The Denver Broncos missed an opportunity to set up a postseason appearance with this loss. They were very close to getting enough done to do so, but too many mistakes led to too many missed opportunities.
I was a little bummed by the loss, but found myself not feeling too upset about it. This looked like a plain and simple bad game by the Broncos and they surely were about due with as many wins as they have rattled off.
Hats off to the Houston Texans. They look like a team with a lot of young talent and the needle for them is pointed in the right direction.
Hats off also to the Broncos for fighting until the end. They didn’t get the outcome all of us in Broncos Country wanted, but the effort was there.
The one thing I noted while watching this game was something I doubt a lot of people are going to have noticed. It seemed to be a very Jekyll and Hyde dichotomy between the bad plays and the good plays for the defense.
Specifically, the pass rush had easily the best performance of the season with 5 sacks and 6 quarterback hits on the day. But on the plays that we wanted back, they were non-existant and the zone defense on the back end didn’t hold up at all. Our normally stellar secondary got lit up mainly by plays where players got in the seams or behind an abandoned zone for chunk yardage.
With a more veteran defense that has been together in the same system longer, I’d like to see them switch it up to more man coverages and I think it would have made a real difference or at least opened up a nice cat-and-mouse game where maybe we get some more takeaways.
The production from the defense was hard to pin down to just a few names. What I saw from the front 7 that jumped out to me was that Vance Joeseph was creative with where he was bringing pressure. We had P.J. Lock and Ja’Quan McMillian with sacks out of the secondary. I saw a lot of pressure packages coming from different directions and it led to success at times.
As I stated earlier, the problem up front was the lack of consistency with their pressure. Too many times the Texans held off the pass rush for far too long and it led to big passes downfield.
Alex Singleton decided early in the game to hand the Texans a fresh set of downs for absolutely no reason whatsoever and it is worth calling out. The Texans had a false start so the play was dead and he decided to get up in the QB’s face. This ended up costing the team a touchdown. It was a bone-headed decision and I’m glad that Sean Payton publicly mentioned it in his press conference. That speaks to some level of accountability.
When Pat Surtain II went down, I expected a loss if he didn’t come back in the game. He’s that important to this defense. More importantly, the drop-off in talent in the secondary is drastic losing him and adding our #4 corner. He got beat on a play to be sure. He also made two very nice coverages (one of them credited as a pass defense).
The holes getting exploited in the secondary were largely over the middle of the field. I think the coaches are going to have some great tape to review with the players (especially the ILBs, nickel corners, and safeties) to find the failing techniques. There were far too many times when guys were flat-footed and waiting when the ball was getting thrown behind them. At some point in your zone coverages, you have to ask the players to match up or pass off more efficiently with a higher level of awareness than what we saw in this game.
Honestly, 17 points is just not enough. The run game worked enough. The passing game and the quarterback play specifically were below average.
We’ve been living off of turnovers and now in this game, we died by them.
The other big area of concern was the 3rd down play calling. Either the calls were terrible, or the execution was (and I honestly think it was a little bit of both). We had many 3rd down opportunities with makeable distance to go and just failed over and over.
Russell Wilson honestly laid an egg in this game. One of his Ints was a tip which I don’t put on him. That being said, the other two interceptions were awful from a decision-making perspective. The pick at the end of the game was a glaring case of a quarterback forcing a play. He described it post-game as him throwing it up where only his guy could get it, but I’m calling bull on that. Krull was not the only guy who was able to get that pass. Wilson needed to throw it away and look for a better look on 4th down.
Our line (especially the tackles) had no good answers for the pass rush from the Texans. They gave up 3 sacks and 8 quarterback hits. The pressure on 3rd down was the main reason they had so much trouble on 3rd down.
Garrett Bolles and Mike McGlinchey both let guys around the edge without engagement when Wilson was on deeper drops. At some point, they need to clean that up and have a better understanding of what Russ is doing post-snap. You can’t just give the edge players the outside lanes free when Wilson is dropping deep for a longer route.
There wasn’t anything big to get excited about in the backfield this game. All of our runners got chances at snaps and mostly all of them did good, not great work. We were just shy of 4 ypc on the day and had we extended a drive or two with some 3rd down conversions, they likely could have done something more impactful.
The big props I have in this game are for Jerry Jeudy. Sure, he led the team in receptions and production with 3 catches for 51 yards. What I saw was all the yardage that we could have had on multiple occasions if Wilson had just included him in the progression or seen it coming open. Jeudy was shaking kids out of their sneakers in the backfield and Wilson just didn’t see it.
I’m going to also point out that while I laud Courtland Sutton for a real resurgence of his career this season, he’s getting way too many targets and not making the play in this game. He was 2 out of 7 targets. Yes, his TD catch was glorious. Yes, his other catch was for 32 yards. It is those 5 misses that bug the hell out of me. Many of those were on 3rd down and we needed them to keep moving the ball. #1 WRs need to make most of those plays, not miss them.
This loss honestly ups the pressure on the Broncos moving forward. I think beating Detroit is a tough ask for this team. For the Broncos to make the postseason, that means they need to win all of their other games since they dropped this one to the Texans.
I think that is doable, though. This team didn’t look like the Broncos of the past few years when the chips were down, folded like a cheap chair. They were in the game up until the last second and almost found an improbable win in a very tough away game.
Keep your chin up, Broncos Country. I know I for one am counting my blessings that we lost a game this late in the season and the team still has a good chance for a winning record. No matter what happens the rest of the year, I’m thankful this team is headed in the right direction.