Two losses in a row has Broncos Country reeling a bit, which is why it is definitely time for the Ultimate Fans to step in.
Broncos host the Raiders and will also honor Mike Shanahan for his 2020 Ring of Fame induction as well as Steve Atwater for his 2020 Hall of Fame induction.
So it seems like the perfect setting for the Broncos to get out of their funk and put together a winning game plan for the entire game. And that’s just what this week’s UFGer, 55below, is here to tell us/them (see what I did there, OrangeandBluesBros?)
Playing well the entire game seems like such an obvious thing to say...but the Broncos haven’t done the obvious the last two games, and it’s time to get down to basics.
Because it’s the Raiders, dammit. And you don’t lose to the Raiders.
Week 6: Raiders at Broncos
MHR - Ugh. The Broncos made a not-particularly-good Steelers team look great last week. What were your overall thoughts from that ga…disaster?
55below: Disaster?!! Oh, no, et tu Laurie?
We played poorly. We got beat because of it. It’s only Week 6 and we sit with a 3-2 record. Whole lotta football left to be played.
Nothing in the pass defense looks broken to me. Some uncharacteristic mental errors there but nothing I’m overly concerned with.
At a loss, admittedly, to explain the effort versus the run. Strnad looked lost and Purcell wasn’t his usual rock steady stuffer. Team is still a top 10 run defense, though. They’ll bounce back.
Offensively another rather erratic performance. The complete lack of urgency troubles me. It is part of the patient offensive philosophy I suppose, but it seems constipated to me. Perhaps a warm coffee enema for Shurmur might help.
MHR - Moving on to the game at hand - the hated Raiders. Explain to the youngins how important this “rivalry” is in Broncos’ lore and why Broncos fans of a certain age (ahem, me included) get despondent if Denver loses to the Oakland/LA/Oakland/Vegas Raiders (OLAOLV) Raiders?
55below: Sadly, the rivalry I grew up with and cherished so dearly died on a wet, slimy night in Oakland at the end of the 2018 season. While some players like Todd Davis, Devontae Booker and Adam Gotsis left that game with uniforms blackened with mud, others, like team leaders Von Miller and Justin Simmons, left with nice white uniforms.It was as if they didn’t even show up. I watched two special teamers celebrate a punt that rolled to the one yard line while the Raiders guy picked it up and returned it 99 yards for a TD. I got the impression that no one on the field nor among that dreadful coaching staff cared. I knew whatever passion to beat the Raiders that existed before now belonged only to the fanbase.
The rivalry had been on life support for years, to be honest. For 40 years both teams fought each other for divisional supremacy and playoff spots. If we couldn’t get there, we’d make sure they couldn’t either.
Now both teams are fighting to prove they are relevant. It’s just different to me now.
Still can’t stand those colors, though.
MHR - What makes the most nervous about this game - the Broncos D going against a quarterback who has often diced up the defense and marched down the field; a Broncos offense that hasn’t shown great red zone scoring ability going against a decent Raiders defense; or Vic Fangio and Pat Shurmur getting outcoached by a Gruden-less Raiders team?
55below: What troubles me most is that this team has played poorly two weeks in a row. They don’t lack talent, but they’re beating themselves in ways they didnt in the first three weeks.
Were it not for Shelby’s big right hand, Vic would be 0-4 versus the Raiders. The Broncos’ inability to get to Carr has allowed Carr to eviscerate our secondary. It’s been ugly.
Two especially welcome additions this year are Bryce Callahan and Ronald Darby. Callahan on the vastly underrated Renfrow will be worth watching. The addition of Darby will finally allow Fangio/Donatell to use Patrick Surtain in the manner they envisioned when they drafted him.
Pitt had success running against the nickel look. In order to prevent a repeat, Big Mike needs to step up. He is vital to that defense for his run stopping prowess. He was a non-factor last weekend versus a similarly challenged rushing attack.
MHR - Moving away from my doom and gloom aura at the moment, what does Pat Shurmur and/or Teddy Bridgewater need to do to get the offense into rhythm immediately-if-not-sooner on Sunday?
55below: A sense of urgency, as stated above, would be most welcomed. We spot those guys a lead, and it could get ugly.
It was an offense that Pat designed for Teddy that Sam Bradford parlayed into a 4000+ yard season with a 4/1 TD/INT ratio and a completion percentage north of 70% in which Keenum used a year later on an 11-3 run with not dissimilar numbers. The plays are there in the Shurmur playbook and a little up tempo action early would be my preference. We saw glimpses of that in the second half last week.
MHR - I’ve written and talked a lot about the lack of creativity in the Broncos’ run game the last few games. We have two dynamic running backs in Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams, yet Broncos are struggling to move the ball effectively on the ground. What should Shurmur do here?
55below: Such a pertinent question and perhaps you could help me out here.
I was thrilled when we got Mike Munchak to sign on. I would often watch (non Bronco) Steelers games just to see that running attack in motion. Not since Shanny/Gibbs/Davis/Portis had I seen a more perfect melding of scheme, coaching and talent than what those Steelers were doing. Watching Lev Bell following Foster/Pouncey/DeCastro was mesmerizing. They were adept at wider zone concepts and pin/pull schemes where the less capable tackles and TEs just needed to get in the way.
When the Broncos went heavy on the IOL in 2020 with Cush, Glasgow and Muti instead of investing anything with their tackles, I believed it was in order to replicate what Mike had in Pittsburgh (highly mobile, smart interior linemen capable of pulling, getting to the second level, and going wide). Instead, per a JoRo article, the Broncos are running power schemes, which don’t play to the strengths of their lineman, in my opinion.
I would like to see Munch be tasked with being the Run Game Coordinator. For all I know he’s setting the blocking schemes up right now. If not, he needs to be. If Shurmur calls a run play, it should be one with blocking schemes Munchak designed. He knows his guys.
I am in the minority on this site in believing our O-line isn’t the worst one around. The talent is there, but I don’t know if the schemes they are being asked to run play to their strengths. With Gordon, Mike Boone and Javontae Williams, we should be generating 150 yards every week.
MHR - The under utilization of Noah Fant - an easy mismatch for so many defenders - is a head-scratcher. How should Shurmur get him into the game plan better (or should he) against the Raiders?
55below: Noah Fant isn’t an inherently good football player just yet. He’s a freakishly athletic big man learning the game and you hit the nail on the head when you state that it is incumbent upon Shurmur to scheme Fant open.
Fant doesn’t have a big catch radius but with the ball in his hands he can cause a lot of damage. I’d contend Fant’s value is more reliant on Shurmur than any other offensive player. Not fully utilizing No. 87 is just leaving money on the table. That said, I think Noah will have a good game Sunday.
MHR - Much like Bridgewater and the Broncos, the Raiders’ offense started off hot in the first three games, but has cooled off quite a bit the past two weeks. Dependent on big plays, the Raiders offense ranked second in explosive passes after the first three weeks but dropped to 15th after the last two weeks of losses (Sharpe Football).
Are you concerned that Carr will be able to exploit the overall sense of confusion Denver’s secondary displayed last week and use explosive passes to torch us again?
Carr gets the ball out quick but his offensive line is suspect. Will Von Miller have a field day with him (assuming he’s not asked to cover Henry Ruggs or something stupid)?
55below: The Raiders are built very similarly to the Chiefs with a superior TE and a game-changing deep threat. Leslie Frazier (Bills DC) showed how to neutralize that concept by devoting full resources to bracketing the deep threat between the twenties. Whenever Hill went deep he had two escorts. Every single time. One in his hip pocket for the first twenty yards and another too deep to be affected by a double move further on.
Let Carr play pitch-and-catch with Waller until they reach the Red Zone and then pull your extra guy off Ruggs and put him on Waller. Worked like a charm for Frazier.
MHR - Greg Olson, the now unencumbered offensive coordinator for the Raiders after Gruden’s exit, has been known to throw to tight ends. Could Darren Waller be a nightmare for the Broncos defense?
55below: If Denver doesnt know what Waller can do by now, we’re in trouble. With Darbs back, perhaps a Surtain/Waller pairing might end up on our dance card. Would be fun to watch.
MHR - The Raiders’ running game has been relatively absent, averaging just over three yards a carry and having only one game over 100 yards rushing. Yet, the Broncos were unable to stop a Steelers team that prior to playing Denver had terrible rushing stats. How does the Broncos run defense fare this weekend?
55below: Mike Purcell needs to step up. This Denver run game stuffed Barkley, Robinson and kept one of the best rushing offenses (Baltimore) to about 50 yards under their seasonal average. They know how to play run defense. Jewell is notably absent, but mentally, so was Strnad last week. Demon Deacon needs to have a far better showing this weekend.
MHR - Who will be the most important player/players on defense for the Broncos stopping the Raiders’ offense?
55below: Von Miller, Dre’Mont Jones and Mike Purcell could make this ugly for the Raiders. They can not have average games if we want to win.
MHR - Who will be the most important player/players on offense for the Broncos to get past the Raiders defense and score points?
55below: Garret Bolles and Bobbie Massie. Don’t look now but the Raiders have a pretty decent pass defense. Part of that is the Gus Bradley effect. The other part is the outstanding pressure numbers provided by Crosby and Ndakue. If our two outside guys can negate that pass rush, we win. If not we could be in trouble.
MHR - Fill in the blanks: Broncos lose if _____. Broncos win if _______.
1. They aren’t fully prepared.
2. Von Miller shows up
MHR - How much of a “must-win” game is this, despite being only Week 6?
55below: This game is a referendum on Vic Fangio and how far he’s come (and possibly how far he’ll go)
It’s been this way since before the season began. For several years Vic has been packing a knife to a gunfight with predictable results.This time around he has a fully loaded revolver and the generic answers to another defeat will seem hollow at best. Big game for Vic, in many ways.
MHR - All-time favorite win over the Raiders?
55below: A real under-the-radar game that seems significant in regards to the halftime cerem on Monday NIght Football.
Shanahan had a pretty full rebuild on his hands, but he also had Elway and Atwater . I believe we were under .500 at the time while the Raiders were cruising along as a serious contender for the AFC crown.They were bulldozing teams.
Al Davis was strutting around pregame like a banty rooster, confident that he’d be able to embarrass the guy he fired two years earlier and be able to do so in front of the home crowd and on national TV.
The game began with an Atwater pick and the Broncos put up some points. Raiders tried their usual cheap crap- a kick to the head on Eddie Mac when he was on the ground, a knee to Elway’s face by one Dlineman as another laid on top of him, you know, the usual stuff.
But Shanhans guys did not retaliate. They didn’t back down either. They stayed focused on the task at hand and by game’s end had shutout the Raiders 27-0.
That loss shook the Raiders to the core. They managed two more wins before going on a six game losing spiral.They had a chance, in the season finale , to still make the playoffs. All that stood in their way was the Denver Broncos who by now looked like a different team. It was a fantastic game which sent the Raiders home for the year. It was to be the end of the line for the great Simon Fletcher but it also heralded the beginning of our most successful period of this rivalry.
“We set a standard to get there. And then it took us a while to win it. But everybody was part of that process."— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) October 15, 2021
Broncos win if Williams goes off like a Fourth of July mortar
Broncos win if Mike Purcell shows up.
Broncos win if Von Miller does Von Miller things
Broncos win if they don’t beat themselves.
Raiders win if Carr emerges from the game with a clean jersey
Raiders win if Raiders get over 100 yards on the ground.
Raiders win if they get up two scores early
Raiders win if every last man wants to prove how little the loss of Gruden matters. I’d never count out a team with something to prove.
Favorite Broncos game with Mike Shanahan as coach? SBXXXII
Favorite postseason win ever, not a Super Bowl? (again, lol) 1977 AFC Championship game. Such a hard fought game. The results of the game hung in the balance as the Broncos needed to convert a vital third and two in order to run out the clock. Morton put the hopes and dreams of Bronco Country into the secure hands of Otis Armstrong, who delivered us to the promised land.
God bless you, Otis Armstrong. You were special.
And you were ours.
Favorite Broncos game EVER? Nothing beats your first! Ummm…. Super Bowl….
Team you hate to lose to the most in the AFC West? *
Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? *
Team you hate to lose to the most in the entire AFC (outside of the West)? *
Team you love to beat the most in the AFC? *
*I think I might possibly hate them all.
NFC team you cannot stand? Easy. Cowboys.
NFC team you could root for in the Super Bowl (if not playing the Broncos, of course)? For some odd reason I find myself pulling for the Giants lately. Can’t explain it, even to myself.
Favorite game now looking forward to this season?
The next one. No cliche. It’s just how I learned to view football.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Kendall Hinton.
I need to thank my fellow members on this site for humoring me for advocating for this guy over the past year when I didn’t really have a leg to stand on. This guy has no business being in the NFL, does he?
Seriously, a one year wideout at a smaller school trying to make it in the NFL vs faster, stronger, bigger guys who’ve devoted their entire lives to becoming NFL wideouts. No player from last year’s training camp faced steeper odds, yet Hinton earned NFL paychecks for a full year.
The odds were more daunting this year as the Broncos drafted yet another wide receiver. After five weeks however, players drafted in the fourth and sixth rounds are gone. Two seventh rounders are on the PS while two others, Benson and Freddie Brown, are buried on depth charts with other teams.
Kendall? He’s catching touchdowns on game day.
I have this theory about Kendall. Might be little more than fanfiction, but I don’t think he was on Denver’s radar pre-draft. They were busy looking at Jeudy/Ruggs/Jefferson/Hamler, et al.
I have a hunch our scout went to Wake Forest to scout a promising ILB (Strnad) and an undersized CB who seemingly never came off the field (Bassey) . While our scout was there, some coach mentioned that he oughta take a look at this fledgling wideout who was much more than his ProDay numbers might indicate. I think he mentioned that there’s something a little bit different about Kendall Hinton.
Fangio & Co. also seemed to notice that there was something different about Hinton and kept him on the PS. This past offseason Himton began to show undeniable growth as a wideout but that didn’t keep Vic from using Kendall as a DB when he found himself shorthanded. Like I said, there’s something a little different about Kendall. The coaches are aware of it.
Loosely stated Kendall reminds me of three somewhat similar guys who achieved great success in the NFL. Like Hinton they were one-time QBs who transitioned to WR and were either undrafted or a late round pick. Those guys are Hines Ward , Julian Edelman and Rod Smith. Like Hinton their coaches used them in any number of ways, as RBs, emergency, QBs, punt returners, passers, even DBs. Kendall possesses that type of flexibility.
There is no doubt in my mind that with continued development Hinton can do everything for the Broncos that Renfrow does for the Raiders.
He is a unique talent.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Charley Johnson
When I was a lil guy, the folks often rented out the basement rooms to college kids. One was this great guy named Charlie Johnson. I learned to read at a fairly early age so you might be able to appreciate my joy when I read that my buddy Charlie Johnson was going to become the next QB for the Broncos. I couldn’t wait for Dad to get home to share this fantastic news.
Alas a life lesson was learned. Seems it was possible for two different people to have the same name. Sigh.
It mattered little though. For the first time during his Broncos career, Floyd Little had a legitimate QB, someone as mentally tough and dedicated as himself, and I had a new hero.
In those days being shipped off to the Denver Broncos was the NFL equivalent of being sent to a Siberian gulag. Evidently Charley never got the memo. He came here to win and, ultimately, we did.
Years after he retired, Charley told the story of what it was like after the team stepped off the plane following a road victory, which ensured our first ever winning season. He broke down in tears as he recalled the love and appreciation from the thousands of Broncos fans who left their warm homes on that cold dark winter night to get to Stapleton and cheer on the men who had fought so hard for them.
ROFer Paul Smith once commented that Charley Johnson was the toughest SOB he ever met. On a team with Floyd and Tombstone Jackson that has merit.
My buddy Charley. lol
Favorite Broncos coach of all time? Red Miller. “They’re a good team, but we’re a good team, too.”
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Curtis Robinson. No, I can’t explain that one either.
Superstitions on game day? I pace a lot.
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? How about most favorite?
Dave Logan. To have Bob Martin/Larry Zimmer/Dave Logan for the last 50 years cannot be surpassed by any team in the league. What a blessing to have enjoyed that level of excellence for so long.
Favorite sports cliche? “Playoffs? Playoffs? Are you kidding me? Playoffs? Don’t talk to me about playoffs! I just want to win a game!”
OK might not rise to the level of a cliche but it so perfectly conveys the mindset of any coach you could name. The next game is the only game and Jim Mora stated it perfectly.
Favorite sports movie? “Vision Quest” isn’t really a great movie. I’ve only seen it once about 10 years ago. It’s a coming of age movie involving high school wrestling, but there was one scene which always stuck with me. It’s a monologue where an older guy talks to the protagonist about the great soccer player, Pele. He tells of an impossible play Pele makes and what a powerful, indelible mark it left on him. I thought that speech captured the essence of sports more poignantly than anything I can remember.
How did you become a Broncos fan?
It didn’t take me long to transition from the comics to the sports page as a kid. Every Wednesday (Thursday?) I race to the back pages of the sports section of the Rocky Mountain News where all the fine print was. This is where I could find the weekly AFL and NFL statistics.
My little fingers would rise up the listings looking for Little, Den. just to see how my guy was doing. He was usually the only Bronco you’d find in those days.
Statistics at that point became another means of understanding and interpreting the game. I’ll always have a considered opinion in regards to stats, but it’s hard to think of football today without them.