Living in San Diego now (up north, in Carlsbad), I've had a classic opportunity to follow and spy on the Chargers. Milling around the town, lounging on the beach, watching the newspapers and the tube analysis, as well as breaking down the games, I had a year-long chance to get a little insight into the team. I wanted to share with you some of the things that I've seen over that time. The Bolts are a walking contradiction, just as they are every year, of late. They're starting slow, they have seemed unmotivated and they're been fighting injuries. They are going to be playing for their season, though. It's a great Monday night matchup, and I'm going to enjoy it.
Forgive me for saying this, but those new uniforms today gave a whole new meaning to 'Winning Ugly'. But, by the end of the game, somehow they were looking beautiful. Win the Broncos did, their first win in overtime, and it was dependent on two more Kyle Orton drives late in the game. What a great win for Josh McDaniels, his first over his former mentor and friend, Bill Belichick! What a wonderful, exciting ending for a storybook week. That's the Broncos 4th come-from-behind victory. It's the second where the Broncos were down by two scores, a situation that many assured us that Kyle Orton couldn't handle. It's 5-0, and that's all that really matters.
McDaniels and the Broncos
Growing up in Canton, Ohio as the son of the high school coach is an invitation to a tough adolescence. Josh McDaniels didn't mind the added scrutiny. After all, he would later be the quarterback of the McKinley High School team anyway, as his brother, Ben, would after him. The scrutiny just went with the territory. Even at that age, it rarely seemed to bother him.
People out there will never understand the pressure Josh was under his whole high school career," said Jack Rose, who coached against the McDaniels' McKinley High School while coaching Massillon Washington High School. "The people of McKinley were tough to play for. I'm going to tell you right now, that Cutler guy never went through what Josh McDaniels went through in high school. He was really a good player, had a great winning record at McKinley, and people were always (complaining) about him. It toughened him. It made him stronger for what he's facing today. How he handled it back then, it's not surprising how he handled what's been going on out there now.
Tough is one thing; death threats are another. When Josh and his younger brother Ben took the bus to school, there was a time when police cruisers had to follow the bus. Thom McDaniels had received a death threat and one that had mentioned kidnapping this sons. It didn't stop Thom, it didn't stop his boys, and life went on. Signs were planted on the lawn of the McDanielses' large, A-framed house, making more threats. Nothing changed. The family went about its business. In his typically understated way, Josh referred back to those days this year.
"Tis a happy thing to be a father onto many sons..." Shakespeare, King Henry the VI, Part III
It's the week that some of us have been waiting for: the week when the Denver Broncos will wrestle with the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have a relationship and a friendship; the roots of both go deep. They are far more than mentor and disciple. They are currently professional equals, and their teams will meet on a level playing field and fight for victory in a single contest. It's a great story, and a great opportunity for the Broncos. Many will be the discussion of each team's strengths and weaknesses, and that's as it should be. I wanted to know something a little deeper.
I love to study football; its history, its systems, coaching, scouting, formations and schemes, film breakdowns and stories. I love to know where the players come from, what has driven them, why they traveled the road that they have. And I've been just as interested in its coaches. for those that know me, I also promise to keep this one substantially shorter than Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples.
The Broncos have done everything that we as fans could ask of them, going 4-0 to begin the 2009 season. Despite much argumentation in the media and on the fan sites, the Broncos did exactly what Josh McDaniels said that they would do: They focused on winning. It's the only goal, the only end to which they work and it happens when your coaches prepare the players better than the other team's coaches prepares theirs. I'm putting most of our success to the people at the top - acquiring the right players, teaching them properly and putting them in position to win the games before the opening kickoff ever occurs.
It's cooling, down at the waterfront. It's late in the day, and towers of cirrus and cumulonimbus clouds are floating, out on the horizon, and the beams of light are cascading down the tiers of lace and billowing air. The late day sunlight is stretching into pillars that reach down to light up the water, turning pewter to silver and to ribbons of gleaming bronze. Streamers of soft grey slide lightly past rivulets of charcoal as the currents play under the waves. The lights and the colors are pleasing to the eye and the soft breeze floats a light mist off the water, gentling the back-light of sunset. The salt and the scents of the shore nip at my nostrils, but I'm really not thinking of the water. My consciousness floats back to the mountains, the combats of autumn and the state of the Broncos. It's football season, though my feet linger in the sand.
Sometimes, that's all that it comes down to. Kyle Orton had an incredible day - unfortunately, it was on this past Friday and it was practice. Today, he missed open receivers, 7 off them in the first half, and with a few better throws, the game never should have come down to the 4th quarter. It did, though, and Orton missed on only two passes in the 4th quarter and threw 2 TDs. Each week, it seems that it's the 3rd and 4th quarters when the Broncos are really tough to stop and today was one more in that pattern. Following their usual pattern, there came the adjustments as the game went on that Josh McDaniels has been know for since his first coaching job. Mike Nolan did everything he had to do on defense, too. In the end, it was the kind of all-team effort that is beginning to mark the kind of Broncos squad that has well earned its 4-0 record.
Welcome to 3-0, Denver! The team that destroyed the raiders on the road will still not get as much respect until they beat a few of the teams in the upcoming stretch. I'm not worried about that happening. We have had a series of things in our favor over the other squads that we've taken been able to use. Those advantages have involved personnel matchups, coaching matchups, scheme, attitude and execution. In today's effort, I'm going to start with the biggest among them.
"They booed Russell off the field when he was intercepted on the Raiders' second drive of the game, a play where Darrius Heyward-Bey slipped and fell on his route. They booed again on the Raiders' next drive, when Russell overthrew Heyward-Bey for another interception.
They booed every time after that when Russell took the field or threw an incomplete pass. It got so bad, left tackle Mario Henderson at one point clapped for Russell and patted his helmet while the crowd chanted, "JaMarcus sucks."
What did Russell say of it all? That both interceptions should have been ruled defensive pass interference, and that other than that, "I think I did all right. ... I try to play with no regrets."
He completed two passes to a wide receiver, both on the same second-quarter drive to Louis Murphy. Eight passes were check down screens to the running backs, and two went to tight end Zach Miller."
It was boys against men.
There was a lot to digest, as I watched the game again tonight. There was the problem of scoring in the red zone, the fact that the 3-TE set that has worked so well wasn't in evidence near the goal line and that the defense looks like it's played together for years. But in the final analysis, that was really the thing that stood out to me. Boys against men. It wasn't just the inability of JaMarcus Russell to find a receiver. It wasn't even his lack of accuracy in the second half. It wasn't the lousy raiders running game, the one that looked so concerning at first, the way we ran up the gut so easily or the way that our D shut them down. You can (and a lot of us will) complain that the Broncos should have scored 35, but even so - this wasn't really a game. It was more of a schoolyard whipping, a beatdown, an hour-long embarrassment that apparently left the Raiders' faithful - both of the ones who are left - complaining about the referees' calls. They didn't have anything else to do. They couldn't keep saying the same things over again. Their outcries were at first furious, then plaintive, and finally just bored. By the time Kyle Orton took that final knee, there was nothing left to say. The Broncos had dominated this game in nearly every possible phase.