It’s been a sad week in Broncos Country following news of the death of favorite former Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas came Thursday night.
But the antidote to our sadness is reminiscing the good times with DT in orange and blue - and beating the &$^% out of another team.
But also reading the Ultimate Fan Guide because here is where we can critique the current team, highlight what’s been good and relive some of the best days of our beloved Broncos.
Interestingly, both our UFGers this week - sultan_azteca and SickBoy67 - have the same level of confidence in the 2021 Denver Broncos winning a game - opponents don’t matter nearly as much as which Broncos team decides to take the field on Sunday.
As the franchise pays honor to Demaryius Thomas with a video tribute and a moment of silence, let’s hope the team that shows up on the field is one that would make DT proud.
I happened to be at the game Demaryius Thomas had to play against the #Broncos because he had just been traded to the #Texans.— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) December 11, 2021
And as it happens, I'll be at the game Sunday when the @Broncos pay tribute to one of their all-time great players.#RIP88 https://t.co/ZkV6ShngJx
Week 14: Lions at Broncos
MHR - The news of Demaryius Thomas’ death on Thursday was devastating. What was your favorite thing about DT and what was your favorite “DT moment?”
sultan_azteca: First and foremost, I gotta say this: I am utterly saddened by the loss of DT, not even a year after he decided to retire from the NFL and ready to peacefully enjoy the rest of his days. Quoting King Theoden: “No parent should have to bury their child.” In the case of DT, at his tender 33 years, it is not only his parents who now mourn (DT special moment: after his mom spent half of his life in jail, she memorably got to watch her son and the Broncos get past the Steelers in the playoffs at Mile High, and onto the AFCC game in the SB50 season, after her sentence was pardoned), but also his aunt and uncle who raised him to be the man of character that he was. My condolences to them and the many whose lives DT touched. There are good reasons why DT is second among Broncos WRs only to the legendary Rod Smith, for receptions. Even when catching balls from Kyle Orton, Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Tim Tebow in 4.5 of his 8.5 years with the Broncos, He had the athleticism of The Court, the sharp route-running skills of Jeudy, the speed of… well, probably not KJH, but he was FAST for his 6-foot-3, 225-pound frame, and his safe hands had, simply put, no equal. And of course, he was THE top wide receiver in the Offense Above all Offenses in NFL History in 2013. But the thing I liked of him the most? His unassuming personality, far from what you would expect from a first-round pick (and the first wide receiver picked in his draft). What I loved about him can be summarized from his own words: “And I wanna say this to all the fans: I wasn’t the big Rottweiler, and I didn’t speak, talk much, but I will love you, I will always love you all!.” It was easy to love this man back!
SickBoy67: I was absolutely crushed when I read that yesterday morning. I think that my favorite thing about DT was his smile. He was so well loved by everyone. It’s easy sometimes to just view players as uniform numbers who play hard on game day, but this was a special young man who was loved by everyone lucky enough to know him. He left a big legacy on the field as a Denver Bronco, but I think he left a bigger one off of it. My favorite DT moment was the walk-off touchdown versus Pittsburgh. It just seemed to exorcise all of the McDaniels era ghosts that were hanging around the franchise. Where I was most proud of him on the field was in Super Bowl 48. Julius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker were getting physically manhandled by the Seahawks, and they basically checked out. DT played hard right to the end even though he was taking the same pummeling and the game was out of reach. I love guys who won’t quit.
MHR - The loss last week to the Chiefs wasn’t totally unexpected, but it felt like a gut punch given how good we expected the defense to play - which they did - but how ‘good enough’ we expected the offense to play - which they didn’t. What were your thoughts after that game?
sultan_azteca: Not surprised at all. Shurmur’s offense delivered just what I expected, McMahon’s Generic Teams delivered just what I expected. They both fell back to reality after a mirage of a performance against a Chargers team that has a lousy run D and a ST unit that is actually worse than the Broncos’ (hard to believe it is physically possible!) The D played an astounding game, proving that the extra week of prep did not help the Walrus much to decipher good ol’ Vic’s tactics. Not at all unexpected, as Uncle Vic’s D’s have repeatedly put out good games versus the Chiefs. In his five games versus KC, his defenses have allowed only 9 TDs, allowing three in the worst outing (extra trivia: in those same games, the Broncos’ offenses have given away 11 turnovers). My post-game thoughts? Same as my pre-game thoughts - fire Pat at the end of the season, fire Tom two years ago, and somehow convince Vic that being our DC next year is a good move for his career (otherwise fire him too!).
SickBoy67: My thoughts were the same as they’ve been through most of the losses this year. We need a new QB, Offensive Coordinator, and Special Teams Coordinator. This isn’t getting fixed until the offseason. I like Teddy, but he’s at best a bridge starter. Shurmur was a ‘meh’ hiring two years ago, and I haven’t seen much since from him that would change my mind. All I can say about McMahon is that when he opens his mouth, he sounds like the smartest guy in the room. Unfortunately, none of that knowledge has translated itself into actual coaching ability.
MHR - Melvin Gordon is likely to be back in the lineup, and even though Javonte Williams had a great day last week, the two backs have proved a great combo. What does having Gordon in there help do for the running attack?
sultan_azteca: I side with some fellow fans here that we don’t want to risk Pookie’s health in a lost season (and yes, I still believe that we will have a winning record with four games left, but 2021 is still a lost season! Ok, I said it…), so it is a good thing to share his load with Flash. I don’t even mind giving MGIII more touches than Pookie, Both of them are great hustlers, and we should feel proud to have both on our roster. I don’t see Gordon adding much more than what Pookie already does on the field (I am quite impressed by Williams’ development in the very few weeks he has as a pro player). But beside the fact that Gordon helps reduce the treadwear of the rookie, I seriously believe that by Williams developing under Melvin’s wing, Pookie has gained a lot of ground in his learning curve, which is what we are watching and enjoying right now, Those are the two major contributions that I see from Gordon this season (and I wish him very, very well wherever he lands in the next one!).
SickBoy67: It keeps Pookie fresh, and Gordon is a pretty dangerous runner in his own right. If not for a few untimely fumbles, I don’t think there’s a lot bad that you can say about the guy. He’s overpaid, but that’s not on him. I didn’t like the signing at the time, but he plays hard and he plays fast.
MHR - Speaking of Gordon, he made a comment this week on how much he loves Denver but he feels the hate from fans. In light of DT’s passing, it made me reflect on how fans affect players. DT was beloved but he was also the target of a lot of anger when he’d drop a pass. And Broncos Country has been known to be harsh to players who let them down (Bubba Caldwell comes to mind, as does Teddy Bridgewater to some extent). I don’t really have a question here but am curious about your thoughts on the matter.
sultan_azteca: I read the article too, and I thought that MGIII sounds mature enough to take Broncos Country’s overall rejection in stride (for the record: the only reason why I don’t see him in orange and blue past 2021 is his price tag; I think he has done well as a Bronco and that he is a hard-working player). The romantic in me wishes our collective opinion had a bigger weight (for better or worse), but in reality it just plays a portion of pro players’ loyalty for the jersey they wear and how they perform. Surely enjoying a harmonious locker room environment, feeling well treated, trusted, and respected by their coaches, their chances of getting some golden hardware around their fingers, and getting a healthy check and other perks from their employer each goes at least as far as our vociferous opinions in their decision to stay happy or leave disgruntled.
SickBoy67: I really hate that side of fandom, to be honest. It’s fine to be pissed off when someone blows a play. It’s also fine to evaluate a player’s general performance and have opinions about their abilities and potential. Unfortunately, people equate that stuff with a player’s character or value as a human being. For example, I’m not happy with either Teddy or Drew as QBs, but both of those guys seem like great people. Teddy’s so positive and thoughtful. Drew put in a ton of hard work in the offseason trying to improve. He did all of the off-field tasks you could possibly ask of the guy. Just because neither one of them is great on the field shouldn’t be an indictment of their character.
MHR - There has been a lot of conversation this week about getting the wide receivers more involved and scheming for Teddy Bridgewater to push the ball downfield more often. Agree with that approach for this offense or is it an impossible ask with No. 5?
sultan_azteca: Those who are familiar with my FanPosts (sorry I put them on pause, fellas! Life threw me into a tumble washer in full cycle and left me there for the past few months) know my opinion is that, regardless of who is behind center, the OC has the biggest impact about the destiny of any offense (let the debate begin!). We have seen four different QBs of all kinds (five including Hinton, a favorite underdog of mine) in Shurmur’s tenure in Denver and they all have failed to deliver the goods, I did an extensive analysis in my last FanPost to prove that the Broncos’ offense (and QB) performance under Shurmur is the rule, not an exception, in his career. So, yes, I think that we are doing good by handing the ball more to our running backs (I have the hypothesis that it is NOT Shurmur’s idea), keeping the clock in our favor, reducing INTs, and allowing the defense to keep us in the game in low scoring engagements, And yes, I believe The Bridge can safely and consistently pass well beyond the markers. If only Shurmur were capable of drawing imaginative routes out of play action sets and could take advantage of the vast resources in the wide receiver and tight end rooms. I never imagined I would say this but… SCANGS!!! I MISS YOU!!!!!
SickBoy67: I agree with the idea, but I think it’s tough with the O-Line we have and Teddy’s conservative approach. He doesn’t have a ton of time to get rid of the football, so he’s checking down almost reflexively now. I don’t agree with putting Lock in, who for all his faults, doesn’t share that particular problem. Teddy’s the overall better QB, and we’re still a 6-6 club. I think we have to dance with the one that brung us. If the Broncos get mathematically eliminated, then throw Lock in.
MHR - The offensive line has held up despite changes in the line up, injuries, illness, etc. But the Lions defensive line has been a strong point. Who wins in the trenches this week?sultan_azteca: Well, with 21 Lions missing practice as of Thursday due to injury or the bug, 12 of them from the front-7, I would give the edge to our guys, who are coming into the game at 100%, But then again, this is the 2021 Broncos, so who knows???!!!
SickBoy67: Well, from a run blocking perspective, I think our line has been solid. I think they’ll continue to be vs Detroit. Pass blocking is a different story. I think Teddy will be pressured a lot, as per usual.
MHR - The Lions defense in recent weeks has held teams to under 20 points (except the Vikings). The Broncos have not been a high-scoring offense. How do we flip that script?
sultan_azteca: Ummmm, we don’t? I don’t really expect this offense to put up more than 20 points even against a decimated Lions’ D, unless they get heavy support from the defense by creating short fields via turnovers - and even then I would not hope for them to score more than a couple of field goals after getting one or two first-downs, This is me at my most cynical, Now, prove me wrong!!! (please?)
SickBoy67: Pound the ball, use play action, and rely on the defense creating turnovers to give the offense some extra chances. I’m not that hopeful that we’re going to put up a ton of points. If Denver wins, it will be on the strength of the defense.
MHR - What the Broncos defense did last week in holding Patrick Mahomes to really 13 points didn’t get the credit it deserved because of the loss. But is this Denver defense the real deal - even with backups and rookies and mid-season traded vets?
sultan_azteca: it is interesting, but Fangio’s D never really felt the loss of Von - either in 2020 or in 2021 (I still do, though). I am truly amazed at what Fangio/Donatell are doing with the talent that Paton supplied. You may give me any theory about the recipe of success coming from the ingredients or the chef (I think it is both), but I am delighted to see that we have such an incredible depth in the D (and should add the offensive line too). Nonetheless, it will not be until I see these Broncos defenses winning a do-or-die game, holding a one-score lead until the last second has ticked away when I will give them Sultan Azteca’s “Real Deal Seal of Authenticity”... for that, of course, we need the offense to give them that late lead to begin with…
SickBoy67: It is. In a perfect world, I wish they were better at shutting down the run, but some of that’s down to strategic decisions by Fangio to take away the passing game. I wouldn’t mind seeing a high Day 2 draft pick being used on the D-Line in 2022, though.
MHR - What will be the key to stopping Jared Goff and TJ Hockenson - a tandem (QB + TE) that has often gotten the better of the Broncos?
Sultan_azteca: Actually, that is not the case under Fangio’s command. In one of my FanPosts last season, I tried to dispel the myth that the opposing TEs had great games versus the Broncos offenses. Last year, outside of two brutal games from our dearest foes - KC’s Kelce (8 for 136 yds) and LV’s Waller (9 for 117), both making me look like an idiot in my post, of course! - no other tight end caught for more than 62 yards (that was ATL’s Hayden Hurst). This year my point proves even more solid. Only three tight ends have broken the 50-yard mark versus the Broncos - Baltimore’s Mark Andrews (5 for 67 yds), Waller (5 for 59), and Dallas’ Dalton Schultz (4 for 54, who was also the top receiver for the ‘Boys in the game). Having said that, I really like watching Hockenson’s highlights, and as always, I wish him a great game…after this coming Sunday game, obviously!
SickBoy67: I think that the Broncos have been better at that this year, for the most part. Effective pass rush on Goff and having Browning, Surtain, or one of the safeties in coverage should do the trick.
MHR - D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams have been showing up for the Lions in the run game. The Broncos have been inconsistent in stopping the run but have been able to do it when on the same page. Are they poised to do it again this week?
sultan_azteca: The Broncos front-7 has been a bit worse than inconsistent against the run, with a 4.4 ypc, good for 20th in the league, and not what you would expect from a Fangio D. Hopefully with Big Mike (who has missed three of the last five games, and another favorite of mine) in the anchor spot, we can present a solid line against Williams as Swift might miss the game due to an injured shoulder (*editor’s note: he has been ruled out)
SickBoy67: They can do it, but who knows? If they can take the passing game away without emptying the box, they have a decent chance of slowing them down.
MHR - Who will be the most important player/players on defense for the Broncos?
sultan_azteca: Certainly a rookie, preferably Caden Sterns, but most likely PSII.
SickBoy67: I think Dre’Mont Jones, Mike Purcell, Baron Browning, Justin Simmons, and Pat Surtain II need to be difference makers on Sunday. It would be good to see Bradley Chubb create some headaches as well, but he’s still getting back up to speed.
MHR - Who will be the most important player/players on offense for the Broncos?
sultan_azteca: Pookie, no doubt, Second most? I will go with The Court; he is well overdue.
SickBoy67: I think the O-Line as a whole, plus the two running backs have to play well. If they can do that, Teddy and the receiving corps can feast well off of the scraps.
MHR - Fill in the blanks: Broncos lose if _____. Broncos win if _______.
sultan_azteca: Lose if the offense and GT trip all over themselves as they are wont to do, and hurt the cause more than help it. Win if the opposite happens, and they score at least 20 points between them (a KO return would not hurt, Diontae!).
SickBoy67: Broncos lose if the Lions offense plays effectively. Broncos win if the defense dominates.
MHR - Kareem Jackson told his teammates every game from here out is a playoff “must win” game. How do the Broncos avoid letting this be a trap game? Do you think the Broncos can/will end with a winning season record?
sultan_azteca: There is a slim chance the Broncos end with a 9-8 record as their ceiling, but it won’t be enough for a playoff ticket in this uber-competitive 2021 AFC. But then again, this is the 2021 Broncos!
SickBoy67: I can’t figure this team out. They look like world beaters in one game and cellar dwellers the next. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it. I will say that they don’t seem to do well in “must win” games, so my gut tells me they probably finish 8-9.
Predictions - sultan_azteca
Stats for Teddy Bridgewater? 1 TD, 0 INT, 260 yds, +75% completion
Stats for each Broncos RB? Williams, 13 for 85 yards; Gordon, 16 for 75 + 1 TD.
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Sutton, 7 for 110 yards + 1TD; Patrick 5 for 60 yards; Jeudy 4 for 45; Fant 2 for 27; Albert O, Melvin and Javonte combine for the rest.
Longest FG for McManus on Sunday? 48 yards
Number of sacks to Bridgewater? 2.
Number of sacks to Jared Goff? 4.
Broncos player with the most tackles? Browning with 8 solo, 10 total.
Who gets the first sack in the game for the Broncos? The most? Cooper (yes! I want an all-rookie power-display vs Detroit, and wouldn’t you?), 4 players with one each.
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 2 picks, one by PSII returned for TD, 1 FF.
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? Two, both inconsequential, one in favor of each.
Final Score? (Sigh…) Broncos 27, Lions 24.
Stats for Teddy Bridgewater? 15/24 195 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT
Stats for each Broncos RB? Williams 15-94 1 TD; Gordon, 12-55
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Patrick, 44 yards; Jeudy, 61 yards; Sutton, 38 yards; Fant, 22 yards; Gordon, 30 yards and the only TD
Longest FG for McManus on Sunday? 53 yards
Number of sacks to Bridgewater? 3
Number of sacks to Jared Goff? 4
Broncos player with the most tackles? Kenny Young with 9
Who gets the first sack in the game for the Broncos? Chubb The most? Cooper
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 2 INTS, 1 FF, 1 FR
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? 3
Final Score? Broncos 17 - Lions 13
The Favorites - sultan_azteca
Favorite game with Demaryius Thomas? Outside of the Tebow-to-DT Connection? I would say Dec. 23, 2013, Reliant Stadium, Houston. On the way to a 37-13 blowout win against the Texans, DT caught the first of PFM’s 4 TDs that day, AND I WAS THERE!!! =D
Favorite Broncos regular season game with Peyton Manning? Did I mention that the aforementioned game also featured Peyton’s record-tying 50th, and also the record-breaking 51st TD in the season (and taking the record away from the cheating hands of FYTB)?…. AND I WAS THEEEEREEEE!!!!! =D
Favorite Broncos regular season game with John Elway? I have a memorable one. I guess it was JE’s rookie season; I was still a 10-year old learning by myself how “American football” was played. I don’t even remember who they were playing, but I recall how Elway would scramble for the first down, and when he felt he would be tackled short of the marker, he would pretend to “fumble” the ball out of bounds just ahead of the marker, so the ball would be ruled at that spot, I think he was one of the key reasons why that rule has changed since then. Before I learned that Elway was one of the most gifted athletes in the history of pro football, I learned that he was smart and cunning like few others on the field. And I was sold.
Favorite postseason win, not a Super Bowl? I treasure any playoff win vs NE and Brady, with the AFCC game on the way to SB50 taking the top spot.
Favorite Broncos game EVER? Hard to dispute SB XXXII; I still get goosebumps remembering when I watched The Helicopter live.
Team you hate to lose to the most in the AFC West? I don’t share the hatred against the AFCW teams as most here do, but I would go with the Chiefs. The way they are favored by the media, refs, and the league is nauseating.
Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? Well, I cannot say the Chiefs. Last time we beat them was back when they were just a footnote in a Championship season, So I will go with the Raiders, as they are the most challenging, but still defeatable foe.
Team you hate to lose to the most in the entire AFC (outside of the West)? New England, although my despise for them has lessened since FYTB is gone.
NFC team you cannot stand? Duuuhhh, TB!!! Anything remotely related to that little, pampered, inflated (pun totally intended) beeyatch is the target of my deepest hatred, (Well, not Gisele, she is cool, …and hot, …and Brazilian, …and Brazilian hot!).
NFC team you could root for in the Super Bowl (if not playing the Broncos, of course)? This season, I would go with the Cards. They would make my year worthwhile if they knocked out the Bucs in the NFCC game, and then the Pats in the SB. That would be my dream.
Favorite game so far this season? Dallas!
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Hard to pick one! I will go with PSII, but I like this full roster a lot! (when is Ojemudia coming back? I still have high expectations for him.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Elway is the reason why I became a football fan, and a Broncos fan. Outside of him, there are quite a few, but I would probably pick TD next.
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Other than PSII, I love what I have seen of Caden Sterns, in a very limited snap count.
Superstitions on game day? No superstitions, but the only two games I have watched in person have been blow out wins. Besides the Texans game, I saw a 37-8 win against the Chargers in (then called) Invesco Field on a cold November afternoon of 2003. So if someone can sponsor a season ticket, for good luck for our Broncos, of course… *wink*wink* ;)
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? If you hate Cris Collinsworth and his wet panties for Mahomes, you should try watching ESPN and Fox Sports en Espanol (after taking a few Spanish lessons). Their NFL commentators choke on those hangin’ from the Cowboys, Steelers, Chiefs, Bucs, and Packers. So I hate them with deep passion.
Favorite sports cliche? It ain’t over till it’s over.
Favorite sports movie? Would ‘Raging Bull’ count as a sports movie? If not, I would go with “Field of Dreams.”
The Favorites - SickBoy67
Favorite game with Demaryius Thomas? 2012 Wildcard game versus Pittsburgh
Favorite Broncos regular season game with Peyton Manning? 2013 season, Week 1 vs the Ravens (7 TDs)
Favorite Broncos regular season game with John Elway? Too many to name
Favorite postseason win, not a Super Bowl? Beating the Patriots in the 2016 AFC Championship
Favorite Broncos game EVER? Super Bowl XXXII
Team you hate to lose to the most in the AFC West? Raiders
Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? Chiefs (but the memories are fading)
Team you hate to lose to the most in the entire AFC (outside of the West)? Patriots
NFC team you cannot stand? Cowboys
NFC team you could root for in the Super Bowl (if not playing the Broncos, of course)? Green Bay
Favorite game so far this season? Beating the Cowboys. It was so unexpected.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Tim Patrick (I love undrafted guys who work their butts off)
Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Elway
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Patrick Surtain, but a lot of other guys from this draft class are easy to like
Superstitions on game day? Don’t have one
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Collinsworth
Favorite sports cliche? We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em
Favorite sports movie? Slapshot
How did you get your MHR handles?
Sultan_azteca: Sultanes is the local pro baseball team in my hometown; Azteca in honor of my ancestry.
SickBoy67: I’m a fan of Trainspotting and Jonny Lee Miller
How did you become a Broncos fan?
Sultan_azteca: John Elway! And those light blue, snot-rocket D helmets were the $h!t!!!
SickBoy67: When I was a little kid, my best friend was a Cowboys fan, so I wanted a team that was pretty much the polar opposite. I’ve always been a fan of defense in most sports, so the original Orange Crush appealed to me. Yes, I’m that old.