Sometimes, just a few items need to change in order to alter the fortunes of a team. Oftentimes, we as fans don’t have a chance to see those things - they happen in practice, in the halftime locker room and off camera. But against the Chiefs yesterday, fans got to see the parts that counted - from the 35-0 start to the final gun, the Broncos showed that even with some of its key players still hobbled or out (including Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers and Andre' Goodman), they are a far better team than their record to date has shown. The simplest thing that changed was the return of Ryan Harris and the LG debut of Zane Beadles.
Wandering the net a few days ago, this story appeared. There have been lots of discussions on the theory of the "Winning QB" - in other words, references that were common with regard to Kyle Orton or another QB being the key to winning and losing, a belief that I took with a shaker of salt. The QB is very important, but not by himself. I thought that this blurb from SI.com’s Don Banks was particularly interesting:
MOST OVERHYPED STORYLINE -- Whatever will the Steelers do without Ben Roethlisberger? Umm, mainly win. During Roethlisberger's four-game league suspension, the Steelers went 3-1, losing only at home narrowly to Baltimore in Week 4. And the way Pittsburgh ran the ball and played defense, it didn't really matter who played quarterback in those games, (emphasis mine) although Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon turned in some solid relief work.
Okay, so Denver’s in deep kimchi. I know it, you know it, and we all want to see this improve. The applicable question, simply, is, "How?" What follows are a few things that we may see enjoyable production from - there’s nothing more boring than an endless list of problems. We all know what those are - well, most of us do. They’ve been talked about, analyzed statistically and broken down via film, but how about some bright spots? They may not solve the team's problems - in fact they won’t, by themselves - but it’s worthwhile to consider that there are bright spots to find on the 2010 Broncos with players who have substantial careers still in front of them.
The other day, one of our readers made an excellent point: azdenfan wondered if the complexity of the playbook is working against the Broncos right now. I agreed with him that this could easily be one of the issues facing the Broncos - last year, the Broncos ran a high rate of short passes (although they also ranked well in successful longer passes, something that was often ignored), and they had good reason to. The team was new - the systems were complex, coaches and players all had to develop a chemistry with each other. That’s still a work in progress, no question. Adding the vertical game has increased yardage, but points and wins are still elusive. Is the issue of the playbook’s complexity still hurting the team?
You’re hearing a lot of this. You might even be someone who agrees with it. There was a movement to fire McD that started seemingly the day he was hired, so this isn’t exactly virgin territory. But, let’s say that you do feel this way. The candidates? I’m sure that there are many, but I keep hearing the names Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden. With great respect for what each has done in the past, I’d like to suggest that one is impossible and the other would be a disaster. Let me explain.
Sorry to be out of touch, folks. Certain things took precedence.
It looked yesterday like Denver was taking over the game in the 3rd quarter. Several problems came up, and they lost control of the game. Not unusually, the problems started for the most part with an idiotic penalty call on Knowshon Moreno for falling down. The Niners LB was indeed hit from behind, but if you watch, the lineman wasn’t in contact with the LB when he fell over Moreno - who did not, by any rational measure, block the player. Frankly, that was up there with the lack of an end-zone call on the hold on Brandon Lloyd. Those two factors together cost the Broncos the momentum, and probably a shot at the game. Kyle Orton has tried like heck to put the team on his back, but he also played against some terrible officiating.
We’ve all seen it. The offense lines up in a 113 - one RB, one TE, three WR. Standard OL, shotgun. The X receiver does a stop-and-go fly pattern, the Y receiver does a hitch and the slot receiver breaks to the weakside at 7 yards. The defense was waiting for it. They were in a 3-4, CBs on the primary receivers, SILB on the slot, with help from the safety to his right if the TE tries to block or if the RB comes back far enough to receive a pitch-out. When the slot receiver appeared to be the best option, the FS noticed that the QB, despite untold hours of practice, didn’t look him off, as the slot receiver reached out for the ball and it touched his hands. The SILB converged on him and was there in time for the tackle. But the safety had an open shot at an unprotected WR, and although he would later say that he was trying to hit the receiver in the back, the impact of his helmet into the back of the helmet of the receiver caused an entire stadium to go suddenly silent. Neither got up at first, and trainers from both benches grabbed the equipment they wanted to hold the least, and dashed over to the supine bodies of the players. The loss of feeling in the WR’s arms and legs brought an immediate application of a device that was little more than a high-tech ice bag, one that would fit the neck, shoulders and down the back. It slows the swelling in cases of spinal bruising, bruising that can bring permanent paralysis. Two carts were ready on the sidelines.
In the early minutes of the second quarter Sunday, the Broncos put on a drive that resulted in Tim Tebow’s first NFL touchdown. Appropriately, it was a rushing TD - making for the right corner, and making it easily thanks to two players who weren’t mentioned by the announcers. We love to have fun here at IAOFM, but some of that fun comes from finding the points, plays and players that didn’t get enough praise or recognition and making sure that problem is solved. That being the case, here’s a little bit of info on the Broncos’ first scoring drive.
Note: This is the second of a two-part article, the first of which appeared yesterday.
Roulette Wheel II, the Sequel: Waivers
You can also find players like the new stealth offensive lineman (no one seems to have heard of him), Chris Clark, in the waivers system. According to the Broncos’ website:
Clark is a first-year player who spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons on Minnesota’s practice squad after competing in training camp with Tampa Bay in 2008… Earned All-Conference USA recognition as a senior at Southern Mississippi… Awarded to the Broncos via wavers from the Vikings on Sept. 5, 2010.
Waivers can hurt or help you - Denver lost safety Josh Barrett earlier this year, although they expected him to clear waivers and reach IR before stepping back in on STs next season and perhaps to develop his skill at covering tight ends. Bill Belichick managed to slide in his vote, and Barrett was a Patriot. Denver almost immediately picked up Kevin Vickerson - if you don’t have that big safety (although Bruton may make that jump), you’d better get a good rush on the QB.
Note: This is the first of a two-part article, the second of which will appear tomorrow at 3PM ET
I was watching some film the other day - a habit that I’ve gotten into. I find that I can retain the issues or points that I will want to write about as long as I keep the watching part to about one quarter of the game. I tend to watch each play until I know what each player on the screen is doing on that play - it can take one viewing or several, but I don’t move on until I’ve got that one clear in my mind. By halftime I’m cranking out notes to keep up. If I don’t take a break by the middle of the third quarter, I’m starting to miss things that I knew about earlier. It’s a simple problem with a simple solution - you do a quarter, write it up, do another, take a break or two, and eventually you’ve got a game. First, you need to find certain patterns, characters, specific plays that illustrate concepts which affect the outcome of the drive, half or game - or find a couple of personalities that might make it into a good Broncography. Once in a great while, you find something that brings all of them together. If you can keep it to 5,000 words or so, you might even get by with it as an article. That’s where this came in. Since I’m always looking for things that might help out or even become the subject of a single article, what I saw recently became more and more concerning as I watched players dealing with injuries, under pressure to improve a weakness that affects the outcome of a game. The starting point was simple, but what it revealed was a major concern.