The Denver Broncos defeated the Houston Texans by a score of 16 to 9. They avoided the dreaded 0-2 start but this was one of the more sloppier wins we have seen in recent memory. Pretty much all the woes that plagued the Broncos in week one continued to plague them in week two. This is a concerning trend, but in the end, and mostly on the back of the defense, the Broncos came away with a victory.
There were some positives once again this week but the sloppy play and injuries to the superstars on the Broncos roster muddy this victory a bit. So, with that said let us talk about the five things we have or may have learned from the Broncos' week two victory over the Houston Texans.
1. The mistakes remain
In week one, we saw a bunch of errors from the Broncos on the field and from the coaching staff on the sideline. While frustrating and ultimately a big reason why they lost, we hoped they would get over these woes in week two at home and against another bad team.
Unfortunately, that did not happen.
We saw 10+ penalties once again, we saw the offense fail in the red zone again, and we saw confusion, inexperience, and errors from the Broncos coaching staff again. They burned their timeouts to avoid more delay of games and because rookie returner Montrell Washington was not out to return a punt. We saw fullback/tight end Andrew Beck run an option play on a 3rd and 1 that failed miserably instead of handing off to Javonte Williams who was averaging 6.7 yards per carry at the time.
It was just a sloppy all-around game.
25 penalties in two weeks — the most in a two-game span in Broncos history.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 19, 2022
Three false-start penalties … again.
Two delay-of-game penalties … again. And somehow, both on placekicks. Didn’t even mention burning a timeout before a punt return. pic.twitter.com/XnI2w9UQLq
Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said after that game that the high amount of penalties the Broncos are committing need to stop or else they’re not going to win a lot of games.
“We’re going to have to look at all those. We are going to have to put them up in front of all the guys. We’re going to have to make sure they understand why there were penalties, what they’re doing wrong. Whether it’s a false start, whether it’s illegal cut block, any of those things that go along. We just have to be sure that we clarify it to them because this has got to stop. We’re not going to win a lot of games when we get that many penalties.”
He was then asked about the crowd’s reaction to their struggles and booing him and the players. Hackett told reporters that he would be booing himself if he were in their shoes and that he was going “very frustrated” with these struggles
“I would be booing myself; I was getting very frustrated. We get down to the red zone two times. Don’t get another touchdown, which is unbelievably frustrating. I don’t think we have scored in there yet. That’s something that all of our guys have to step it up. Whether we run the ball more, whatever we’re doing, we just have to execute at a higher level.”
These growing pains are frustrating and deserve the reaction they are getting. However, we need to be mindful of the inexperience we are dealing with on the coaching staff. Hackett is a first-time Head Coach trying to call an offense and manage a game, with first-time offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinators running their respective units. These guys are learning as they go and like most rookies, there are growing pains. That’s no excuse, but the level of inexperience from top to bottom is showing. We need to give it time but they also need to start learning from their mistakes.
In the end, the Broncos did end up winning the game which is all that matters. However, these errors cannot continue to happen moving forward. They’re having these struggles against two teams that figure to have top-five picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. These issues cannot happen against the league's best teams or else the Broncos will lose a bunch of games this season.
2. Broncos' defense looks legit
The Broncos defense had a rough first half against the Seattle Seahawks, but ever since then, they have been playing dominant football. That continued on Sunday when they held the Texans to 9 points and now have gone six quarters without allowing a touchdown.
The Broncos' defense kept them in the game in week one and kept this game close while the offense struggled. They did not allow any touchdowns and limited the Texans to just three field goals.
They did this without Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons and the “glue of the defense” inside linebacker Josey Jewell who both were inactive for this game. They also were without shutdown cornerback Patrick Surtain II for the majority of the game as well. That's arguably your two best players on the team and defense and the man who wears the green dot and calls the defense. So, having that success without those three is pretty impressive.
“The defense has been spectacular, two weeks in a row. They are exactly what they have been, and they’re just getting better. We had a lot of guys slowly get out from the corner standpoint and guys went in there and stepped up. I thought that was awesome. [S] Caden [Sterns], he had to come in. [S] Kareem [Jackson], all those guys. They had a really good game. [ILB] Josie [Jewell] hasn’t been out there. So, just seeing that and seeing how they are unified together making plays, is a big deal.”
The Broncos' defense has faced two of the weaker offenses in the NFL so they still have yet to be truly tested. That changes a bit next week when Jimmy G., Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Kyle Shanahan’s offense comes to town. If they can continue their dominant play against these guys, it will be encouraging.
3. Injuries suck
Entering the game, the Broncos were already out wide receiver Tim Patrick, linebacker Josey Jewell, wide receiver K.J. Hamler, rookie tight end Greg Dulcich, tackle Billy Turner, and All-Pro safety Justin Simmons. The injuries continued to pile on during yesterday’s game when wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and cornerback Patrick Surtain II both left the game and were ruled out for the rest of the game.
Injury update: CB Pat Surtain II (shoulder) and WR Jerry Jeudy (shoulder) have both been downgraded to OUT.— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) September 18, 2022
We have already received some good news about Jeudy. Reports indicated that his x-rays came back negative but will undergo more tests today. So, while positive, he’s still not out of the woods just yet. As for Surtain, it’s just silence (at the time of me typing this out at least). He left with a shoulder injury and was shown on the sideline out of the tent and on the bench with his teammates. So, hopefully, that’s a good sign that he is okay.
The Broncos' injuries are piling up and they can’t afford many more to their roster. Especially with the struggles they are already facing on offense and with the coaching staff.
Hopefully, we receive positive news on both Surtain and Jeudy at some point today. The Broncos are going to need both moving forward, especially with the schedule getting tougher as we move throughout the season.
4. Broncos' depth at receiver is lacking
After Jeudy left the game, the Broncos' depth, or lack thereof, at wide receiver was on full display in this game. They were already down K.J. Hamler who was inactive and had to rely on recently activated off the practice squad Kendall Hinton and core special teamer Tyrie Cleveland to play significant snaps for them.
This is concerning because we heard all offseason about how deep the Broncos' wide receiving depth was. However, the early loss of Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler far from 100%, and Jeudy leaving the game has put a strain on the unit. The wide receiving unit has gone from a strength to a key weakness on the roster.
What doesn’t help is tight end Albert Okwuegbunam failing to make an impact in the passing either. He had 2 targets for no catches in this game. He was supposed to be a key player for the Broncos on offense but he has been invisible.
I do not think there is anything in the short-term the Broncos can do to improve their depth but it feels like something they need to address moving forward. Undrafted rookie speedster Jalen Virgil could be active next week if Jeudy were to miss time and rookie returner Montrell Washington may see an increase of snaps as well.
In the end, it appears that quarterback Russell Wilson is not surrounded by as much talent as we hoped during the offseason.
5. Courtland Sutton proving he’s one of the best
It wasn’t all doom and gloom on the offensive side of the ball. The MVP for the offense was wide receiver, Courtland Sutton. He finished the game with 7 receptions for 122 yards and was a big toe away from a touchdown reception.
.@SuttonCourtland has 194 receiving yards through Week 2, which is his best two-week start to a season in his career.— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) September 19, 2022
He's also drawn 83 yards worth of PI calls.
He's already showing the type of dominant player he can be in this offense. pic.twitter.com/bT9rRYf7BK
With the questions and injuries at the position, a lot of weight falls on the shoulders of Sutton. He is the Broncos' clear number one and will be the guy receiving all the attention from opposing defenses, especially if Jeudy were to miss time.
He made key plays throughout the game and was the main reason the offense was moving. After the game, Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett praised Sutton and said that you need your captains to step up in big moments and they did.
“I thought the whole staff did a great job. We started targeting him quite a bit, he made some huge plays. That third-down play—third and long—was absolutely a thing of beauty. Then he made some big plays across the board and that’s what you need. You need your captain, like [WR] Courtland [Sutton] to step up in those situations, and he and [QB] Russell [Wilson] did.”
We are going to need these two captains to continue to make plays while the rest of the offense figures everything out. He figures to be the focal point of the passing offense moving forward and the coaches and other offensive players will need to step up and pick up the remaining slack.