What a fun game to watch as a Bronco fan who likes to actually watch competent NFL offense! We saw TD passes, accurate throws, half of an efficient run game, and something that looked like a dangerous NFL quarterback.
The defense had struggles (which would be expected when you are starting backups at more than one cornerback position). This led the Broncos to have a somewhat nail-biting ending with the team needing to make Just. One. More. Play.
We’re 13 games into the 2020 NFL season. I’ll take it.
It was rough sledding for one of the NFL’s more solid defenses. As I said above, I kind of expected it. When you have lost as many starters as the Broncos have this year on defense, you are not going to do well even against a losing team.
Still, they got the most important stop of the game and did enough to help the team win. For as hard as this unit has been balling all season long, they honestly deserved to have a game where the offense let them play with a lead.
The defensive line really should get a lot of credit for the work they put in especially in the passing game this week. We saw sacks from Jeremiah Attaochu, Demarcus Walker, and Dre’Mont Jones. They hassled Teddy Bridgewater all game and it was good to see a lot of high-quality snaps for guys that normally don’t get to see the field all that much. Add to it that each of those guys made at least one tackle for loss and we’re seeing a well-coached line making plays which is always good.
The one thing that had me scratching my head some by the end of the game was the lack of impact by Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson. It is pretty odd to not have one or both of your interior linebackers at the top of the tackle stat line. Jewel did get a nice hit on the quarterback for what it is worth.
Michael Ojemudia got the start this week and looked like the guy we saw early in the season with great coverage. In the 3rd quarter he was as on his receiver’s hip as a corner could possibly get on a fade route. He was not fooled, out played, or out ran in any way. As the game got later he did give up some catches to be sure, but not enough to overshadow the work he did in the game.
I’ve enjoyed De’Vante Bausby every time he’s suited up for the Broncos. It was good to see him needed in this game with an injured and suspended secondary in the Broncos. He came up big with the big stop on 4th down to seal the Broncos win.
Speaking of guys we haven’t seen much that I think highly of, mad NBR props to Will Parks for coming to play for the Broncos. Parks is a solid player who maybe isn’t super-star starting quality, but he’s a guy who gets it as a safety or sub package coverage defensive back. My boy showed up big with a 16 yard sack, a tackle for loss, and a quarterback hit. We know you love Philly, Will, but Denver is happy to see you back in the orange and blue!
The game plan today called for a whole lot more short passes to be targets for Drew Lock and it looked very good. Getting him in a groove opened up the deep shots down the field. The running game worked well enough with the short passes to keep the Panther defense off balance pretty much for the whole game.
Pat Shurmur even worked in a screen play perfectly timed against a blitz in the 3rd quarter that turned into a HUGE gain and almost a TD.
Others here at MHR say that Shurmur has been calling this stuff all year, but the execution hasn’t been there. I’ve seen evidence both ways. What we can say is that when the team executes well on well-designed and well-timed play calls, good things happen. Hats off to Pat Shurmur for his work this week.
With Pat Shurmur doing the best job of his career play calling in this game, we finally got to see Drew Lock have a great game in 2020. The best thing I saw from Lock in this game was that he finally showed signs of using his eyes like a good NFL QB more consistently. We like to keep it real here in the NBR, so if you are feeling overly excited about this performance, I just want to remind you of the following:
- The 2020 Panthers defense is not good.
- As my boy Yoda would say: One game does not an NFL superstar make.
- Reminder: Trevor Siemian threw 4 TDs both against the Cowboys in 2017 and the Bengals in 2016 and history tells us dude is a scrub
But that being said, let’s get back to the good stuff. Lock did a darn good job getting a completion on what looked like a blown-up bootleg. It was an example of Lock’s big arm talent as he had to throw off platform but was able to rocket it to Nick Vannet for a positive gain.
The other thing I noticed was that the Panthers really tried to blitz Lock often to shake him up. Lock handled the blitzes well outside of his big hit and fumble. One of them led to an easy TD to Hamler that was probably the most perfectly thrown ball I’ve seen him throw so far.
For us missing Damar Dotson and having to start Elijah Wilkenson at RT, this line honestly did a pretty darn good job keeping Lock protected. They did give up one sack, but that’s a pretty good day in the NFL. They did seem to suffer a bit in the run game with not being able to open up as many holes or get enough push to see the running game thrive as we would like to see.
Melvin Gordon Jr. is still tearing it up in December. When I say that, I’m not really spouting that he was awesome...he wasn’t. But the fact that he was able to average 5.2 yards per carry when he had so little help getting holes from the line really speaks to his ability to either bust through tackles or make the first guy miss. He was churning out positive run plays (his longest run was only 10 yards so the stat sheet isn’t getting padded here by a big play).
Now on the flip side, what the hell is wrong with Phillip Lindsay? 2.2 yards per carry? What happened to the quickness? How about the vision to the right hole? We do leave room for the line not doing him favors, but I’m still pretty amazing that Lindsay’s game was so weak. And it isn’t like he got hosed by the coach playing favorites...on a day when he wasn’t getting jack or squat, the coach gave him 11 carries.
That double move route by Jerry Jeudy was absolutely filthy. He straight shook Rasul Douglas out of his shoes and made the deep pass easy mode for Drew Lock to complete. Even when he wasn’t catching passes, Lock used him multiple times as his look off route to open up big plays. He was drawing 3 defenders much of the time when this happened (though if we’re being fair, much of that credit belongs to Lock’s penchant for throwing to his first read than Jeudy scaring the Panther’s defense).
Nick Vannet got a lot of attention in the passing game and looked like a solid security blanket for Drew Lock. While he’s disappeared in games, with injuries to Noah Fant he has stepped up recently for the Broncos.
Speaking of tight ends, Troy Fumagalli also got a lot of work and put some nice numbers up on the stat sheet. Good things happen at tight end when your offense is working in a balanced manner and guys like Fumagalli really get a chance to help contribute. Both of our tight ends were at the top of the reception list for the Broncos even though it was the WRs that got the big TD catches.
K.J. Hamler showed legit speed on his first TD reception. The credit mostly goes to Rasul Douglas though for tripping himself up and Lock for freezing the safety (that’s right, Broncos Country...Drew Lock actually froze a safety with his eyes which makes me a little tingly inside). His second touchdown is another play that you like to see a young QB and WR make. The safety from the Panthers bit it big time and Hamler’s speed got him plenty of cushion from the outside corner (the safety should get the blame on this one...that corner was just trying to save a sunk ship).
The TD to Tim Patrick was another excellent design with him coming across the formation in stride with Lock making the throw in front of him for the easy TD. He also got a huge reception earlier on a crossing route where the whole panther defense followed Jeudy and cleared out the whole left side of the field for him to run to for the wide-open catch.
Diontae Spencer did what no Broncos has done for five years: returned a punt for a touchdown. He honestly made a risky choice to not fair catch, but it paid off as he made the first guy miss. The Special Teams unit blocked it perfectly and he was able to house it to the left.
Then to spoil things we got to see something else we hadn’t seen in quite some time: not one, but two missed PAT kicks by Brandon McManus. Against a better team, it could have cost us the game.
I’m embracing this game for what it was: a fun game against a bad football team. It isn’t anything more than that, though. This team is still far from where they need to be and not much has changed about any situation on defense or offense.
If you want to see this Broncos fan really excited, show me Drew Lock having a interception-free game with a couple TD passes against the Bills this Saturday. What we’re far more likely to see though is reality slap us right across the face with a dead trout. That Bills defense is no joke...and neither is their offense.