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Broncos’ coaching failures the tale of the tape against the Eagles

A poor gameplan and a failure to adjust on either side doomed the Broncos out of a very winnable game.

Philadelphia Eagles v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Stubbornness. Contumacy. Bullheadedness. Pertinacity. You can pick and choose the term you want to put in there, but Denver stuck to trying the same tactics repeatedly throughout the game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Both sides of the ball failed to adjust and shift away from their set gameplan and it ended up costing the Broncos in this one.

The offense and defense each had their own faults, so it’s tough to blame a single aspect of the team on what went wrong. Ultimately though, the Broncos being stubborn and trying the same thing over and over again to little or no success is the very definition of insanity. That insanity ultimately led to the pervasive feeling of ‘blah’ and dreariness among Broncos Country after this absurd loss.

Offense

The passing game was simply designed too short

Yeah yeah, some members of Broncos fandom and media will continue to cite the ridiculousness of Teddy being “Captain Checkdown” in this one, but by and large, a lot of this was just by offensive design. You don’t naturally end up with 28 of 36 attempts aimed under 10 yards with a quarterback being inclined to check down without some sort of schematic design there.

They really failed to put these receivers in good spots. Guys struggled to get open on a really, really bad Eagles’ secondary. The spacing was off and they could never really get into a rhythm in the passing game. Shula repeatedly recycled concepts that just didn’t work but then went back to them later on for some reason.

This should have been a game where the tight ends feasted over the middle. They combined for 9 targets, and with the exception of Albert Okwuegbunam’s big 64 yard after the catch play, barely generated any big plays. The tight end group ended up costing Denver with some really tough penalties that negated big plays later on in the game.

Courtland Sutton was targeted a whopping 3 times. 3! The Eagles are ranked 25th in DVOA vs #1 WRs and Denver just...never took advantage of it. On the first drive after halftime, Sutton generated an explosive play over the middle of the field for 26 yards. Other than that, he ended up with 1 catch for 3 yards. His other target was at the end of the game on a throw that went out the back of the endzone. Jerry Jeudy was asked to do a lot of YAC with underneath throws, which doesn’t take full advantage of his skillset.

They also had Teddy line up in empty often. Given the fact that they had 3 backup OL in and the tackles were getting beat frequently, that seems like a pretty ridiculous idea.

All around, the passing game was called and designed at a really, really poor level. It’s tough to sit here and blame Teddy exclusively for it when there’s not much going on schematically that takes advantage of anything against a really porous Eagles defense. He was put in a lot of tough situations and the scheme and poor OL did the rest.

Yes, Pat Shurmur was out for this game. I get it. With how late it was announced though, a lot of this had to have been his gameplan. It matches up with the rest of the season.

The run game continued to be boring and then abandoned

Credit to the Eagles for showing Denver how to execute a flourishing rushing attack, because they showed off a lot of different looks that overwhelmed Denver. The Broncos’ offense...didn’t. A lot of it was just standard inside zone against Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave.

The best results Denver had on the ground were on gap runs with a pulling guard, and they’ve had that all season. Following Quinn Meinerz on gap runs has been a highly successful strategy for Denver all season. Denver called those runs 3 times, and one of them got called off on a penalty.

They inexplicably abandoned the run as well. Denver had 3 drives where they didn’t run the ball a single time. Those drives all told took less than 4 minutes off the clock...combined. Each of them followed a Philadelphia score.

Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon combined for 17 carries and 5.4 yards a carry. They were winning on the ground and producing good results. I know they were down but the ground game is a huge part of this team’s identity. Instead, the team repeatedly lined up in empty.

The red zone offense was poor at best

Not to keep beating a dead horse here on the ground game, but seriously, the offensive playcalling in the red zone was abysmal. Fade routes and primary reads where the routes ended up going underneath short of the goal line was just asking for failure.

Low probability throws and just a total neglect of the run game to try and score. They went 1-5 in the Red Zone. It’s not just for this game either. The Broncos are one of the worst in the league in Red Zone scoring (29th place).

Defense

I genuinely don’t know what the Broncos’ gameplan was on defense for this one. Worse still, their stubbornness led to big plays for Philadelphia...and none of it was unexpected.

Their insistence on man coverage in this game was pretty odd in the first place. Worse still, the Eagles repeatedly beat it over and over again and Denver still called it.

Jalen Hurts went 7 of 9 against Denver’s Cover 1 and went 9 of 11 against the blitz. The Eagles came in at the top of the league in screens, and still Denver insisted on blitzing. Hurts is a pretty stout runner as well, he’s going to make guys miss. In man, when the DBs are downfield following the receivers, there’s nobody left to account for Hurts as a runner. It was a puzzling gameplan, made even more confusing by how they attacked other mobile quarterbacks.

Look at how they attacked Lamar Jackson in Week 4.

They did use cover 0 heavily too, but cover 4/quarters remained their primary call. Lamar completed less than 60% of his passes and was held to 28 yards on 7 carries against Denver, and the team sacked him 3 times and held him to a single touchdown.

Against another mobile running quarterback in Daniel Jones, Denver approached it with a similar gameplan in week 1.

The Broncos still had some C1 calls, but it was well below their league average. Instead, Denver substituted it with a well-above-average use of Cover 6.

They went heavy zone against other mobile quarterbacks and had some success, but then called well above their own average in cover-0 and cover-1 against Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles. A team that has pretty much lived off of screens, heavy run game, rollouts, and play-action passes. Naturally, it didn’t end well.

Special Teams

I really don’t need to go into much about the Broncos’ special teams woes, because it’s been a repeated issue pretty much every week. It ended up costing them 3 points in this one because of a fundamental blocking error leading to a blocked field goal.

It’s the same thing with this group week in and week out.

All told, blame the Broncos and individual players all you want to. Some guys did make mistakes and some got beat. It happens. However, it’s very difficult to overlook some absolutely baffling decisions by this coaching staff. Their insistence on things that just weren’t working throughout the games ultimately ended up costing them the game against a team they really shouldn’t have lost to.

Hopefully they use the bye week to regroup and refocus. That kind of effort and gameplan just can’t occur with two games of Justin Herbert AND Patrick Mahomes left plus a game against Derek Carr and Joe Burrow if they want to have a shot at the playoffs.

Here’s hoping.