Coming off a win over Miami, Broncos Country is feeling more optimistic about the team’s potential - even way Down Under where this week’s Ultimate Fan follows his favorite team.
Playing the experienced Saints was always going to be a tough matchup for the young Broncos, but with Drew Brees still out for injury, the window of opportunity has opened a tiny bit wider, and our mate jmac-31 sees the Broncos taking advantage.
A veteran on this series, j-mac’s outlook for the Broncos once again does not disappoint and is further proof this series is the best thing going before Game Day!
Week 12: Saints at Broncos
MHR - The Broncos put together a win last week over the Dolphins that basically featured a solid game from the offense, defense and special teams. Was that a fluke or more like a team getting closer to figuring it out this season?
J-Mac31: That was a team figuring it out as the season has progressed. I base this mainly on the offensive performance. After the first two drives, the offense clicked - good running, good blocking and good quarterbacking. All of this came against a great defense so I can’t see it as a fluke. With the offense being able to sustain drives, the defense could rest up better and take full advantage of playing against a rookie QB and a beat up o-line. McManus and Martin are simply excellent.
MHR - Before the Dolphins’ game, Phillip Lindsay had been saying that the team that runs the ball well wins the game - and it turned out to be prophetic. The Saints have one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Is Lindsay’s viewpoint still the way to win the game this weekend?
J-Mac31: He’s right - if you can run the ball well, you can put together long drives to deny the other team the ball and allow your defense to rest. It makes the game easier for any quarterback, which is always good when you’ve got an inexperienced one playing, which we do! If we can come close to replicating what we did against Miami on the ground, it’ll go a long way to contributing to a win.
MHR - Drew Lock had an interception and went three-and-out in his first two drives against the Dolphins. Then he came out, drove the team down the field for a tying touchdown and kept going with sustaining drives. Has Drew Lock turned the proverbial corner?
J-Mac31: I really hope so. That Miami D is very good, so him being able to do what he did against them was impressive. Some of the plays that he made on third downs were particularly good. I know that he’s still got a lot of work to do to play consistently well, but there is plenty of good to build on.
MHR - How do you feel about Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator? Assuming the Broncos stick with Lock in 2021, Can the Shurmur-Lock offense grow and thrive? Does it have to because it would be worse to give Lock yet another new OC?
J-Mac31: I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic when Shurmur was hired - I know that he’s been around for a long time so is a steady hand, but his offenses over the years have mostly been meh. Having said that, with the players that Lock is throwing to, as well as the running backs, there is potential there for reasonably bland playcalling to still put up plenty of yards and then (ideally) touchdowns. If Lock is the quarterback next year, Shurmur has to be back; Lock (and everyone really) needs consistency in scheme and coaching to work on over the offseason and into next season.
MHR - If you took away Melvin Gordon’s fumbles, his play for the Broncos would be pretty darn good overall. But of course you can’t take away the fumbles. Is Gordon more of a liability or an asset for this offense?
J-Mac31: I still think Gordon is more of an asset than a liability. I don’t think you can afford to play just one running back if you plan to run the ball a lot. Gordon’s play has mostly been good IMO. He runs well without being truly explosive and can pick up the tough yards. He’s also a good pass blocker. We saw against Miami what he can do when the o-line is playing really well; JUST HANG ONTO THE BALL.
MHR - Some film gurus who analyze quarterbacks have pointed out how much Lock keys in on his first read and how often the Broncos must use static routes to help him. Is this a major problem moving forward? How could Shurmur help him improve this?
J-Mac31: If Lock is going to continue to… ahem…LOCK onto his first read, it will be a significant problem. It makes defending him waaay too easy.
As for how to work with Lock on fixing it… I’ve got nothing, hahaha; I’m no coach. All I can think of is maybe they could have times at practice where he’s not allowed to throw to his first read even if it’s open. I think film study can show him when and where players are open, but that’s not the same as being out on the field running the play with giant dudes rushing toward you.
MHR - Last week one of the best pieces of the offense was the line. Garett Bolles and Dalton Risner played strong and even Lloyd Cushenberry III showed great improvement. Is this a sign of more good things to come...or just a lucky week?
J-Mac31: As above, given how good the Miami defense has been this season, I don’t think this was a lucky week. Center is one of the most difficult positions to pick up going into the NFL, and Cushenberry came in needing to add strength and didn’t get a real offseason to practice. It’s not a surprise he’s getting better as the season goes on. I imagine part of Risner’s struggles this year have been due to playing next to that rookie center. I think two important things this week were getting Dotson back and the play calling. Dotson is competent and that makes him by far the best right tackle the team has played this year. And calling a lot of pull plays for the linemen - even the center - put them into good positions to make plays. Once the running game gets going, it makes it harder for the defense to rush the passer because they can’t all out attack.
MHR - Shelby Harris will be out at least another week for COVID-19 recovery, but the backup line of Dre’Mont Jones, DeShawn Williams, Demarcus Walker (and even Sly Williams) have been doing a bangup job in spite of no starters along the line. Can they hold up against Alvin Kamara and also get after Taysom Hill?
J-Mac31: This week will be a tougher test than last because the Saints’ o-line isn’t as beat up as Miami’s was, but I think they can still hold up. Losing Purcell clearly impacted the run defending, but I think as the fill-ins play more, the better they’re getting. Getting after Hill will probably require good discipline from the edge players.
MHR - Speaking of the Saints’ quarterback, what is the key to stopping him?
He’s so versatile that I suspect it will be quite difficult to stop him. I think the two keys will be edge/lane discipline and good coverage. Basically don’t give him room to run and cut off passing options. How hard can it be?
MHR - Sean Payton is known as an offensive mastermind, and Vic Fangio is known for his defensive prowess. Both coaches complimented each other’s talent earlier this week. If the outcome of the game comes down to Payton’s offense versus Fangio’s defense, who wins this matchup?
J-Mac31: Given that Payton’s working with a quarterback making just his second start this season, it’s gotta be Fangio.
MHR - Alexander Johnson talked on local radio earlier this week about his chemistry growing with Josey Jewell, and the two have certainly been a formidable force together, both attacking receivers in the middle but also rushing the quarterback. What do you think of this dynamic duo this season?
J-Mac31: I think they’ve been fantastic. Johnson has been excellent again this year and I’ve been really impressed with how improved Jewell is; he’s been really good too. I’ve enjoyed watching them blitz more this year.
It’s a shame that we haven’t been able to see Strnad rotate in this year; I was looking forward to seeing a linebacker out there with some more speed. Next year...
MHR - What is your favorite defensive and offensive UNIT on this Broncos squad and why?
J-Mac31: On offense it’s the receivers - Sutton is a beast but barely played this year, so we’ve gotten to see plenty of the other guys. The two rookies have so much potential and after some early season issues are starting to play well consistently, and Patrick is a hard worker who can make some good plays.
On defense it’s probably the d-line. The injuries have continually piled up, but the team’s found random guys to come in and play well. I’ve been most impressed with DeShawn Williams from that perspective, and it’s also great having Sylvester Williams back. I’m also gonna cheat and include the edge players in this and point out that I really like how Malik Reed has played this year.
MHR - Earlier this week it was made known that Peyton Manning “made the cut” for the 2021 HOF candidates. How much do you miss PFM and what do you miss the most from him (besides, duhhh, his commercials)?
J-Mac31: I don’t really miss Manning anymore; I guess it’s been so long since he was here (and even longer since he was consistently good). I think what I miss about him the most is his leadership and experience. We saw in 2015 that while he struggled with the physical side of the game, he was still the best option to lead the team in the playoffs.
*I’m gonna admit that I usually skip over this section because who knows (¬‿¬)
Stats for Drew Lock? 280 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Stats for each Broncos RB? Gordon 60 yards, 1 TD; Lindsay 80 yards, 1 TD
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? 280 yards combined :P
Longest FG for McManus? 51 yards
Number of sacks to Lock? 2
Number of sacks to Taysom Hill? 3
Broncos player with the most tackles? Johnson
Who gets the most sacks? Chubb
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 2 INT, 1 FF, 0 FR
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? All of them
Final Score? Broncos 27 - Saints 24
Favorite Broncos game EVER? Super Bowl 50
Team you hate to lose to the most? Ravens, Chiefs
Non AFC West team you hate to lose to the most? Seahawks, Cowboys
Team you love to beat? Ravens
Favorite time Broncos were the underdog and won? Tebow. Steelers. Playoffs.
Favorite game (were/still) looking forward to this season? It would have been this week if Brees were playing; he would have given our D a tough test. Instead I’ll go with the Bills game. I’m really interested to see Josh Allen play.
Toughest game left on the schedule? Chiefs, as always
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Von - GET WELL SOON
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Too tough to pick one
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Jeudy and Cushenberry
Superstitions on game day? None - just don’t tell me the score
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Can I say Gruden? (even though I actually liked him as a commentator)
Favorite sports movie? I think I said “Blades of Glory” last year, so I’ll go with “Talladega Nights”
Favorite sports cliche? If you’re not first, you’re last
Best sports GIF? The Peyton question got me thinking of this one
How did you become a Broncos fan?
I was a Nuggets fan before following the NFL, so I’d picked up things here and there about the Broncos already. When they started showing the NFL on free-to-air-TV over here (Australia), there was no question I was going to watch it and the Broncos were the logical choice. I did briefly consider the Chargers because their uniforms were the same colors as the Nuggets; very glad I didn’t go that option. Also I wish my brother had followed my lead and gone with the Browns instead of picking the Ravens.
Which team UNIT is your favorite?
This poll is closed