In the immediate aftermath of the Denver Broncos loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, it seemed everyone across the NFL had something to say about Jerry Jeudy’s performance. Five drops on 14 targets is a rough outing, and when your team loses by a single field goal it’s easy to remember the dropped pass when one occurred on the final drive of the game.
With just one week left in the regular season, it’s time to accept Jeudy’s rookie season didn’t go as hoped. As tends to be the case, there’s a number of reasons for that. We’re so far past the lack of training camp at this point it feels like little more than a convenient excuse, but it’s also a valid one. Courtland Sutton’s early injury meant the rookie wouldn’t have a true number one to draw coverage and tough assignments. The Broncos also started four different quarterbacks this year and that kind of dysfunction doesn’t help anyone on the offense. The QB1 Drew Lock also had some rather shaky passes mixed in.
While all these factors are outside the 2020 first round pick’s control, he’s hardly blameless. Dating back to before the draft, Jeudy’s drops were a notable part of his tape at Alabama. I had concerns about his technique catching the ball in traffic as well as how physical coverage could cause issues for him. Before we condemn the rookie receiver, however, it’s worth keeping in mind that Sutton also had issues with drops his first year in the NFL. Jerry Rice too. Terrell Owens still does. There’s plenty of reason for optimism with Jeudy going forward, and his ability to separate will continue to create opportunities for him to improve at the catch point.
Rather than focus on Jeudy’s role in the Broncos loss, I made a point to zero in on what else happened during the Broncos game Sunday. There were four other notable turning points. Any one of them bounces the Broncos way, they’re probably 6-9.
- Brandon McManus missed a three point kick inside the 40-yard line for the first time since 2017. It was so jarring the refs gave him another shot at it. The ball didn’t lie and he missed again. Across 109 games in the NFL, McManus has kicked 101 field goals within the 40 yard line if you don’t include extra points. He’s made 95% of them.
- Without Von Miller, A.J. Bouye, Bryce Callahan, Jurrell Casey, Bradley Chubb, Mike Purcell, Essang Bassey, Duke Dawson, and Kevin Toliver, the Broncos held Justin Herbert’s Chargers to 19 points. This after holding Patrick Mahomes’ aerial circus to 22. For the season, Kansas City is averaging 30 points per game while LA is scoring just 23. What stood out to me once again is how the Broncos find a way to buckle down with their backs against the wall.
Fangio knows what he’s doing.
The Broncos red zone defense has allowed touchdowns on just 47% of drives this season. No other defense is below 51%— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 30, 2020
- Josey Jewell’s performance really stood out to me during the broadcast and only more so since. He allowed the only touchdown of the game on what looks like arguably Fangio’s biggest gaffe. The Chargers came out in an empty 2X3 look with Austin Ekeler on the boundary. Pre-snap he motions back towards the formation behind Mike Williams, and Josey Jewell stays on the back even as it causes Williams and Michael Ojemudia to stand between him and Ekeler. The Chargers take advantage, essentially using their 6’4 220 lb. receiver as a moving wall. Jewell makes matters worse when he tries to square up to bring Ekeler down near the sideline. This forces him into an arm tackle. Six.
What I consider the real turning point play from Jewell, however, is the dropped interception on the Chargers’ opening drive. Fangio dials up a trap and a rookie quarterback throws the ball right at Jewell. He dropped it and LA got to kick for three points.
The Chargers come out in an empty 3X2 look. The way Jewell is positioned pre-snap hints that Kareem Jackson is responsible for the slot receiver. On the snap, Donald Parham (89) runs a drag so as to occupy both Jewell and Alexander Johnson. Herbert immediately looks to his slot receiver who is running a slant between Jewell and Jackson. The only problem? Jewell knew it was coming and cuts out to intercept the ball even before it leaves Herbert’s hands.
- An oblong football can bounce funny ways, which makes both luck and skill crucial ingredients necessary to recover fumbles. Down 13-0 with 46 seconds left in the first half, Malik Reed and DeShawn Williams meet at Herbert to knock the ball loose. It arcs past a pursuing Jeremiah Attaochu to hit the ground and bounce towards Storm Norton, who fails to land on it as he falls to the ground. Attaochu tries to scoop the ball up, but Donald Parham stops a scoop and score when he collapses to shield the ball with his body.
If Jeremiah Attaochu comes up with the ball, the Broncos offense has another chance to score from right around the 29-yard line with 40 seconds left and two timeouts.
- I know I was adamantly opposed to Melvin Gordon’s contract and have been vocal about what Elway could have done with the $16 million. Without a long ramble, it comes down to how I view roster building. That in mind, I’m quite happy with what he’s provided outside the fumble issues earlier in the year. Without Bosa, the Chargers weak run defense was susceptible Sunday and Gordon took advantage early and often.
Check out the way Gordon sets up Murray on the first carry of the game. Heck of a nice job by Glasgow. pic.twitter.com/toZZyNPiJX— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) December 28, 2020
On the Broncos first carry of the game, Shurmur dialed up outside zone heading to the right. Check out the way Graham Glasgow climbs up to Kenneth Murray (56). Gordon’s vision is on full display as he watches for how the rookie tries to leverage the gap and feels 52 creeping over. He cuts up off Glasgow’s left and Dalton Risner impedes two defenders long enough for Gordon to grab eight yards.
- I thought Pat Shurmur made the right call dialing up a Gordon carry with 2:10 left in the first half. It’s been obvious for weeks that the Broncos ground game and specifically Gordon are the one consistent performer. With the two minute warning and two timeouts to spare, Fangio had flexibility with the clock and needed to be wary of giving Herbert too much time. At this point in the game his offense had just 71 passing yards across 15 attempts.
Facing 1st and 10 on the wrong side of midfield, the Broncos come out in the gun with 11 personnel. All the receivers are lined up in a trips formation to the left while Noah Fant is in a nasty split to the right of Wilkinson. L.A. comes out in a single high look and tilted over the trips set. With the strong safety dropping into a robber before the snap, Tevaughn Campbell’s defending a lot of grass.
With Campbell out of the way and Fant locking horns with the defensive end, it came down to Risner to spring Gordon to a one on one with Jahleel Addae. The way Risner tightened his pathing behind Fant leads Kenneth Murray to work towards his right shoulder. This allowed Gordon to cut up between Risner and Fant and gives him the time to setup, then cut off Addae. Beautifully executed and Gordon finishes it carrying a bunch of baby blue jerseys.
- I need to mention that I believe I’ve underestimated Fant’s growth as a blocker.
- The Chargers defense hasn’t been good for the vast majority of the season and played the Broncos without their three best edge rushers and Derwin James. That said, the pass protection did a nice job. By my count, L.A. only pushed Lock off platform four times across 46 dropbacks and had a rusher impact him five other times. There were also a couple of times where Lock flushed early in part because Elijah Wilkinson vs. Demar Dotson reared it’s ugly head.
LA lines up with three of their four lineman left of Lloyd Cushenberry. On the snap 93 loops back towards the right as 98 crashes insides. While the right tackle picks up the late rusher, he allows him to show outside. Lock sees it and it effectively shuts down a rollout towards the right. The quarterback stops, scans back left and sees a hole between Risner and Bolles. He takes it.
Your Broncos’ News
How much failure does it take before an NFL General Manager gets fired? - Mile High Report
The Broncos have now had four straight losing seasons. How does that compare with other franchises’ extended runs of futility?
Week 16 Quick Reads | Football Outsiders
We already mentioned Watson as the league’s top Sack-Taker; his counterpart is Denver’s Drew Lock. As previously noted, Lock is tied for the league lead in interceptions, but he’s not in the top 30 in sacks taken. If he throws at least two interceptions against the Raiders, he’ll be the first qualifying quarterback with as many interceptions as sacks since Matt Barkley had 14 interceptions and six sacks with the Bears in 2016. (This is not always a bad thing — Peyton Manning did it five times.)
Denver Broncos could pick anywhere from 5th to 15th in the 2021 Draft - Mile High Report
Here are all of the possible ways the Denver Broncos could land in the final 2021 NFL Draft order after next week.
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers: The No Bull Review - Mile High Report
The Denver Broncos lost another close, yet meaningless game against the Chargers. Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on the Denver Broncos’ most recent game.
Reading between the lines of the latest coach speak from Vic Fangio - Mile High Report
You can tell a lot about a franchise by what their head coach says and doesn’t say on the podium. Today we take a moment to read between the lines of Vic Fangio’s thoughts on improving in 2021
Did Drew Lock have his best game yet against Los Angeles Chargers? - Mile High Report
No, he didn’t. However, he continued to grow and despite the loss there were several bright spots for Drew Lock.
Denver Broncos are 2.5-point home underdogs to the Las Vegas Raiders - Mile High Report
The Denver Broncos have been underdogs in every game this season. They end the year 2.5-point dogs to the visiting Las Vegas Raiders in Week 17.
Denver Broncos vs Las Vegas Raiders preview: NFL Week 17 - Mile High Report
Drew Lock looks to leave the Broncos with a good impression in the final game of the season.
Denver Broncos vs. Las Vegas Raiders Wednesday injury update: Week 17 - Mile High Report
The Denver Broncos could be without defensive end Shelby Harris this week, which would be a huge blow to their pass defense since he bats down a lot of passes each week.
Denver Broncos’ NFL Round 1draft options: Is there a QB fit? – The Athletic
Bringing in an experienced passer to compete with Lock seems like the most likely option.
Weighing fifth-year options for 2018 NFL Draft’s first-rounders
Exercise the option? Yes After playing just four games in an injury-abbreviated 2019, Chubb has racked up 7.5 sacks and 19 QB hits in 2020, earning Pro Bowl honors. Yes, he’s currently dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of Week 16, but this is a no-brainer — especially if the Broncos decide they want to clear cap space by parting ways with fellow edge rusher Von Miller, who is currently slated to count for $22.1 million against the cap in 2021, per Over the Cap. Miller is a future Hall of Famer, but he’ll also be 32 years old next season and will be coming off an ankle injury that cost him all of 2020.
COVID-19 season taking heavy toll on NFL players’ significant others: ‘It’s changed our lives completely’
Leah Harris can relate. Her husband, cornerback Chris Harris Jr., spent nine seasons with the Denver Broncos before signing with the Los Angeles Chargers last March at the onset of the pandemic. Moving to a new city with four kids all under the age of 6 is never easy, but the uncertainty stemming from COVID-19 made this time even more anxious for the couple from the start. Should they rent a place in California right away or wait to see if the league is going to close training facilities? And what about school? Should they enroll the kids or not? “A lot of it was just standing on guard,” Leah said.
Four Verts: Looking ahead to a potential Packers-Chiefs Super Bowl
Lance is perfect for a team that’s looking for a talented quarterback to sit and stash. NDSU doesn’t run the most complicated passing game and made life easier for Lance, which is fine. Lance might be the most physically impressive quarterback in the draft, including Lawrence.
Rams’ playoff hopes depend upon Brandon Staley’s defense – The Athletic
Staley has created a system that could help redefine modern defense in the NFL. The struggling Rams’ playoff hopes now depend upon it.
Philip Rivers: Thought this could be last game has crossed my mind - ProFootballTalk
“It did cross my mind. If things don’t go the way you want this weekend, it could be . . . I guess it’s healthy to have that thought because we’re not guaranteed anything going forward,” Rivers said, via Stephen Holder of TheAthletic.com.
Alex Smith officially doesn’t practice on Wednesday - ProFootballTalk
Taylor Heinecke took the first-team reps on Wednesday. He’ll start if Smith can’t play in Sunday night’s win-and-in NFC East title game for Washington.
Chiefs to rest Patrick Mahomes in Week 17 vs. Chargers
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said quarterback Patrick Mahomes will not play in Week 17’s game against the Chargers. He will rest for two weeks before the playoffs.
RB Index, Week 17: Six running backs who’ve earned new contracts
Maurice Jones-Drew lists six running backs who’ve earned new contracts, including three standouts who own spots in MJD’s updated ranking of the NFL’s top 10 RBs heading into Week 17.
Bills to host fans for wild-card game; COVID testing required
Approximately 6,200 tickets will be available on Dec. 31 to Bills season ticket holders, who will be notified based on seniority. All fans will be required to obtain a negative COVID-19 test result through the NFL’s testing partner, Bioreference Laboratories, in order to attend. Fans will be required to pay for their testing as part of their ticket purchase to cover all associated costs. Testing for fans will be administered at the stadium two to three days prior to the game, with instructions emailed to ticket holders.