Gut Reaction: Preseason Week 3 - Broncos vs Seahawks

The Denver defense decided to travel back in time tonight.

Their destination?  The year 2005.  You remember that year, don't you?  It was the year the Broncos didn't allow a single yard on defense--or so it seemed.

The Broncos' first-team defense allowed the Seahawks only 39 yards in the first half tonight in their 23-20 victory.  By the end of the 3rd quarter, that total had hardly increased.

Was that Al Wilson or Joe Mays out there tonight?

Okay, I won't get too carried away.  The Broncos were playing the Seattle Seahawks; they were facing a young offensive line.  It's the preseason.

Things won't always be this way.  Will they?

Tonight, I'll dream dreams of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.  There will be a stopwatch.  It will start at 00:00.  Three seconds later, Miller and Dumervil enter the picture.

The stopwatch explodes.

Let's get to the Positives, the Negatives, and the Who The Heck Knows?

The Positives

1. Knowshon Moreno continues to show that he meant business when he said he was quicker this year.  He looks much more like the runner you saw at Georgia than the one you've seen with the Broncos over the past two years.  While I'm at it, you have to also like how Willis McGahee closes the deal on 3rd and short.  Rarely does McGahee move backwards.  In fact, when McGahee gets up in the morning, he immediately falls three yards forward.

2. The double-bunch set the Broncos ran (for the first time I've seen all year) in the 2nd quarter is tailor made for a guy like Julius Thomas, who played well tonight.  It gets him into space quickly and takes advantage of his athleticisim.  The Broncos also ran the double-bunch in the 4th quarter with Tim Tebow behind center, but used it to run.

3. Von Miller beating the Seahawks' rookie right tackle James Carpenter all night was an amusing distraction.  Tarvaris Jackson probably wouldn't agree with me, though.   Miller beat Carpenter to the outside with his speed rush.  Then, for good measure, he beat him to the inside when the tackle leaned too far outside in anticipation.  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.

4. The best free-agent signing the Broncos made in the offseason was the hiring of Dennis Allen.  Tonight, after the Broncos turned the ball over, Allen didn't wait for the offense to show itself.  He simply attacked and brought more players than the Seahawks could defend.  Every time the Seahawks seemed to grab momentum, Allen's defense retook it through aggression.  Allen's defense may give up a few big plays this year as a result, but he's not going to wait around for an offense to pick the Broncos apart.

5. Elvis Dumervil's added muscle paid off.  He is much stronger against the run this year.  In previous years, you could run right at him.  No longer.  This muscle, interestingly enough, has helped his bull rush, as well.  Or it could be the beard, given the awesome power of facial hair.  You decide.

6. Kevin Vickerson (see also the Robert Gallery note below) has stepped in nicely at the 3-technique.  His long frame allows him to use his arms effectively and swim through the "B" gap.  The 4-3 seems to fit him like an old tee.

7. I'd be remiss (and totally crazy) if I didn't mention the play of Joe Mays again tonight.  How many hits does it take to get to the center of a running back?  A lot, and Joe Mays is hankerin' to find out the exact number.

8. Orton is masterful when the play-action running game is working.  His play fakes are as good as anyone in the game.  If he gets a pocket, he will flat shred you up.  The Broncos would be well served to continue to employ more max protection with Orton, allowing him the time he needs in the pocket to progress through his 3-receiver sets.  In some ways, the way Norv Turner protects Philip Rivers is a good model for how to run an offense around Orton.  I think Mike McCoy is figuring this out as the preseason goes on.

9. Tim Tebow made some great plays with this feet tonight.  It can't be denied.  He avoided several sacks that Orton (or many other QBs for that matter) would have taken.  This, again, has been my essential argument for Tebow all along.  If 50% of the plays in the NFL are going to break down, I want a quarterback who can improvise when needed.  His play with just over a minute in the game was yet another example of this.  It led to the winning field goal.  Of course, Tebow made some terrible plays, too (see note below).

10. Guys I haven't credited that still deserve it:  Robert Ayers (against the run), Andre' Goodman, Cassius Vaughn, Jeremy Jarmon, Champ Bailey, and Wesley Woodyard.  On offense, J.D. Walton stood out again versus Seattle's excellent tackles.  I also thought Eddie Royal, Ryan Clady, Eric Decker, and Matt Willis shined.

The Negatives

1. Two penalties and a negative play is not how you script your first drive of the game--it makes implementing your game plan next to impossible.

2. Robert Gallery--the first-round bust--may play for the Seattle Seahawks, but his heart is still in Oakland.  Gallery gave a cheap cut block to Brodrick Bunkley late in the first quarter.  On the very next play, Kevin Vickerson went after Gallery.  My respect level for Vickerson went up a few notches.  Gallery, as you might expect, kept cutting throughout the game.  I guess you have to do something when you can't handle defenders man-up.  Let's hope Bunkley is okay.  He was playing a mean 1-technique so far in the preseason.

3. Kyle Orton said before the game that there are always five looks a defense shows you in each game you didn't prepare for. Looks like he saw a few of those tonight, specifically the weakside end dropping into zone coverage and the corner blitz.  Orton's interception at the hands of DE Chris Clemons resulted from a poor decision by the QB.  He'd be the first to tell you that.  There's no excuse for it.

4. The Broncos' 4th-down play near the end of the 2nd quarter was simply poor execution.  It appears at first glance that Chris Kuper simply whiffed as he charged out of the blocks.

5. Nate Jones didn't have a good night, and he's not having a good camp or preseason.  That doesn't bode well.

6. The special teams play tonight was a bit putrid, outside of Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt.  Muffed punts, a 105-yard kickoff return TD, and penalties do tend to nauseate.   

7. Tebow also had a bad side--a very bad side.  He still tucked and ran too often, collided with his backs, was inacurrate half the time, and looked like the Tazmanian Devil in the pocket.  But his game-winning drive to close out the game showed everyone again what he's all about--winning.  No, not in the Charlie Sheen way.

8. John Fox and Mike McCoy didn't exactly burn it up with clock management skills tonight.  Their two-minute offense before the half was clunky at best, and they wasted seconds to end the game.  I guess it's not just the preseason for the players.

9. If you didn't catch it, the Broncos fumbled five times tonight.  Yeah, that's five times more than they should have.  They didn't lose one, but recovering a fumble is virtually a random event.  In short, they got lucky as hell to have recovered all five.

10. The ghost of Jeremiah Johnson left two weeks ago.  It's too bad.  He could have made the team.

 Who The Heck Knows?

1. John Fox may not realize he's into game theory.  The Broncos seem to be employing a high-variance, David-Goliath strategy used by smaller schools against larger schools in NCAA football.  Run the ball, shorten the game, and go for the explosive play when it's time to pass.  While it's not an optimal strategy if your team is the most talented on the field, it's a strategy that should keep the Broncos in a ton of games this year.  Why?  Well, they won't often be the most talented team on the field.  

2. Demaryius Thomas was spotted on the field running gasers before the game.  Cautious optimism is in order.

3. My lockdown prediction of the year?  The Broncos' kickoff return team will matter as much as Joe Biden.  Yes, I know there was a kick return for a touchdown, but it was an outlier.  J.D. Walton has a closer relationship with the 20-yard than he does his girlfriend.  If the NFL wants to eliminate one of the most exciting plays in sports, I guess they can.

4. In a pre-game interview Adam Schefter said the "Tebow thing" is as simple as this--Tim Tebow has been paid his money.  He's the only quarterback under contract for next year.  Any more questions?  For what it's worth, I watched several of Tebow's throws in warmups, and the whole idea that he's only 50% versus "air" didn't ring true to me.

5. What if Mike Vick were white?  No, that's not the question.  I have a better question.  What if Kyle McCarthy doesn't realize he's white?

6. The Broncos had 9 penalties for 73 yards.  That's way too many.

7. Can the Broncos survive another injury at defensive tackle?  I really don't want to go into the season with Ryan McBean riding shotgun. How about you?

8. Can the Broncos survive an injury to D.J. Williams?  I think so.

9. Brady Quinn or Tebow at #2?  Is the issue settled?  Or do the Broncos let each one have a half next week to decide the honor?  Or do you give Adam Weber some snaps?

10. As a final note, congratulations to Kyle Orton on the birth of his baby daughter.  He probably installed the gameplan this week with about three hours of sleep.  Kyle, just make sure to keep her away from guys like Robert Gallery.

As always, feel free to give us your own gut reactions in the comments below.

TJ Johnson can be reached through telegraph, ESP, Spanish interpretor, or via email: Follow him on Facebook and Twitter if you want to see him mock "the man."  He assumes you are following It’s All Over Fat Man on Facebook and Twitter, but if you are not, that’s nihilistic, man.

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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