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The Good, the Bad, and the Elway: Buffalo Blowout

What stood out in the Denver Broncos huge loss?

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Good teams beat bad teams badly. After a weekend where the Bills became the fourth playoff contender to win by 18+ over the 2020 Broncos, it’s fair to accept they are not a good team. Sifting through the wreckage of a 48-19 laugher doesn’t bring out a whole lot of new information, but you’ll find a few thoughts and musings below.

Offense

  • In a vacuum, Phillip Lindsay’s 11 carries for 38 yards against the Bills is not cause for alarm. Most of the offense struggled, after all, and three of Lindsay’s carries came when the score was 48-13 and the Broncos were just killing the final minute of clock. If you take out the three carries that “didn’t matter,” Lindsay had a respectable eight carries for 33 yards.

What is concerning is that the Bills’ game is his best performance outside of the matchup with Miami since the last time Denver played L.A. It seems disingenuous to sweat his numbers when Kendall Hinton played, but Lindsay has averaged 2.44 yards per carry on 36 carries these last three weeks.

Over the same three week time frame, Melvin Gordon has 39 carries for 260 yards and two touchdowns to go with eight catches on nine targets for 54 yards and two touchdowns. With this big a sample size and the disparity between the two, it’s hard to lay the blame on the offensive line being the main culprit.

I need to go back over all the carries and see if defenses are more likely to run blitz when Lindsay’s in for Gordon, or if it’s situational usage, or something else entirely. After looking through the Bills carries that mattered (not the final three) I did notice they all came on first and 10 but one, which came on 2nd and 10. On three of the carries Lindsay gained less than three yards. Two occurred when the Bills’ defenders were even or outnumbered the Broncos blockers, and the third happened when Elijah Wilkinson was beat across his face on the backside of a gun-run.

I know Lindsay’s health is a concern as well, which begs the question: why isn’t Royce Freeman seeing more time?

  • Elijah Wilkinson started at right tackle for a second consecutive week, which leads me to believe the Broncos’ coaching staff have an eye on trying to bring him back for 2021. Demar Dotson’s had a better season in totality, Wilkinson is 10 years younger and would make more sen$e as a backup behind Ja’Wuan James next season. Munchak may believe playing through pain early in the season hurt him more than was let on and that Wilk may still improve on what we’ve seen.
  • This isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but Drew Lock struggled against Buffalo.

Leslie Frazier’s defense is a tough one to crack and profiles as the type of scheme Lock’s struggled with before. They do a great job disguising responsibilities. This puts pressure on the quarterback to make the right decision after the ball is snapped, which is something the “rookie” quarterback hasn’t had much success with when there’s no run action or motion to help him. Lock’s final box score numbers hide the fact that he had two turnover worthy plays.

On the play above the Broncos are facing a 3rd and 7 at the 33 yard line, so if Taylor Russolino wasn’t just an XFL kicker, they’re right around field goal range. The Broncos keep six in to block. Because the back stays in, Buffalo will send a backer. I believe Royce Freeman is moved from next to Lock’s left to his right because it means Tremaine Edwards will have a longer path when he blitzes.

Shurmur made sure Lock has time to set up.

As far as the receivers, Shurmur brought out 11 personnel in a Trips Bunch set to the right with Noah Fant on the nub to the backside. On the snap Tim Patrick runs a whip route while K.J. Hamler occupies the safety. Jeudy’s running an out past the sticks, but Levi Wallace sees it and stays with him.

Lock gets to the top of his drop as Jeudy is working off his stem.

Thanks to the protection, Lock has a clean pocket to let it rip. Wallace is closing the distance on Jeudy as the receiver looks back to his quarterback. The ball will need to arrive in a hurry.

Jeudy turns to find the ball as Lock winds up.

The still frame is a bit blurry, but the result is clear: Wallace closed the distance on Jeudy and dropped a pick six going the other direction.

You hate to see it.

Near the beginning of the fourth quarter down 38-13, the Broncos passed on 1st and 10 following a 14-yard run by Gordon. Lock hit Tim Patrick for negative two before he was sacked by Ed Oliver on 2nd and 12. The back to back negative plays led to a third and 22, the kind of obvious passing situations the Broncos’ coaching staff has done a good job avoiding the last two weeks.

The Broncos faced just four 3rd and 9 or longer situations in the Kansas City and Carolina games. On these plays Lock took a knee to seal the win over the Panthers, scrambled for eight yards once, and completed two passes for six yards. The Broncos wound up in five 3rd and 9+ situations against the Bills. Lock took one sack, scrambled for three yards once, and threw three incompletions. The worst of them had me scratching my head until I spoke with Coach Vaughn about it.

It’s not as if players like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers haven’t also had issues with this coverage. Brady threw a pick into it earlier this year. Third and very long is a really tough situation for any quarterback and the best possible outcome is probably taking a check down to the running back or if the receivers set up a 50-50 situation and the QB avoids throwing the ball short and inside. Where I take issue with Lock’s play above is he either didn’t see the slot breaking on Jeudy late, or thought he could gun the ball past him. Both are problematic.

  • Regardless of where you land on Drew Lock right now, he has two more games to flip the narrative before the offseason. At present, I consider his games against the Panthers, Texans, and Lions his best performances. In the Chargers and Raiders, he has two iffy defenses he’s studied and performed against before. Both should be statement games to close his second season.

Defense

  • I came into this game really concerned about how the Broncos secondary would hold up. If you read my pre-game post, you already know the cornerback situation was a huge issue. Fangio came into the game with just three members of the secondary who had played more than 17% of the defensive snaps and lost one when Michael Ojemudia got himself ejected. So it should come as no surprise the Bills went pass happy and just ripped apart the coverages. Going into the 4th quarter with the score 38-13, the Bills running backs had all of 11 carries. Allen finished the day with 14 10+ yard passes across his 40 attempts.
  • If you zoom in enough from the overall performance, there were a few nice plays by OJ, DeVante Bausby, and Will Parks. The Broncos new(?) slot corner had an awesome hit when he blew up a screen in the first half. Bausby continues to show nice click and close and his length is an asset when he has to disrupt the catch point. I thought the rookie had a really nice play isolated on Stefon Diggs, though it helped his cause that Malik Reed got pressure on Josh Allen.

Your Broncos’ News

Denver Broncos: How did Drew Lock do against the Buffalo Bills? - Mile High Report

He told us last week on Something Something Broncos that when he watched his first tape on Lock after his play during the Atlanta Falcons game he was hugely concerned. Lock was missing basic concepts quarterbacks learn in high school, but has seen incredible improvement over his game in the last month and that should have us feeling good about things.

Denver Broncos vs Buffalo Bills: The No Bull Review - Mile High Report

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What’s the key to beating LA?

Atwater: Broncos must get pressure on QB to help out the depleted secondary - Mile High Report

“When you blitz and bring pressure, the corners, the safeties, the guys on man-to-man can squat on routes and get a jump to make some plays,” he said. “But when guys have to cover for five, six, seven seconds, anything is possible for the offense - especially with an accurate quarterback like Josh Allen this week and Justin Herbert next week.”

The Broncos Have Big Questions to Answer This Offseason - The Ringer

While Allen—who attended Wyoming, just 130 miles north of Denver—has established himself as Buffalo’s franchise quarterback, the Broncos don’t seem to have theirs. Drew Lock, the former Missouri passer whom Denver selected in the second round of the 2019 draft, has had an inconsistent 2020, his first year as a full-time starter. Lock led the Broncos to a 4-1 mark to finish last season, but he’s struggled this year, highlighted by a seven-game stretch in which he turned the ball over at least once in each game.

Here’s the one thing that will help Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler reach their potential

Drops have been an issue, but experience has shown Vic Fangio that K.J. Hamler and Jerry Jeudy can fix that glitch.

Grading all 32 first-round picks after Week 15 of the 2020 NFL season | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF

PICK NO. 15: WR JERRY JEUDY, DENVER BRONCOS 2020 overall grade: 65.6 For much of the year, Jeudy has been let down by his quarterback play, but he repaid the favor in part this week by letting an excellent Drew Lock pass sail through his hands as he braced for an incoming hit from a defender. To Jeudy’s credit, he went some way toward making amends later with a tough catch in traffic, but that was his only catch of the game, leaving him with minimal impact from the five targets sent his way. Jeudy’s route running is already elite, but drops and a relative disinclination to catch the ball in heavy traffic have been issues he can control (as opposed to those he can’t, like the guy throwing him the football).

Matt Miller’s Scouting Notebook: Latest 2021 NFL Mock Draft and More | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

13. Denver Broncos: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame When you have to deal with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert in your division, it’s a good idea to draft a rangy linebacker who can cover tight ends, chase down running backs and even pull the chain as a blitzer when needed. Owusu-Koramoah is the best three-down linebacker in the draft and will be an instant impact player.

NFL News

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Derek Carr up to full participation at Raiders practice - ProFootballTalk

Carr was listed as a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. He was limited by the groin injury that knocked him out of the team’s Week 15 loss to the Chargers and word was that he’d miss 10-14 days, but the practice workloads suggest he’s moving toward a return to action.

Dwayne Haskins accepts punishment, promises to take advantage of second chance - ProFootballTalk

The second-year quarterback clarified a “misconception” that he was at a strip club Sunday night. Haskins said he attended a private birthday party with his girlfriend. Regardless, photos posted on social media show him without a mask at a gathering of (he admits) more than 10 people in violation of the league’s COVID-19 protocols.

Dwayne Haskins apologizes to team, fined $40,000, stripped of captaincy - ProFootballTalk

Haskins’ teammates had voted him a team captain during camp. All 32 starting quarterbacks on opening day wore the C on their jerseys. Haskins no longer will. The team also fined Haskins $40,000, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. Rapoport added that it’s the “largest known fine for a player for a COVID-19 violation — more than half of Haskins’ weekly paycheck.”

Dwayne Haskins taking first-string reps at Washington Football Team practice - ProFootballTalk

Apparently high risk only matters if you wear orange and blue.

Ranking the 17 biggest mistakes of the Bill O’Brien/Jack Easterby administration - riversmccown.com

Without Roby, the Texans look absolutely and completely lost. He was not a terrific-graded player or anything like that this season, but he was often just stapled to the best receiver on the field. He’s not an A+ corner. He’s a B+ corner who was pushed into a role above his weight class. The contract itself wasn’t onerous, and the PED suspension wasn’t something anybody could foresee at the time. Now, is he here next year? I’m not sure. But if he’s not here, the Texans are going to have a hell of a time replacing him. It’s good to have lines about things that players can’t cross, it’s good to want your guys in the building … but at some point you have to actually accumulate talent. The Texans don’t have enough of it. And outside of Roby, the current cornerback roster is depleted.

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