Let me start with a question.
Did you think when the Broncos fell behind by a score of 23-13 early in the 4th quarter that Kyle Orton was going to lead them back?
Nah, me neither.
That's your 2011 Denver Broncos. They are a team in limbo--stuck between Orton and a guy the Broncos claim is sharing 2nd-string status with Brady Quinn (when they're not leaking how bad his mechanics are). On the horizon is the secret that John Elway keeps to himself--he's taking a quarterback with his first pick next year.
Tonight did nothing to change that. Those boos you heard weren't just Tebow cheers in disguise. They are the outcome of a fan base that knows the truth.
The truth is this: the Broncos' defense played well enough for them to win tonight. They'll continue to play well enough to win.
Can the Broncos' offense stay out of their way?
Let's get to the Positives, the Negatives, and the Who The Heck Knows?
1. The biggest positive on the night was the electricity in the stadium. The crowd was as loud as I've heard them in years. It appeared as if the noise helped to force the Raiders into burning timeouts in the second half. Further, the crowd fed the Broncos the needed momentum to start the second half. Do not discount the power of Denver Broncos fans, whether they are sober or not!
2. I give thanks to Eric Decker. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to fill my bullet points tonight. His 90-yard punt-return touchdown was poetry--large man poetry. Have you forgotten the guy weighs 220 pounds and runs that smooth? He also made some great catches. His haul in the 4th quarter was flat awesome.
3. I liked how Mike McCoy started the game. He used four different personnel groupings on the first four plays of the game. If it weren't for some terrible execution on the edge, the Broncos probably score on their first drive. McCoy also used a lot of two-tight end sets. He was shaky during the 2nd quarter (calling a lot of outside routes when the Raiders were giving the Broncos the middle of the field), but he eventually adjusted well to what the Raiders were doing. Did you notice that the number of slants and passes over the middle increased in the 3rd quarter? There's a reason for this. McCoy did his job and made the adjustments.
4. Dennis Allen called a great game as well. Rather than go predictable, he dropped defenders into coverage. The Raiders didn't expect this, and on a few occasions showed max protection when they didn't need to. I counted.
5. David Bruton's diving play in the end zone near the end of the first half saved the Broncos four points--probably more when you consider expected points value. That single play ensured the Broncos could stick to their game plan in the second half. Later, Bruton made the critical block on Decker's touchdown return. He was also the guy responsible for the blocked punt, so perhaps it's just a wash.
6. Brodrick Bunkley and Joe Mays played the middle well for the most part tonight. The Broncos' problem was not the run in the middle part of the line; rather, they were exposed more often on the edge and through stupid penalties.
7. Brian Dawkins played with reckless abandon, and it showed. He made a lot of big hits at the line of scrimmage and saved several touchdowns with his tackles. He gave his entire body once again. He ended up with nine tackles.
8. Brandon Lloyd. Enough said.
9. Zane Beadles was the only penalty-free lineman tonight. In a game of complete crap, that's worth something.
10. The Andrew Luck / Matt Barkley / Landry Jones Countdown was 16 games and counting. Make that 15.
1. Kyle Orton had one of his worst first halves as a Bronco tonight. A 46.5 rating isn't pretty no matter the excuse, no matter the context. There's just no way to sugarcoat it. Outside of one scramble and a few plays to Lloyd, his throws seemed off target. Do I even need to mention the phantasm that stripped him of the ball in the 3rd quarter? Casper the Unfriendly Ghost made one hell of a play on Orton. Unfortunately and unfairly, that play probably defines Kyle Orton's time in Denver. The Broncos aren't retaining his services.
2. Penalties and mental errors kill drives. The Broncos likely score on both of their first two drives without them. Every offensive lineman on the Broncos got called for penalties in the first half outside of Zane Beadles. I'd call it a joke, but that would be an insult to Andrew Dice Clay.
3. Don't get me started on the blocked punt.
One word Four words: It can't happen, dude!
4. If Josh McDaniels had managed the game the way that John Fox did tonight (two blown timeouts and subsitution errors galore), he would have taken some hits. Therefore, I'm not letting him off the hook. If the preseason and tonight's performance are any indication of his game-management skills, color me unimpressed.
5. It takes two bullet points to drive this point home. Home many times did we hear that John Fox's presence was supposed to bring more stability to the Broncos? Tonight was a whole lot of sloppy joes. The Broncos had eight penalties by half, but the Raiders had declined at least three more. John Fox should buy some hair dye. At least we wouldn't delude ourselves.
6. Stop me if you've heard this before: Knowshon Moreno has to hold on to the ball.
7. Stop me if you've heard this before: The Broncos had to do better on converting 3rd downs. It doesn't help when 21 out of your 32 2nd- and 3rd-down plays faced a distance-to-gain of 10 or more yards.
8. Stop me if you've heard this before: The Broncos need to stop turning the ball over.
9. Stop me if you've heard this before: The Broncos need to run the ball. The Raiders played a five-man front, but is that just another excuse for poor execution?
10. The Broncos' defense crumbled on the last drive of the game, or I would have continued my stop-me-if you've-heard-this-before rant.
Who The Heck Knows?
1. Greg Papa, play-by-play announcer for the Oakland Raiders likened Al Davis to a college athletic director who used to coach the team. He may not call plays from his luxury box, but he has "a lot" of input into the roster. Al Davis doesn't call plays? Please. Next are you going to tell me Leprechauns won't kill you?
2. John Elway claims to have converted his wife, Paige, a former Raiders cheerleader, into a Broncos fan. Please. Next are you going to tell me Lesbian Vampires don't exist?
3. Kyle Orton channeled Fran Tarkenton on the Broncos' first 3rd-down conversion. If he does that more than once, I'll be scanning the heavens for meteor showers--large meteor shows.
4. Sure, Sebastian Janikowski tied an NFL record tonight. What's not going to be talked about, however, is that Kevin Vickerson helped him. I hope Janikowski offers Big
Vick Richard a bong hit someday.
5 Props to Matt Willis for NOT blocking in the back on Decker's punt return. Same to Chris Harris who made a great block on the same play.
6. Sure the Raiders moved the ball early, but their tendencies gave them away. They were trying to trick the Broncos using three-back sets, wishbone formations, and more motion than a strip club. That's a sure sign a team can't line it up and beat you man on man. Either that, or they lost their starting tight end and best receiver.
7. Von Miller didn't take long to introduce himself to Broncos fans. Unfortunately, he found out what happens when you are always charging up field so hard--namely, you lose your gap contain. He'll learn when to push that button, though, so I'm not too worried.
8. Brian Griese wants to know why the fans are booing in the 4th quarter. It's not all about Kyle Orton, dude. Part of it is because the Broncos were 2-of-10 on 3rd downs with 9 minutes remaining in the game. That's a Rocky Mountain Horror Picture Show.
9. That's not the rain you hear, Broncos fans. It's the sound of a million Tebow fans waiting impatiently. It makes quite a sound, don' t it?
10. The field became an ice area quickly tonight. So what? The Raiders skated around just fine. Next excuse?
TJ Johnson can be reached through telegraph, ESP, Spanish interpretor, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.