It was arguably the least meaningful game of the season with Brett Rypien facing off against Colt McCoy (and Chase McSorley) with no playoff implications for either side. Two head coaches on the NFL’s version of death row headed for the chopping block, and coaching units mostly made up of players who started the season on various practice squads.
I blame no one who chose to spend their time watching or doing something beside watching this game. I know it wasn’t one I enjoyed sitting through. Even in victory, it’s hard to find much to feel hopeful about when fans are all well aware of the looming rebuild Denver approaches in the offseason. Most of the players that played a role in this Denver victory will not be around for the next playoff-bound Denver Broncos’ roster, and might not even be here next season.
The entire offensive coaching staff is likely getting canned for Denver, so any progress on that side of the ball over the last couple of weeks feels meaningless to praise, and considering they played against one of the NFL’s worst-scoring defenses… who cares if they’ve managed to score 24+ points in back-to-back games.
This season is on life support and I’m ready to say my goodbyes, but we have a few more weekly forced viewings to get through (with the next one on Christmas no less!)
For any of those who just want the highlights from these dreadful games… I’m your guy as I’m here to highlight the players who performed at a high level even when the season is done and dusted.
This week those players included Jerry Jeudy, Latavius Murray, Justin Simmons, and Patrick Surtain.
Jerry Jeudy clips vs. the Arizona Cardinals pic.twitter.com/YRXxwSkSNP— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) December 20, 2022
It’s maddening it took this long for the offensive coaches to figure out Jerry Jeudy, but since taking snaps on the outside for Denver the last couple of weeks, he has looked more and more like the guy coaches had hoped for when they selected him 15th overall.
This week we saw him utilized more in the quick game to help alleviate some of the pressure applied by Arizona and JJ Watt. Getting him involved in the quick screen game, Jeudy is able to use his elite change of direction and acceleration to chew up easy yards for Denver and soften boxes.
Jeudy has a noticeable connection with backup Brett Rypien and Sunday was no different with Ryp targeting Jerry 8 times, 7 of which he hauled in for 76 yards.
Jeudy continued to show his dominance against man coverage generating multiple big gains on outbreaking routes against the Arizona corners. His ability to separate in coverage has always been his calling card but we are slowly seeing the young receiver gain more confidence in his hands and more consistently gain yards after the catch. Sometimes in the first couple of seasons, Jerry would try to do a bit too much with the ball instead of being assertive with his play, this season we’re seeing a much more dominant Jerry which bodes well for his future in blue and orange.
All season long Evero has weaponized Singleton/Jewell as blitzers.— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) December 20, 2022
On this 3rd and short it's Singleton who generates the pressure and lands a huge shot on Colt McCoy, causing him to airmail a pass for Marquise Brown into the welcoming hands of Justin Simmons for the INT. pic.twitter.com/qiHOOX56lg
Justin Simmons is still one of, if not the best, safeties in the NFL. He’s always around to make big plays in both the run and passing game and it breaks my heart that he has to go another season missing the playoffs.
He’s the heart and soul of this defense, never mailing it in at the end of the season and continuously showcasing what teams desire out of their captains on and off the field.
Simmons had his second multi-interception game of the season against Arizona, being in the right place at the right time when the defense needed him most. The first saw him covering over the top in C1 and after Alex Singleton laid a massive hit onto Colt McCoy forcing an overthrow, Simmons calmly settled under the ball for the pick returning the ball deep into Arizona territory.
Then, late in the game after Denver scored their second TD to give themselves a 17-9 lead. Trace McSorley miscommunicates with AJ Green over the middle and Justin reads his eyes the whole way for his second interception of the game. He dashed his way down to the Arizona 10-yard line setting up a game-sealing Denver touchdown.
Even with missing 5 games this season, Justin Simmons has been the same dominant player that fans and teammates alike have come to know and respect, which is a big reason he was still named as the 1st alternate for the Pro Bowl at Safety.
Latavius Murray clips vs. the Arizona Cardinals pic.twitter.com/CXQaVsNdZj— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) December 22, 2022
I could have never guessed when the season started that Latavius Murray would be leading a physical Broncos running game to a victory in December… yet here we are.
Latavius hasn’t been spectacular for Denver by any means, but this season and this game especially showcased perfectly why he’s stuck around in the NFL for so long. Physical between the tackles who builds up a ton of momentum when moving downhill and wears down defenders carry after carry.
Murray saw 24 rushes against Arizona and put together 130 yards on the ground and one touchdown. He hit the open holes hard and fast cutting through the first level like butter and once he got going he was a force to bring down, breaking through multiple arm tackles of defenders and forcing the issue at the end of carries.
He did a great job on zone runs and tosses letting his blocks develop in front of him, and found his way back to the line of scrimmage on multiple carries that should’ve seen him tackled for losses.
It was an immaculate display from Murray that also didn’t see him put the ball on the ground (slight Melvin dig) in a season where the Broncos running game has been the worst in the NFL.
Considering what the Broncos’ RB room is projected to look like next year (Javonte off a gruesome knee injury, and a ‘probably going to be cut’ Chase Edmonds) I’m honestly not opposed to the idea of bringing Murray back to the roster/practice squad to provide some stability. He’s developed solid relationships with the guys in the locker room and is well-respected around the league. He’s likely an incredibly cheap option and would fit the identity if Denver continues to look to lean into a more physical approach to their offense.
Nowhere near the end of the world if he isn’t retained but a guy that could help lessen some needs in what will be a busy offseason of retooling for George Paton and Denver.
Patrick Surtain II
All-Pro PS2. Make it happen. pic.twitter.com/WeH0VX7alw— Frankie Abbott (@FrankiesFilm) December 19, 2022
In a season of misery at least there is still Patrick Surtain II. Another shutdown day for the young corner allowing only 22 yards in coverage and coming up with an INT while covering the likes of Deandre Hopkins.
Surtain continues to be one of the best CBs in the entire league and that was only reinforced this week with PS2 being named a Pro Bowl starter for the AFC at cornerback. An incredible accomplishment in what is sure to be a storybook career for the prodigal defensive back.
Hopefully Denver can field an offense before Surtain’s rookie contract expires and the team has to deal with the consideration of letting him go. He’s the type of player that you do everything to keep for as long as possible, but he’s also not the quality of player that stays on a bottom-10 franchise.