Elway “reloaded” team.