After two+ days of fighting the box monster I finally had enough time to sit down with the remote and pick apart as much of the Broncos tape as I could. I'm not a top analyist by any stretch, but there were a few things that I thought I'd like to share with the MHR community at large.
Two statistics on Cutler flew by me in the heat of the moment(s) and are worth repeating for those who might have missed them. Cutler is usually called a pocket passer but this is misleading. Over the past two years, he has the highest QB rating in the NFL when throwing from outside the pocket. That's right - numero uno.
The second is what you'd expect to follow from the above - he has 16 TD passes when throwing from outside the pocket over that period of time, and again that's tops in the NFL. This speaks to what a lot of the MHR commentators and posters have been saying for quite a while now. Jay Cutler isn't going to be one of the top QBs in the league - he already is. And if someone wanted to formulate the argument that he already is the top, these stats, followed by rest of this year, might very well end up proving you right. I have to admit - just as cold pizza (not theirs - mine) can be a banquet on the right morning, that game was a dish most decidedly delicious served cold. And Shanahan's Revenge is always good cold.
Several people touched on Hillis' game but that was something else that flew out at me. Play after play I watched him on a seek and destroy mission looking for blockers. You'd think that a guy who's run interference for Darren McF and Felix Jones might like his work and you'd be right - he's a scary part of the running game and of Cutler's protection as well. Averaging over 5 YPC as a fullback on top of it? Dang! And, he was open on a lot of passing plays when other receivers were even better options, which takes nothing at all away from his abilities. Yeah, he dropped a pass. But by the time he did, I was ready to not mind so much.
On Pittman's 1st TD Hillis blocked his man completely out of the play - and broke off upfield trying to find another victim before Pittman could get there. That's solid for a pro, or even a pro bowler - it's astounding for a rookie in his first game, and on MNF as well. MeAngelo Fall had to respect Hillis' pass routes as the game went on and that led to one of Royal's catches as Wilson got torched. Of course, Fall might have just been looking for an excuse to get the heck aways from Eddie.
Spencer Larson - for a fella who many of us thought wouldn't be activated for the game, Larsen did a very fine job. Again, on replaying the kicking game, he was at the heart of things more often than not.
Andre Hall was nothing short of tremendous. His rushing was gutsy, he ran good routes, and on the play that caught MeAngel peeking at Hillis, Andre absolutely leveled the MLB coming in on the pass rush. Although someone is going to eventually sack Jay, I think that the Broncos will take it as a vile personal insult, to be paid back with userous interest. It's that kind of team.
On Darrell Jackson's TD, Graham was so wide open that either of them would have had the TD. Jackson runs better after the catch, but wow. By then the raiders didn't know their own names, and probably didn't want them televised. On our following possession, Hillis leveled the MLB for Hall, and then cleared the path for him again. He left '22' tattooed on a few people.
Ditka-ism of the game? "That offensive line (raiders) - they ought to sue them for non-support!" Yep.
A final note - Winborn played a heck of a game. He made a few mistakes, most of them, I thought, early on, but overall I was as happy with him as I was when he showed up in my early research. Not gonna but a pro bowler, but lots of heart and some solid work. He and Webster work well together. They welcomed McF to the bigs together, and I enjoyed that.
I get more eager to see them stretched against SD every day. This is the beginning of a heck of a season. I'm glad that we have some tough tests right away - MNF, Chargers, Saints. My suspicion is that we need that to find out just how good we really are. It might just be really, really good.