Two weeks is an eternity in the NFL.
It's time enough to get healthy; time enough to recommit to the running game; time enough--if you're Josh McDaniels--to regain the faith of an entire city, fan base, and organization.
To say that Josh McDaniels was coaching for his very job is to overstate the importance of today's game.
To say that today's game was just another game, however, is to ignore the obvious. Josh McDaniels--no, the entire Broncos organization--needed today's win.
They needed the win so badly that McDaniels brought in none other than John Elway to give the Broncos a pep talk earlier in the week; despite the disappointing off-field actions of DJ Williams, everyone must have listened.
If today's game is what we'll get from an inspired Broncos team, I say bring in The Duke for the remaining 7 games.
Welcome back to the AFC West, Denver.
Jet lag—like a set of perfect English teeth—may not exist.
But the Broncos are believers.
The only way to describe their performance today was sluggish. How about just plain blah?
They may have walked off the plane 48 hours ago, but, in what has come to be a hallmark of this Broncos team, they again couldn’t get their wings off the ground to start the game. They barely got airborne the entire game.
The usual suspects appeared—and we aren’t just talking about those British hoodlums that show up to soccer games. The Broncos showed a plethora of penalties, blown assignments, and miscommunications. They were also 0-for-4 on 3rd downs through their first 4 drives.
Can god save the queen? Who knows. But it would be nice if he’d at least bless the Broncos’ run defense.
Has there ever been a worse 1st half in Broncos history?
Not in recent memory. Halloween came one week early in Denver.
Before most Broncos fans had a chance to see Tom Cable’s frightening haircut on the jumbo screen, they were down 24-0.
The defense ran confused; Kyle Orton threw confused; Josh McDaniels was confused.
But don’t confuse them with a playoff contender. In arguably the worst division in football, the Broncos are the cellar zombies of the AFC West. The season is effectively done.
Perhaps the Broncos were thinking about what scary costumes they were going to wear in London next week. So they decided to take an eyepatch from every Raiders player, coach, and fan, and put them on both eyes.
Last week, Josh McDaniels said the Broncos weren’t tough mentally.
Early in the game today they were just plain stupid.
In the first quarter alone, the Broncos managed a stupid personal-foul penalty; several miscommunications in the passing game; a fumble despite covering the ball with two hands; and the most idiotic of all things in the NFL (or high school for that matter) - a botched field-goal snap.
The Broncos’ run defense and the Jets themselves—stupidly turning the ball over 3 times—kept the Broncos in the game.
But at crunch time, on a day in which the Broncos painted the town orange, the color yellow was the stupidest thing of all.
As a Broncos fan, it was hard to watch the past five seasons as teams like the Ravens continued to simply beat up on Mike Shanahan’s finesse offenses.
But in some ways, it’s even harder to watch the same thing happen to a bigger Broncos team like the one Josh McDaniels is creating.
The Broncos are bigger. The Broncos are tougher. But against the standard bearers of big and tough—the Baltimore Ravens—they continue to play small and weak.
For all of the talk about the Broncos high-octane passing attack, they were the ones to internally combust.
But can a team really light itself on fire in all phases of a football game? Apparently so.
The Broncos lost the game 31-17. As a player, a coach, an owner, and a fan, you can point in a lot of different directions. Drive-killing penalties? Check. Turnovers? Check. Lack of pressure? Check.
Sometimes your opponent tries to give you the game.
And sometimes they just don’t catch the football.
Today, the Broncos watched their opponent do both.
On a day in which the Titans missed a field goal, fumbled the ball, committed stupid penalties, and dropped numerous key passes, they saved their best for last. The winds were swirling. And with just a few minutes remaining in the game, in what was reminiscent of the Broncos’ 1998 AFC Championship victory over the New York Jets, the Titans forgot to handle the kickoff.
Do we thank the wind for the victory?
No way. This was a gutsy 26-20 victory against a great defense. Give the Broncos their respect.
Turnovers are hard to overcome.
Red Zone sterility doesn’t make it any easier.
Against Peyton Manning and the Colts, both are an RSVP to your own implosion.
Today the story will be how Peyton Manning defeated the Broncos—again.
But the true story is that on a day in which the Broncos defense finally mastered the Colts, their offense and special teams let them down. Whether it be through an interception, a lack of push on 3rd-and-short, or a fumbled punt, turnovers and lack of red-zone execution were the seeds of destruction.
Denver had a great game plan today. From doubling Dallas Clark at the line of scrimmage to some great pass calls out of running formations, this was a game they could have easily won, despite the final score. Unfortunately, a great game plan, no matter how great it is, just can’t overcome turnovers and horrendous execution in the red zone.
How quickly things can change. Last week, the Seahawks were the darlings of the NFL. And we were subjected to the oft-repeated opinion that Denver could very well be on its way to an 0-6 start, since they were going to have to face the mighty Colts, Titans, Ravens and Jets in the next 4 weeks.
Not only did Denver paste the Hawks 31-14, but the domination of the Broncos’ next 4 opponents is in question, and just as Denver’s offensive line is getting healthier and more cohesive. Denver’s wide receiver corps isn’t just surviving, they are thriving. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Broncos go 2-2 in the next 4 weeks. Vince Young, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez aren’t going to scare this secondary, and the Broncos are scoring points this year.
Now, let’s look at today’s game. First, the positives:
It’s never smart to overreact to an opening-day loss, but there are plenty of takeaways from today’s game. First, let’s start with the positives:
1. Eddie Royal. As advertised, he’s much stronger this year. And it was good to see how many yards he picked up after the catch. It’s clear that his move to the slot will pay dividends for Denver. Royal had 8 catches for 98 yards.
2. D. J. Williams. Williams was flying all over the field in both run and pass. Williams had 10 tackles today.
3. Kyle Orton. Although Orton took two sacks that he could have probably avoided by throwing the ball away, overall, Orton looked very mature in the pocket.