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Broncos vs Ravens: The No Bull Review

The Denver Broncos lost the first game of their season to the Baltimore Ravens with home field advantage.  Here are my thoughts, opinions, and analysis on the game, the coaching, and deja-vu for Broncos Country.

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As a fan, part of me wants to tell Broncos Country that this was just one loss.

In the grand scheme of things, it is.

But the reason the fan base was embarrassingly quiet in the 2nd half of the game and why most fans I interact with are freaking out is that we’ve seen this story before...way too many times on repeat over the past couple of seasons.

Losses like this (where we are soundly defeated and look like a far inferior team compared to our opponents) don’t inspire much, so like much of last season, I’ll keep this short and try to focus on what we can take away from the bigger picture of the loss instead of piling on our players for doing so poorly.

I do think it is very much worth reminding everyone that this team was down 9 starters. It is, of course, not an excuse. But the part of me that is holding back from absolutely trashing our coaches, players, and front office is fueled largely by knowing how good the players are we are missing and how much that plays into our ability to stack up against a really sound team like the Baltimore Ravens.

Defense

NFL: New York Jets at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Vic Fangio is supposed to be a defensive mastermind...and for the record his defense did hold the Ravens to 20 points...which in my mind is good enough for a winning team in today’s NFL.

The problem is going to be that when our offense can’t do anything at all (and it can’t without Teddy Bridgewater under this Offensive Coordinator), you need your defense to IMPACT the game. They either needed to put defensive points on the board or create some turnovers.

What Fangio needs to take away here is that he either has to get more out of his players when our offense is so overmatched, or he needs to take a serious look as the head coach of this team at the offense and take steps to fix its flaws and shortcomings.

Coverage-wise I was very much not impressed with what we were doing on the back end against the Ravens. We made sure to shut down the run and there were way too many open plays, blown coverage, or easy passes that we were lucky that the Ravens dropped. The scheme was being exploited starting in the 2nd quarter and Fangio never made an adjustment to fix the coverage...he just wrinkled in blitzes to a small degree of success.

Defensive Highlights / Low-lights

  • The front seven overall played very sound against the run
  • Our pass rush was better than I expected in creating pressure
  • Both Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons need taken to task for that long TD...neither were paying any attention to the very dangerous WR so that they could be in position to defend him and his elite speed
  • Caden Sterns looked supremely good as a blitzing safety and his coverage was sound as well

Offense

Tennessee Titans v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Was it just me who’s gut dropped through the floor when the news was shared that Teddy Bridgewater might be out with a concussion? Don’t get me wrong, I was cheering hard for Drew Lock to seize the moment...and let’s make it very clear: that absolutely was HIS opportunity.

And he blew it.

Instead of seeing an inspired young quarterback put the team on his shoulders and sling the rock to victory, we saw ankle passes, over-throws, under-throws, and a backup quarterback that sure as hell didn’t look very ready to perform his duty.

But we don’t need to beat a dead horse, do we? Here at the No Bull Review, we’re all smart football fans who watched 1.5 years of Drew Lock starting. We know who he is as a quarterback, what his shortcomings are, and why we lose games when he plays. The most unfortunate thing about him having to come in and play is that it shows the rest of the NFL more of the reality of his capability which means the Denver Broncos won’t be likely to get anything for him in a trade.

So let’s instead turn our attention to the more interesting story: Pat Shurmur. This game made me realize more fully how reliant the Broncos are on Teddy Bridgewater starting. Why? Because he’s the most capable QB mentally we have, which is what Shurmur’s offense requires in order to be successful.

It needs Bridgewater to be making the perfect reads and throwing the uber-accurate passes in order to win against the match-ups the offense creates...and please note that this offense doesn’t often scheme guys to be wide open against stiff competition. Baltimore made it look easy and it had everything to do with an offense attacking the defensive scheme in front of it. The Broncos offense run by Pat Shurmur just doesn’t do that. It isn’t innovative by any stretch of the imagination, so you need the players to win their match-ups through individual efforts.

So you get 7 points against a defense that has one of the worst secondaries in the league.

So you get a completely different style of QB coming in as your backup and nothing really changes on the play calls to help make it easier for him or use his bootleg ability.

It is what it is with the play calling, but the real killer for the Broncos was the loss of both starting guards. I like both Netane Muti and Quinn Meinerz, but they were overmatched in this game. Heck, our whole offensive line wasn’t doing well across the board (that Raven front seven is as good as any in the NFL honestly).

Offensive highlights / low-lights

  • Garrett Bolles had a stinker at left tackle. He lost to power on multiple occasions and got pushed around far too much
  • Javonte Wililiams had the most beastly carry I’ve seen from a Broncos back in ages. It is a mystery to me why we didn’t give him more carries...or Gordon for that matter...both were running the ball very well
  • The Broncos WRs and TEs dropped way too many passes that were very catchable...this problems as independent of what QB was in.
  • Loved the technique Noah Fant showed on his TD catch...he boxed out and made sure he was ready for a hit to secure the score

Special Teams

There is no mystery here...the special teams unit is one of the most poorly coached units in the NFL. Over-pursuit on angles during a return ends up with big returns. The ST needed to be good or maybe great with a scoring play for the Broncos to be able to win and instead they helped pile on the team’s losing effort.

Final Thoughts

I do think that the refs in this game did a disservice to both Dionte Spencer and Teddy Bridgewater. The Ravens players led with their helmets and both hits should have been penalized. I also thing for the record that the Ravens running the ball on the last play was pretty pathetic...though I think the Broncos defense of that play was pathetic as well...they should have sent the house on a run blitz with the intent to destroy whoever held the ball for the Ravens.

I’m not throwing the towel in by any means. I do think this team is a much better team than the one we saw last season. They need to get healthy and keep their focus. I do like what I’m hearing from Fangio: one game at a time, focus on the next opponent.

But hopefully the coaches notice that a healthy Bridewater is the key to any success the Broncos will have in 2021 and make the necessary adjustments to keep him upright in future games.

And hopefully the defense finds an edge because even though they looked solid, they were far from special.