Gut Reaction: Week 16 - Broncos vs Browns

Santa Claus is real.  I don't care what your parents told you.

How do I know?

Because I heard him on the roof, dropping gifts down your orange-and-blue chimney.

The first gift? A ten-game winning streak.

The second? A quarterback more accurate than Santa's naughty/nice list.

The third?

Well, that came from Santa's little helpers, the Minnesota Vikings.  Because of their win, the Broncos just might get the #1 seed.

The Positives

1. When the Broncos came out with quads to the right on their first drive and Demaryius Thomas wide to the left, the only thing I was thinking was, Cleveland, you are screwed without safety help.  A few seconds later, DT had a touchdown.  Another drive later, if you needed proof of Thomas's improvement in route running, you got it.  Thomas came back to a ball on the sideline that could only have been caught by a receiver who's been working the route tree like Jerry Rice.

2. Von Miller is now the owner of the the Broncos' single-season sack record.  There's really nothing bad I can say about the guy other than he probably returns texts he gets from Tebow.  But we'll chalk that up to being nice.  It's almost Christmas, after all.

3. As proof that Knowshon Moreno ran downhill, I offer up the sound of pads popping on virtually all of his first-quarter runs.  Of course, there are the numbers, too--127 yards on 27 touches--his fourth time in five games with at least 111 yards from scrimmage.

4. On the trap play, Joel Dreessen makes one hell of a pulling guard if you ask me; but it's his fingertip catches that will make him a threat in next year's Madden video game.

5. Please forgive me, Orlando Franklin.  I was wrong about you.  I didn't think you had the quickness to keep pass rushers off the edge.  At this point, it's not about Peyton Manning's quick release (okay, maybe a little), it's about you, boss.  And, like clockwork, as I wrote this, Franklin gets called for a penalty.

6. I never give Zane Beadles enough credit.  It's hard to judge the offensive line without rewatching the game and specifically looking at the blocking schemes (unless it's Manny Ramirez), but I made a point of watching Beadles today during several series.  Zane got to the second level (meaning linebackers) on several occasions, and Beadles versus any linebacker favors the Broncos any day of the week.  Of course, as I wrote this, Beadles was called for a penalty and almost gave up a sack.  Oh well, I'm keeping him here because I've ignored him so many times earlier in the year.  And he did do a good job in the running game.

7. Part of the reason the offensive line is more effective, aside from Manning's quick release, is the constant 113 personnel package.  It simplifies the defensive looks because the defense is only going to have so many looks against one specific personnel package.  As Beadles said earlier in the week, simple is effective because it makes adjustments easier.

8. How scary is this?  Peyton Manning is absolutely adament that he's not completely rehabbed.  Before the game, he told KOA's Dave Logan that it would be a lie if he said he was even close to 100%.  Said Manning (and I'm probably paraphrasing): "As soon as I'm 100%, I promise you, I'll let everyone know.  But I would be lying to everyone if I told you that I was."

9. Why aren't Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas mentioned in the same breath with Julio Jones and Roddy White?  Who knows.  I suppose because Decker is white, he gets labeled as a possession receiver as a result.  Just when you think Decker is about to go mental (dropped pass, lining up off the line of scrimmage), he goes and makes a tough catch for a touchdown.

10. Rahim Moore gets an "A" for making an incomplete pass look like an interception, but he gets an "A+" for the return.

11. Ronnie Hillman continues to improve.  He can grow on you--especially if he adds another ten pounds.  Remember, Trent Richardson is 5-9 and 230 lbs.  Hillman is 5-10 and 190 lbs.  In other words, there's room to grow.  Can he be an every-down back?  I'm beginning to warm to the idea.

12.  The Browns struggled to account for the Denver tight ends during the game on crossing routes.  Something tells me that's a feature of the Broncos offense we'll be seeing again.

13. Peyton Manning has eight games of three touchowns or more this season.  He's also tied with Jay Cutler among Broncos QBs for most games of 300 yards or more in a season, with eight.  How many more games is that than Tim Tebow?  I'll let you figure it out, after you claim I'm being mean. By the way, I find it sort of cool that Peyton Manning is pissed off when the Broncos settle for a field goal up by three scores.

14. Jack Del Rio is an amazing defensive coordinator, obviously, but one of the things that makes him so good is that he trusts his players.  As Eddie McCaffrey noted during the game, Del Rio allows his players to choose which gap they are going to blitz in certain looks, effectively allowing the Broncos to adjust on the fly.  That takes veterans, and it takes smart players.  The Broncos defense is just scary on third downs, on which the Browns were just 3 for 12.

The Negatives

1. Cleveland rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz has had a decent first season.  He certainly held his own against Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil today.  The only three times I saw him beaten in any significant way were by Derek Wolfe, who knocked him on his ass, Miller, who gave him a taste of velocity in the third quarter, and Dumervil, who got past him during garbage time.

2. We'll blame the wind for Matt Prater's first kickoff.  We don't think he actually intended to let Josh Cribbs catch the ball in the field of play.

3. The Browns' first drive, for what it's worth, was very effective, with a combination of powerful runs between the tackles and some misdirection which caught Von Miller by surprise.  Luckily, like bad teams always do, the Browns settled for a field goal while the Broncos got seven.

4. How confident were the Broncos they were going to win today? Confident enough they activated Tracy Porter over Tony Carter.  According to Jeff Legwold speaking before the game, the Broncos wanted to see what they have with Porter going into the playoffs.  Porter promptly got concussed on the first drive of the game and never returned.  That's some seriously bad luck.  So the Broncos went into the game looking to find out about Porter--instead they got more tape on Omar Bolden, who played decent from the few series in which I watched him playing man coverage.

5. Dan Fouts and Ian Eagle--you know it's Cleveland coming to town when they send in the junior varsity.  Forgive Fouts's bias (as a former Chargers quarterback) when he tried to say that Brandon Stokley took a shot at the defender on the pick call.  From the replay it was clear Stokley was actually shoved.  After this, I turned down the volume and listened to the radio.  I was told Fouts stood up for Champ Bailey on the phantom personal-foul call, but it was already too late for me.

6. If you didn't know, the Broncos actually take Trindon Holliday out of the game in order to make sure the ball gets handled correctly inside the ten-yard line. So much for that.  In Jim Leonhard's defense, though, it did appear quite windy out on the field.

7. Manny Ramirez, if you're gonna combo block, make sure you execute the first part of the combo before you try for the second.

8. We've got no rationale why the Broncos took a delay-of-game call near the end of the half.  If that's on Manning, we'd be shocked.  One thing's for sure, though.  Knowshon Moreno was supposed to run an out on Manning's subsequent interception.

9. Trent Richardson packs a load, as we mentioned.  He also ran through numerous arm tackles from the Broncos front seven.  It's one of the reasons Chris Harris led the team in tackles.  Odd fact: Richardson also leads the Browns in receptions.

10. Jeff Legwold expressed serious concern about Chris Kuper's injury--particularly the scar tissue that seems to be a lingering problem which won't get resolved until the offseason.  "They're not resting him for the playoffs," said Legwold.  "If they were, he'd at least be practicing a little."

11. When Josh Cribbs touches the ball, I still hold my breath.  When Tridon Holliday touches it, I--sometimes--lose my lunch.  Holliday has fumbled the ball now six times and has only lost the ball once.  Randomness has smiled upon the Broncos during their ten-game streak.  Of course, as I wrote this, Josh Cribbs fumbled, and I grabbed another sandwich. It was a great job, by the way, by Omar Bolden to hold Cribbs back so Lance Ball would have a chance to get the ball.

12. I reserve--as they say--the right to contradict myself.  Last week, I criticized the Broncos for not going for the throat.  This week, I would have liked to have seen Brock Osweiler earlier.  That's right, I'm never happy.

13. Lost in the big win?  The Broncos took way too many penalties (11).

The Who The Heck Knows

1. Was it just me, or did the pocket resemble a shark tank when Colt McCoy entered the game?

2. Brandon Weeden would probably have been the Broncos' starting quarterback had Peyton Manning not chosen the Broncos.  Now that's some Christmas fruitcake, y'all.  I'd almost rather have Tebow--no, not really.  Weeden's arm, as you saw today, is a serious rocket.  If he is allowed to sit in the pocket, he delivers a payload.

3. Congrats to Elway's real QB target last year, Andrew Luck, for breaking the rookie passing record today. Had the Ultimate Teammate™ not given Elway facial constipation last year and not willed the Broncos to a six-game-winning streak, you can bet the Broncos would have been in the running for Luck.

4. Christian Ponder looked like a professional quarterback today and did the Broncos a solid by beating the Houston Texans.  What surprised me most, however, was how much more physical the Vikings were on defense than the Texans were on offense.  Chris Myers, who called the game for FOX, obviously needed some sleep--either that or he'd been in too many production meetings throughout the week.  During the broadcast, he called Adrian Peterson "Andre."  I can't confirm whether on the next series, he called Andre Johnson "Adrian."

5. You're wrong, Jason Whitlock.  You think that its only black barbershops that get sprung at the sight of Josina Anderson on ESPN?  At my barbershop salon, I may pay $200 for a haircut, but if Josina walked in, I'd pay double just to let her wash my hair.

6. Merry Xmas, Tebow Zombies.  Shahid (Chaka) Khan believes in The Ultimate Teammate™--at least from a marketing perspective.  Remember, though, Khan is Muslim.  It will come in handy for you when you're looking for someone to blame this time next year and Jacksonville still can't sell out.

7.  Speaking of Tebow Zombies, I watched Miracle on 34th Street the other night and heard this line:  "Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don't you see? It's not just Kris that's on trial, it's everything he stands for. It's kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles."  Personally, I don't need faith.  The perfectly-formed breasts of cheerleaders are proof enough of God's existence for me.  I like teleological arguments that involve not watches, but pom-poms.

8. I've been asked privately by many readers why I ever liked Tebow in the first place.  Let me just say that's how much respect I have for our own Ted Bartlett.  I put aside everything I read, heard, and saw--at least long enough to enjoy the ride.  I don't blame Ted too much, though.  He thought--and I still believe--Tebow could win a few games out of the spread option.  But who's got the guts to come to the NFL and run that as their system with a guy who the Jets just said isn't athletic?  Of course, this is after the Jets forced Tebow to gain more pounds than Kirstie Alley so he could pretect punts for a living.

9. Random amusing thought: Bill Williamson picked Andy Reid as his preseason Coach of the Year.

10. The Cleveland Browns were 3-0 against the AFC West before the game.  That fact wasn't particularly useful--about as useful as the Oakland Raiders Remedial Reading Program.

11. I just realized I forgot to praise Justin Bannan and Mitch Unrein--both guys were great against the screen.

12. What sort of team can beat the Broncos at this point?  I still think a team with multiple tight ends who can threaten the Broncos over the middle of the field can give the Broncos real trouble.  Of course, the Broncos can threaten any team with their own tight ends now, so bring it on.

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

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