Gut Reaction: Week 15 - Broncos vs Patriots

All winning streaks must come to an end.

We knew it wouldn't go on foreover. There's no shame in losing to a team like the Patriots.

Perhaps it's a blessing in disguise; this loss might just kick the Broncos back into reality.

They've got a little work to do.  This season is ultimately about running, tackling, and not turning the ball over.

Let's hope the Broncos stop ignoring all of the press they've been getting the last six weeks; let's hope they cast aside terms like magic, destiny, and miracle; let's hope they replace them with some better form tackling and ball control.

It will probably take them further into the playoffs.

The Positives

1. The Broncos are a much better team when Willis McGahee is in the game.  His vision is just so much better than your standard running back.  He has patience, but he also hits the crease so fast it's reminiscent of Terrell Davis.  I know the Broncos can win when he's out of the lineup, but I'd rather not see them try it very often.  You think of the differences between a guy like him and Knowshon Moreno, and you wonder why more scouts don't put more of a premium on field vision.  Want more proof? Look what happened when McGahee left the game.

2. Tebow's best run in his brief time as a Denver Bronco had to be his first touchdown of the day.  There just aren't a lot of quarterbacks you'll ever see who can make a play like that.  His throws were generally on target today, and I was impressed by his ability to hit a couple of hook routes.  Sure, he air-mailed several passes, but that happens sometimes.  I thought he was at least adequate.  I think that's improvement on some level, but greater minds than mine will debate it.  

3. Continuing the theme of running the football, the Broncos' combination of J.D. Walton and Chris Kuper did a great job of double-teaming Vince Wilfork early in the game.  It's one of the primary reasons Lance Ball and McGahee had the backside lanes so wide open. Wilfork was being pushed a few yards off the line of scrimmage early on.   

4. Virgil Green did a great job not getting caught holding sealing the edge during the first half.  Belichick and the Patriots looked like they were playing Cover 1 on running downs and Cover 3 on passing downs.  The problem with playing Cover 1 and stacking the box is that if the running back gets the edge (or it's sealed successfully), you've got little in the way of backup.  Thus, the Broncos were able to turn what would normally be five-yard gains into 15- and 20-yard gains.  By the way, anyone see Julius Thomas anywhere?

5. Whatever problems Demaryius Thomas had last week dropping the ball, they were gone today.

6. Britton Colquitt continues to have an excellent season.  Today was no exception.

7. Elvis Dumervil's shot on Tom Brady was excellent, but I would have preferred a strip sack, which he could have done.

8. The Broncos finally hit 40% on third downs.  John Elway would say that it's championship football.  Yet, the Broncos lost.

9. The Broncos did put up almost 400 yards today, let's not forget it.

10. The good news?  The Broncos are still in first place, thanks to the Detroit Lions.  

The Negatives

1. You can't turn the ball over against even the worst of teams in the NFL and expect to win the game.  You could write five thousand words about today's game, but in the end, when you lose the turnover battle, you just can't get it done.  By the way, picking up fumbles is a random event, so what looks like a bunch of mistakes by the offense today is, at least in part, simple randomness.  During this winning streak, the randomness (picking up the fumbles) has gone their way.  In other words, sometimes you eat the bar.  Sometimes the bar eats you.

2. Tim Tebow walked into several sacks and fumbled, so I have no choice but to put him here.  His near-safety was loco.  I just call them how I see them.

3. Quinton Carter's version of Cover 2 is different than the one that says you shouldn't jump the out route when the opponent is running a fly up the sideline.  Chad Ochocinco has never had an easier touchdown in his long career.  The Broncos missed Brian Dawkins today.

4. Everything I said about Willis McGahee earlier?  I meant every word.  Lance Ball is a decent back, but he's just not in McGahee's league.

5. Chris Harris got a lesson in the shiftiness of Wes Welker today, but Harris held his own.  Harris should get a shot someday at the #2 cornerback spot.

6. D.J. Williams put an average hit on Danny Woodhead in the 2nd quarter and then got up like he was doing his best Nate Webster.  Sorry, but the hit didn't seem all-world to me.  Williams was pushed off the line of scrimmage frequently today.  It was not one of his better games.   Wesley Woodyard and Rahim Moore weren't far behind in the tackling department.

7. Nate Solder gave Von Miller everything he could handle today--and more.  Part of the reason Miller couldn't get to Brady was simply Brady's quick decision-making process.  However, Solder played outstanding today.  Solder is a quality tackle.

8. Bill Belichick gave John Fox a few lessons today on clock management and how to calls plays on fourth down.  The Patriots had no business getting a field goal before the half.  We can blame Quan Cosby all we want (and I will), but Fox--I'll also blame Mike McCoy here--should have had the Broncos in the locker room by that time.  I know that Tebow threw one into the dirt and followed it up with a high riser into the first row, but you have to move the ball up the field while at the same time making sure your opponent doesn't get it back.  There's a reason Belichick is a surefire Hall of Famer, and Fox is your slightly-above-average guy.

9. Now, about Quan Cosby--he's been above average for most of the year, but today was a really bad day at the office.  The same is true of Lonie Paxton.

10. What I continue to see in Robert Ayers is a good rotational guy--nothing more, nothing less.

The Who the Heck Knows

1. Shannon Sharpe, despite his consistent criticism of Tim Tebow as a long-term passer, picked the Broncos to win the game.  Something tells me that he's a bit more of a believer than he's letting on for the purposes of driving ratings.

2. The injury to Andre Carter is going to really hurt the Patriots long term--not just in the next few weeks, but also in the playoffs (assuming he's out for awhile).  The Patriots--already with a weak defense--will be vulnerable in the playoffs.

3. Congrats to former Broncos QB Kyle Orton for taking down the Green Bay Packers today.  Orton was a stellar 23 for 31 for 299 yards with a QB rating of 104.1.  I watched the whole game, and I'd forgotten how well Orton runs play action.  It was a great performance by Orton.

4. The Patriots came out in three- and four-wide-receiver sets and spread the Broncos out all day long against three rookies (Moore, Carter and Harris).  We just saw the result.

5. John Fox said the Broncos need to play well against teams like the Patriots, as they are battling for the "World" Championship.  That's pretty dramatic. The whole world, John?  Sure it's not the solar system or the galaxy?

6. "There's a lot of luck in football," says Von Miller.  Miller is both a scholar and a prophet.  Again, sometimes you pick up the fumbles (and you've got a winning streak), sometimes you don't.  It's just easier to construct a great storyline when randomness goes your way.  Confirmation sure is something.

7. Tim Tebow said he was a Cowboys fan as a kid and said Emmitt Smith was the greatest running back of all time.  He's been drinking too much FRS.  Or he's like a lot like the young kids these days.  They don't know their history.  Smith doesn't even break the top ten.  Here's a list I came up with in just over a minute: Jim Brown, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Bronko Nugurski, Walter Payton, Marcus Allen, Earl Campbell, Marion Motley, Franco Harris, O.J. "The Knife" Simpson, Marshall Faulk.  All of them them were better than Smith.

8. Adam Schefter said before the game that the Patriots had been scheming all week for the Broncos to come out in a spread and trying to go no huddle.  I only wish it were true.

9. It took Tebow a few sentences in his post-game presser, but he did manage to get his "lord and savior" line out.  At least he consistently brings Jesus into the football equation--win or lose. He'd forgotten to thank Jesus after the Lions loss, so I was interested in seeing some consistency there.  For a moment, I thought I might see some cherry picking.

10. We had this discussion in today's Chewing the Fat, but I'm still boggled why the Broncos would expose their first-round draft pick at QB to 20-30 shots a game.  This guy is supposed to be the franchise for 5, 7 or 10 years.  Why you would purposely design an offense to make your franchise guy take this many shots game in and game out is not within my understanding.  It's one thing to say we are all about the right now, but purposely forcing G.I. Joe to take as many grenade hits as possible is not a recipe for the long-term health of your franchise QB.  Tebow may be the strongest quarterback to ever play, but I'd transition out of this style rather quickly if you want to keep this guy around for a few years.  Forgive me if I question the front office's committment to a guy they are trying to actually get hit.  Let's hope Tebow can continue to take the punishment.

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

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