Gut Reaction: Week 17 - Broncos vs Chiefs

John Elway said he was willing to risk his Broncos legacy with a turn on the dance floor as Executive Vice President.

His headband and leotard were predominately orange, his leg warmers and wrist bands blue; he was ready to strut his stuff.

His decision to unload his previous dance partner, Kyle Orton, after Week 7 saved the Broncos $2.6 million.

Today that decision didn't matter much. The Broncos limped into the playoffs despite Elway's move.

In the street (and on the turf) a pitiful b-boy battle ensued between Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton. It was marked by some really bad quarterback play.  Kyle Orton hardly mattered.  Tim Tebow mattered even less.  In the end, however, it was an attempted headspin by the Oakland Raiders that won the day for the crew from Denver.  As it turns out, Hue Jackson's trade for Carson Palmer was one of the worst in history, not the best.  Palmer slipped badly on the linoleum.

Welcome to the real dance, Broncos fans--the NFL playoffs.  I guess we should be glad the Broncos fell backwards based on the third tiebreaker.  Somehow, right now, that's not comforting.  Perhaps the Steelers will lose their starting running back, starting QB, and, just perhaps, their first wide receiver. Then we can get excited.

The Positives

1. Re-signing Brodrick Bunkley should be priority number one in the offseason.  Bunkley played far above his one-year contract.  I'd rank his play in the top five for one-technique 4-3 nose tackles.  The Broncos should look in the draft, of course, for a young defensive tackle, but Bunkley was a big piece of the defense this year.

2. Andre' Goodman did a better job than Champ Bailey this game in coverage.  I never thought I'd write that sentence, but it's absolutely true.

3. Britton Colquitt was his usual self. By the way, coolest jersey of the day?  Colquitt's mom.  She combined a Chiefs and a Broncos jersey together since she's got a punter on each team. She's the Switzerland of AFC West rivalries.

4. Only three kickoffs have been returned against Matt Prater at home this year. He's effectively rendered the kickoff return team useless.  Yes, I know, the altitude has a ton to do with this.  But I've not praised Prater enough this year, so I'm going with this.

5. Willis McGahee running dudes over--typical.  Willis McGahee breaking dudes off?  Cool.  All Willis McGahee does is run for 100 yards each game.

6. Thank the Dear Lord that Romeo Crennel doesn't get the concept of expected points value.  His calls in the fourth quarter when the Chiefs had the ball inside their own 10-yard line were about as stupid as they get.  Your EPV went from bad to...badder no matter what happened after the point.  Thanks, Romeo, my man!  Stupid is as stupid does.

7. The Broncos defense continued to give the Broncos great field position for most of the game.  Sure, they were playing a pretty bad offense without all of its weapons (both running backs and their first-string wide receiver), but still, Denver's defense played great today.

8. Orlando Franklin can flat maul people in the running game.  When you watch the replay of today's game, and you want to watch some snot-snortingly good trench warfare, watch what Franklin did.

9. When Al Davis predicts something--this includes when Hue Jackson implies it's beyond the grave--it's bound to go wrong.  Al said the Raiders would win it all in the end. Once again, Al was wrong.  The Chargers flat took the Raiders to the woodshed today.

10. Thanks for going off, Phil Rivers.  I knew you were a Broncos fan in powder blue.

The Negatives

1. The Broncos' conservative play calling early in the game did no one (especially the Broncos) any favors.  To the contrary, it simply helped the Chiefs garner critical field position when playing the game of Foxball.  It's Tebow's final game of the regular season.  You're telling me John Fox and Mike McCoy don't believe the guy can sling the rock on the first drive of the game and facing a third and eight?  16 total yards for the first quarter?

2. Speaking of John Fox--he's so conservative, he didn't want to put three points on the board at the end of the 2nd half.  In fact, he didn't even want to play for three points.  The calls were brutal; the clock management was incomprehensible; the results were predictable.  Still think this offense is going to revolutionize the NFL?  Still think John Fox deserves Coach of the Year?  No and...No.  Happy New Year, anyway.

3. Three points at home in Week 17?  This was one of the worst offensive performances I've ever seen.  Dennis Allen should have called plays today.  At the end of this year, you'll find that Mike McCoy is no longer with the team.  Turns out Trent Dilfer was right--it took about eight games of tape to figure out this offense.

4. I'm not sure why John Fox doesn't trust Tim Tebow with an audible system, but whatever the reason, it's not a good one.  Young quarterbacks can work with audibles, too, unless you think they have no ability to read a defense.  You'd swear Tebow scored a big Vince Young on the Wonderlic or something.

5. Tebow was brutally facemasked in the 3rd quarter.  Apparently, 76,000 people saw it.  Several others, all wearing black and white stripes, were blind. 

6. Speaking of Tebow, he was completely sickening today.  It was so ridiculous, words can't even describe his peformance, but let me give it a go.  I thought last week was his worst as a pro because of the interceptions, but this week even worse.  Let's start with the typical stuff--staring down receivers, drifting back out of the pocket when there was the first sign of trouble, throwing the ball with little zip, and finally, poor accuracy.  Tebow had 29 yards passing in the first half and a 48.4 rating.  In the second half, nothing improved.  For the game, Tebow was 6 for 22 (27.3%) with a QB rating of 20.6.  A lot of this wasn't due to Tebow throwing the ball away.  It was due to Tebow not even trying to throw the ball downfield with single coverage.  Eric Decker had his man beat a number of times today and the ball just didn't come out. Why Tebow didn't throw the ball downfield on the trick play is mind boggling.  I guess he wanted the guy to be super wide.  Tebow had better have one hell of a run in the playoffs to convince anyone of anything. With Tebow at quarterback this season, the Broncos are a crappy 26.11% on third down (41 for 157).  Tebow is not only regressing to the mean, he's descending below it.   By the way, you can take this to the bank--Tebow zealots will say he led them to the playoffs, that he's like a rookie quarterback, that he only needs an offseason with Elway, Mike McCoy is the devil, and that he has bad wide receivers.  You know, the usual suspects.

7. Losing Chris Kuper doesn't just suck, it sucks horrendously.  Kuper is the toughest and best blocker among the Broncos linemen.

8. D.J. Williams must have missed the tape on Dexter McCluster--you know, the part where McCluster is fast and hits the edge.  D.J.'s angles to the edge today were both slow and bad.  When you watch the replay of today's game, notice how many times D.J. also got pancacked.  In fact, I probably need to admit it right now.  D.J. was probably the worst player in a Broncos uniform today, although he sure does his best Nate Webster when he comes free and the play isn't complex.

9. Von Miller could use a few lessons in backside contain.  Since he's received his cast, not only has he been unable to shed blocks, he's been mentally breaking down.   Mario Haggan filled in pretty well, however.

10. Champ Bailey didn't exactly light the world on fire today. Dwayne Bowe torched him a few times.  When Bowe left the game, the Chiefs offense suffered greatly, and Champ was able to cover a rookie Jonathan Baldwin in coverage.  It was a break for the Broncos.

The Who The Heck Knows

1. For what it's worth, Phil Simms had this to say about Tebow before the game:  "I've seen some progress since that first game against Kansas City. Right now he still has to work on that [throwing it where he's aiming it].  I believe you can change a lot as an NFL quarterback in the offseason...you can get in ten to fifteen thousand throws in the offseason.  If you've got talent, you can change."  Simms went on to say that he even had doubts about Peyton Manning in his first year.  But by that second year, Manning had what Simms termed "control of the football."  I'm not sure if Simms was trying to make a claim that Tebow would make a similar jump between his second and third seasons, but presumably, Tebow has already made those fifteen thousand throws with the help of a quarterback guru on several occasions (before the draft, during last season under Josh and Ben McDaniels, during the lockout when he was also writing his bio).  As Ted Bartlett pointed out last week, Tebow looks exceedingly good in warmups.  The concern is what Shannon Sharpe has brought up on several occasions--does Tebow revert back to his normal throwing motion in the heat of battle?  So far, the answer is obvious.

2. I watched Cam Newton play the early game.  He didn't have a great game, but it was five times better than Tebow's today.  He has a cannon of an arm and is a quick study in the pocket.  Robert Griffin III should send Newton a gift package in the offseason.  Not only has Newton broken the rookie passing record, he's blown the lid off Griffin's draft stock.  Griffin's own play was primarily responsible for this, but to those GMs who had any doubt about a running quarterback like Griffin need only to look at Newton's rookie campaign.

3. All week, players (Chris Harris and Von Miller), coaches (John Fox), and management (John Elway) said that Kyle Orton wouldn't have much of an advantage in knowing the Broncos' system.  Once Dwayne Bowe went down, they turned out to be right.  Orton knew how to attack Bailey, however, early in the game.

4. Am I the only one that think Quan Cosby got done the wrong way last week?  It reminded me a little of how Josh McDaniels did Brett Kern, except the Broncos did it to Cosby two days after Christmas.  Sure, he had a bad game against the Patriots, but the punishment didn't fit the crime.  If the Broncos used the same logic on Tim Tebow, they would have cut him last week.   If they applied it to Eric Decker, he would have been cut after the Patriots game as well.  Tebow said before the game that everyone was playing for each other, as if he was still in college.  I'm sure in a year or two he'll get that silliness out of his system.  The NFL is a brutal business.  Quan Cosby is lucky to simply be playing for the Colts at this point.

5. The Indianapolis Colts will now be taking bids.  The rumored price tag?  Three first-round draft picks.  The only problem?  I'm not sure who they are shopping - Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck? 

6. Matt Flynn, today's quarterback with the Packers, all he does is win games and throw for a million yards.  So is John Skelton (he's 6-2 this year), for that matter.  Quick, someone throw big money and long-term contracts at these guys!

7. Brian Griese speculated before today's game that Dennis Allen would be smart and not try to do something exotic just because Kyle Orton knew the Broncos personnel groupings so well.  He was right.  Orton played okay, but wasn't anything special.

8. In case you were wondering, Von Miller said before the game that he doesn't cook much, eats at Del Frisco's, and wants to get DeMarcus Ware's autograph at the Pro Bowl.

9. Tebow said before the game, "When you have bad plays you can't make them be super bad plays."  If that's the case, I'd go one further: dont' give up super, super bad plays?  Afer the game, Tebow said he felt good in the pocket.  If that's what feeling good in the pocket looks like, I shudder to see what he looks like when he's uncomfortable.

10. Drew Brees decided to do everything in his power to make sure his new passing record lasts as long as Dan Marino's did.  A week after besting Marino's mark, he simply went out and busted off another 389 yards passing.  He almost made a run at Marino's touchdown record too, throwing for five more touchdowns today.  That gave him 46 for the year. And his completion percentage?  An electric 71.22%--another NFL record.  That's scary, and it's further proof that you don't have to be 6'3 and weight 230 lbs. in order to play quarterback in this league (I'm looking at you, RG3). There are a lot of ways to win in the NFL, but I'll take Drew Brees' way over almost all the others.

11. No matter what John Elway does with Tebow, one thing is always true--never committ long term to any quarterback too soon.  Watching Mark Sanchez today was laughable, yes, but it was also a reminder of just how important context is when evaluating a quarterback.  Josh Freeman was going to be my poster child for this, but Sanchez demonstrates the point perfectly.  He was given the "he's just a winner" tag early in his career.  Now, even the biggest Sanchez boosters are having a hard time saying that he can get it done unless the Jets play a perfect game. 

12. Elway before the game kept talking about John Fox and how he changed the culture of the Broncos.  He couldn't say it enough.  Elway's interviews gets diluted more than cocaine during distribution, but one thing has been consistent all year--Elway wants you to know he appreciates John Fox's emotional IQ. 

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

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