Those of you who have read my reviews for a long time will know I’m not a big fan of games like this.
The first reason is that it shows our team wasn’t up to the task of competing. I’ll take a loss by 10 or less any day…at least in those you know the team was close. But losing 42 - 17 just says you didn’t even show up on the field of play from an effort standpoint or your roster is not good enough to compete.
The second reason I don’t like games like this is that they don’t produce a lot of substance for critiquing growth in the team from a positive point of view. There’s not just a handful of plays where if we change the outcome, you could see a way that the team could have won. No… the Denver Broncos had at least a dozen plays they needed to flip the script on and that just isn’t happening.
Hats off to the Detroit Lions, their players, and their coaching staff. They did a superb job of playing football and exploiting the weaknesses of their opponents.
All the praise we’ve been heaping on Vance Joseph just took a pretty significant hit. He’s still doing a great job in my mind, but until he upgrades this roster in a few key ways, games like this against teams with real speed will be the norm.
He’s used a lot of zone coverage to help cover up the talent deficiencies of the secondary and when you let a quarterback have 3+ seconds consistently with very little to no pressure, you will get exposed with chunk plays ad nauseam.
This defense has shown it is capable of defending the pass if the pass rush gets there, but this game showed us just how big of a problem the lack of any consistent pass rush hurts this defense. I honestly was scratching my head by the end of the game at how little Joseph was calling corner/safety blitzes like he did against the Chargers. The likely reason is that Goff is much better at passing against the blitz than anything the Chargers brought to the table last week, but at some point, you need to try something different when they start scoring at will in the 2nd half.
Finally, our inside linebacker situation is very bad. One of the big reasons we likely use so much zone is to cover up for just how poorly both Josey Jewell and Alex Singleton are from a lateral quickness perspective in coverage. This is not new information. I (along with others from our staff) have been pointing out this flaw at ILB for years now. At some point, the team is going to need to invest draft / free-agent resources into this position to open up what this defense is capable of.
Sean Payton also showed a big lack of ability to adjust his game plan as this game wore on. He’s strapped himself to Javonte Williams in the run game for some strange reason and decided to throw the vast majority of our drives away on sub-par performance from one player and expected the rest of the offense to pick back up the load and be in a game where the other team scored a 40-burger on the Broncos.
That just isn’t who this team is. The line isn’t good enough to help Williams more than they did. Wilson and his receivers are who they are and have built themselves all year long to be a passing attack that works off play action when the run game is a threat in order to get plays to work. Well, if you decide that Williams is going to take double the carries of any other back on the roster to the tune of a pathetic 2.3 ypc, then you should be ecstatic that your team scored 17 points.
Of special note, I’ll speak to the jobbing that the Broncos got on that “goal line stand.” First off, the refs stole a touchdown from the Broncos. While the first play that looked close to McLaughlin I thought was called correctly, the rest of the series after that was an absolute shit show by the refs. Especially the run by Javonte Williams which absolutely did cross the plane and should have been challenged by Payton (and also should have been called a TD by the refs which then could have gotten bailed out by replay if they got the call wrong). Then to have an offsides penalty called on the Broncos when nary a player was lined up offsides was the obvious cherry on top of the shit sundae the refs decided to serve up for the visiting team.
Now, throw all that last paragraph out the window because of one simple fact: Even if they called things honestly, that would not have changed the outcome of the game in any meaningful way. The Broncos got beat by 25 points. 7 points wouldn’t change enough that even the momentum swing could have helped this team.
I’m going to suggest to all my brothers and sisters out there in Broncos Country to take a page out of my book this week. Don’t let this game bug you.
This team was a broken joke of what an NFL team should look like this time last year. It was always going to take more than a year for them to really turn things around and seriously be in contention.
Yes, this Broncos team can still make the playoffs. No, they aren’t likely to make a deep run even if they do.
The No Bull truth is that this team mostly has gone on a tear with a very favorable schedule that was kicked off by a couple of really good teams getting caught by surprise (because we all know the Bills and the Chiefs both overlooked this team and weren’t ready to be tested by them at the time).
We have a quarterback/head coach combo that has this team trending in the right direction. Let’s just move on to New England for that get-right game and see what this team can do with the rest of the season.
If they can’t sweep the last three games of the season against the Patriots, Chargers, and Raiders, then they don’t deserve to play in the playoffs plain and simple.