The Broncos took on Mike Shanahan’s squad in Week 8, and Washington did well to keep themselves in the game for three quarters, before the proverbial roof fell in on them. Denver's habit of finding their adjustments at and after halftime made another furious resurgence, and they put up 31 points in the fourth quarter alone.
Moderately Obscure Fact - Shanny's team has two former Broncos starting on the offensive line: former center Kory Lichtensteiger is at left guard (6-2, 284), and Tyler Polumbus is at right tackle. Tyler’s listed at 6-8 and 305 lb, which is light for a tackle (and it shows at times when he’s blown off the ball). He did fairly well in pass pro, with only one QB hit and a hurry, but his run blocking wasn’t sharp. This is a case where his stats matter less than how he played - this should give you an idea of what I mean.
I’d like to start today with a simple analysis of where the offensive line was going into Thursday’s game and what I'd expected out of them. I had hoped to write this last week, but life went ahead and interceded. It happens to us all.
There two situations that I expected to affect this line, and they’re likely to be around for a few games, at the least. Let’s cover them:
First and foremost is the move of Manny Ramirez to center. This has several ramifications - Manny isn’t a natural center and doesn’t have a lot of experience there. The center has to make a lot of calls, including adjustments - it takes a substantial intellect, which is one reason that testing shows offensive linemen rank second in average IQ, with quarterbacks just ahead of them. That Manny has taken this on with so little preparation time is a testament to that aspect of the man. He’s also a player who struggled at guard at first, but became more effective than was Chris Kuper.
Sunday’s game made the opportunity to choose the two top Heavies, and brought with it the impossibility of choosing only one from each side of the ball. Both the renewed offensive line and the play on the defensive line were absolutely top drawer. Kyle Orton barely got a grass stain on his uni, while Matt Cassel was sacked 4 times and hurries and knockdowns came with clockwork regularity - a fitting outcome to the Broncos cleaning his clock, and those of the team around him.
KC just wasn’t ready for Denver. It might have been the expectation that a 2-6 team with multiple problems wouldn’t be much of a challenge. It might have been that Josh McDaniels just plain out-coached Todd Haley, Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis. The Chiefs fans that I’ve talked to have in great part blamed their injuries, particularly in their defensive secondary and the need to bring Shaun Smith to the DL, but given what Denver has dealt with this season, their cries have fallen on deaf ears in my case. I’m sorry to not be buying, but Denver is still missing Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers, and Andre' Goodman. At this point in the season, it’s a rare - and usually winning - team that hasn’t suffered some major injury difficulties. Some of them have greater depth than Denver or KC, some just have been fortunate in this area.
This week’s awards are easy. The 4-3 formation and all of the variants that Wink Martindale sent against the Jets was predicted by many of the staff and members of IAOFM.com, but the way that Wink used it was a job to see.
This is going to be a weekly gig - a celebration of two players, one from each line, who made a positive difference, win or lose. Some weeks it’s not easy - the guys who do the best are in the middle of piles and you can’t read their jerseys. But this week, that wasn’t hard.
Offense: The award for this week goes to the rookie center, JD Walton. Walton was fighting for his life on much of the day, but watching him racing Ryan Clady down the field, the second level quickly turning to the third, looking for more people to hit gave you an idea of how hard he was working throughout the game. Like most rookies, he is learning by doing. He’s going to get mauled at times, but he’s holding his own better and better. Congratulations to him.