That game sucked.
The Denver Broncos lost an emotional one to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football by the score of 17-16. We already know the basics of why that loss happened. The two fumbles, the red zone woes, the defensive miscommunications, the penalties, and so on.
With that said, we did come away from that game with some bright spots, interesting usages, things they need to fix moving, and some remaining questions they need to fix forward.
So I am going to give you five things we learned during the Broncos' week one loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
1. Broncos' offense looks promising
Forget about the red zone woes for one second. The Broncos' offense looked legit last night. They were running the ball with ease, Russell Wilson was making plays, the receivers played well when targeted, and the screen game was beautiful to watch as well. Hell, even Andrew Beck looked like a potential gamechanger for the Broncos early on as well (why he didn’t get more snaps is beyond me)
The Broncos had over 400 yards of total offense, more than 5 yards per rushing attempt and over 7.5 yards per pass play while holding Seattle under 275 yards.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 13, 2022
Denver came into Monday 20-0 all-time with that combination of stats.
Now that record is 20-1.
This is a game where if you looked at the stat book alone, you would think the Broncos won by a blowout. However, that was not the case, unfortunately, but still, it showed promise.
They had 433 total yards on offense, 180 more yards than the Seahawks. They had over 100 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per rush attempt. They also averaged 6.8 yards per play which is pretty impressive as well. If you told me this would be the case before the game, I would have been thrilled. Again, we all know how it went.
Wilson had 340 yards passing and a quarterback rating of 101.3 while running back Javonte Williams had 6.1 yards per carry as well. Again, two very impressive stat lines. Receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy combined for 8 catches for 174 yards as well. Even Javonte Williams got into the pass-catching game and hauled in 11 balls for 65 yards. He had 108 total combined yards which is a solid game for any running back.
These are all impressive stats but penalties, turnovers, failed red zone attempts and some curious coaching decisions derailed what should have been a double-digit victory over the Seahawks. If you clean up even just some of these mistakes, the Broncos' offense looks dangerous and explosive. I know it’s hard to be positive after that defeat but this Broncos offense should keep them very competitive moving forward.
2. Defensive Coordinator Ejiro Evero shows that he can make mid-game adjustments
The Broncos' defense was upsetting to watch in the first half. They were blowing coverages, committing fouls, showcasing poor tackling, getting no pass rush, and blowing assignments that led to two easy touchdowns. It looked like Seattle was going to run away with this one potentially, but things changed in the second half.
In the first half, the Broncos' defense allowed 17 points and 219 yards.— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) September 13, 2022
In the second half, they clamped down, only allowing 34 yards and ZERO points.
Impressive turnaround for the defense.
Whatever changes defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero did at halftime, they worked. The defense was covering better, the pass rush woke up, Bradley Chubb had two key sacks including a strip sack(the most unluckiest bounce), and limited the Seahawks to just 37 total yards (and somehow the Broncos still lost).
Evero is a first-time defensive coordinator so his in-game adjustments were a total question mark. At least for that game, he passed that test for me and showed some promise as well.
As for the defense, it was nice to see Bradley Chubb make some plays and get two sacks. He needed a game like that and hopefully, that sort of production continues. Also, Randy Gregory who entered the game as questionable was pressuring the quarterback all game. Considering how much time he missed this offseason and summer, that was also promising to see.
I would (cautiously) chalk up the first-half woes to some rust and potentially the absence of inside linebacker Josey Jewell had a negative impact as well. It was not the best night for Alex Singleton, so get healthy soon Josey.
Overall, the defense looked solid, adjustments were made and they shut down the Seahawks after a rough first half. Let us hope they can carry over that second-half momentum into next week vs. Davis Mills and the Texans.
3. Growing pains are going to happen
This is not me making excuses for what happened on Monday Night Football, but these sorts of things had to be expected. I don’t know to the extent we saw in week one, but the inexperience this team has with the coaching staff, the new schemes, and the lack of playing time from the starters likely mean more growing pains are on the way.
The real question here is how they grow from this. An embarrassing loss like this on primetime can make or break a team. It could lead to finger-pointing, a lack of trust, and potentially a divided locker room. It could also humble a team and make them grow as a team and grow from these struggles. It remains to be seen which road these Broncos take, but today, Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett took a good first step forward.
He started off today’s presser by admitting he made a mistake in the final moments of the game. This shows some self-reflection by the Broncos head coach and hopefully a teaching moment for him moving forward.
“Looking back at it, we definitely should have gone for it. It’s one of those things where you look back at it and you say, ‘Of course, we should go for it.’ We missed the field goal. But in that situation, we had a plan. We knew that 46 was the mark. We were third-and-15, I think, third-and-13. I’m more upset about that play before, to lose yards. Getting that there would have definitely been better able to call that same play and get extra yards, but he dumps it out to Javonte. Javonte makes a move and goes a lot farther than I think we had anticipated. We were expecting to go for it on fourth down and then you hit the mark. The mark that we had all set before we started. We said the 46-yard line was where we wanted to be, and we got there so we had to make a decision. We wanted to give it to Brandon McManus, and we did. It didn’t work, it sucks but that's a part of it.”
Also, it sounds like the Broncos players have Hackett’s back. One veteran player texted Benjamin Allbright that they feel better about this 0-1 Broncos team than they did about the 3-0 Broncos under Vic Fangio.
Broncos veteran player via text to me just now.— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) September 13, 2022
"I feel better about our chances at 0-1 with this team, than I felt at 3-0 last season. We're tougher and if the fans stick with us, we will win."
These Broncos may have more growing pains in them, but it sounds like internally, they remain confident in the team and the coaching staff they have.
At the end of the day, I do too. This Broncos team has talent and should have easily defeated the Seahawks. I feel like they will take care of business against the Texans and get themselves moving in the right direction. Especially at home and not facing the crowd noise and environment they faced in Seattle.
4. Interesting usage on offense
You really don’t know how everyone will be used until you look at the post-week one snap counts and targets. For the Broncos, we had some interesting ones that stood out among the rest.
Broncos final snap counts. Williams 12 targets pic.twitter.com/7lDkPnDZgB— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) September 13, 2022
Starting with the running backs, I am surprised by how it all ended. Veteran Melvin Gordon was given the most carries with 12 while Javonte Williams, who many assumed was RB1 only received 7 carries. We also saw Gordon receive a good amount of red zone carries ahead of Williams. Both did receive their chances, but Gordon was first in line. However, when it came to targets in the passing game, Javonte had 12 targets while Gordon had just 2 targets in the passing game. However, when it came to overall snaps, Williams got the edge with 38 while Gordon had 27 snaps.
I would have assumed Javonte would have been given more of the carries while Gordon would have been used in the passing game more. In the end, the opposite ended up being true which is interesting. I am all for getting the bowling ball Javonte is into open space and going against defensive backs who are much smaller and much less physical than he is. It will be interesting how these snap counts look in the coming weeks.
As for the receivers, the targets were non-existent for most of the first half. The first target to a receiver didn’t come until late in the second quarter when Russell Wilson connected with Jerry Jeudy for a long touchdown. In the end, both Sutton and Jeudy ended the night with 7 targets each. The only other receiver to receive a target was K.J. Hamler who had 2 but did not register a reception in the game. Special teamer Tyrie Cleveland had 8 snaps and ran 5 routes as well, but was not targeted at all during the game.
I would have thought the receivers would have been a bigger emphasis in the game, especially considering all the hype they received throughout the offseason. It was an interesting offensive game plan by Hackett and the Broncos, especially considering they were behind all game. Hopefully, we see them more involved in the upcoming games.
One position that was involved all game was the Broncos' tight ends. All four tight ends were involved to some extent and were emphasized early on in the offensive game plan. Fullback/tight end Andrew Beck was the swiss army knife in the first drive and carried the offense. Starter Albert O. played the most reps of the bunch with 44 but was off the field for a decent amount of snaps. He ran a route 34 times of his 44 snaps, so he wasn’t tasked to run block all that much. Meanwhile, Eric Tomlinson played in 20 snaps, ran 6 routes, and was targeted once(so close to a touchdown). Eric Saurbet played 18 snaps, ran 9 routes, and was targeted once (should have caught it).
So, it appears that Tomlinson and Saurbet come in for blocking situations while Albert O. is used as the move tight end. Pretty much what we expected, but interesting to see the snap counts of them all.
Tomlinson and Saurbet need to be more productive in their limited passing game chances. Both had game-changing opportunities and could not catch the ball or keep their toe in bounds.
5. Week 2 vs. the Texans is a must-win game now
The Broncos were given two cupcake games to start the season and they blew one already. Now you have Davis Mills and the 0-1 Houston Texans coming into Denver on week two and the Broncos are facing an early season “must win” game.
The AFC is a competitive conference and the AFC West is probably the most competitive division in the NFL. So, the Broncos can’t afford to go 0-2 because the history of teams starting out 0-2 is bleak.
27 teams started 0-2 the past 3 years and none of them made the playoffs. The last time a team started a season 0-2 and made the playoffs was in 2018 when Houston and Seattle both did it— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) September 14, 2022
So, we need the Broncos to take care of business at home against the Texans and get this ship heading in the right direction before they dig themselves into a hole too deep to overcome.