Gut Reaction: Week 2 - Broncos vs Bengals

Pulled groins to the left of us, twisted ankles to the right, and here we are stuck in the middle with who?

Yeah, that was Tim Tebow you saw split wide today.

Who says John Fox isn't creative on offense?

A plague of locusts injuries forced the Broncos into the unconventional today.   So did two turnovers and some sloppy penalties.  In the end, they survived, 24-22.

Kyle Orton said it was one of the best wins of his career.

Given that one more injury at tight end would have forced Russ Hochstein into the role, Orton is probably right.

Let's take the win and get out of here, Broncos fans.  I can't stand the thought of Hochstein trying to beat a linebacker up the seam.

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

The Positives

1. The Broncos' opening drive could not have been scripted better.  Denver mixed in a variety of personnel packages (212, 113,  221, 230), but the common theme was pounding the ball.  Particularly impressive was the use of the play-action flat pass in the red zone and Mike McCoy's use of max protection out of the shotgun.  The Broncos ought to give serious thought to incorporating both strategies into every gameplan because when Orton is upright and comfortable in the pocket, he will shred defenses with anyone in the league.  Speaking of Orton, he did everything he needed to do today, and his stretch bootleg (see Eric Decker below) was simply awesome.

2. I need to burn another bullet on this point.  You can't say enough about how well McCoy put together his game plan for the first half this week.  With all the injuries at wide receiver and tight end, the last thing he needed was a few more during the game.  But that's precisely what happened.  The use of Spencer Larsen out of the backfield and his mix of Ace and two tight-end sets to disguise the run was clever.

3. Cedric Benson may not dream, but if he does, those dreams will be haunted tonight by Joe Mays.  Some of Mays' hits today were old school.  Wesley Woodyard wasn't far behind.  Mays and Woodyard ended the game the way linebackers should.  Mays had five tackles and three assists, while Woodyard had ten tackles and three assists.

4. In yesterday's scouting report, we mentioned how the Bengals like to run the ball to the left side of the line when they want yards.  If we saw that, there is no way the Broncos' scouting department missed it.  On their first drive of the day, the Bengals obliged and the Broncos were ready.  Von Miller was particularly keen to this tendency and was there to cut off the Bengals' attack before it got started.  Speaking of Miller, he slips through blocks as good as I've seen any Broncos linebacker I've seen in a decade.

5. Willis McGahee is a one-cut-and-go running back.  It suited the Broncos well today.  It could have been the weaker defensive front this week, but McGahee ran to daylight even when the holes opened and closed quickly.  While I'm not ready to dismiss Knowshon Moreno just yet, I'd put down some money that as the year goes on, McGahee sees more carries.  For the record, McGahee ended up with 101 yards on 28 carries.  What you talkin' bout, Willis? A 100-yard rusher?

6. John Fox says he abandoned the run too quickly last week because there were some big plays available downfield.  He meant it.  Today, 13 out of the first 24 snaps were runs.  You have to give the old man credit for sticking to his plan.   I wasn't enamored with his run-only approach very late in the game while trying to preserve the lead, but I'm sure I'll have plenty of weeks to rip him for that. 

7. When you rewatch today's game, keep an eye on J.D. Walton.  Out of all the Broncos, he showed the most improvement from Week 1 to Week 2.

8. Spencer Larsen was both a wrecking ball and a jackknife today.  If the injuries at wide receiver and tight end continue to plague the Broncos, Larsen will be critical to any success the Broncos hope to have.  His work on special teams continues to impress as well.

9. Eric Decker made several mental errors early on, including not catching Kyle Orton's audible.  This resulted in an early offensive pass interference.  The fumble in the 2nd quarter was just salad dressing on top.  Luckily for Decker, he had the whole game to atone.  As my buddy Ted Bartlett noted during our in-game chat, the Broncos could run the slant route to Decker all day as they did on his first touchdown. His second touchdown was a great stretch play fake bootleg that couldn't have been executed any better.

10. Every creature on this beautiful earth has a purpose.  Jonathan Wilhite just served his.

The Negatives

1. On the Broncos' second trip to the red zone, they should have used play action instead of the shotgun.  Play action is Kyle Orton's strength, and the Broncos were running the ball well.  I'm just sayin'...

2. Injuries are like vampires.  They suck you dry and leave your team a bag of bones.  How bad is it going to get?  Your guess is as good as mine, but I think I saw center Manny Ramirez running skinny posts on the sideline in the third quarter.

3. Zane Beadles played average on an otherwise stellar day from the offensive line.

4. After the Bengals cut the score to 17-6, the Broncos immediately got conservative and went three and out.  It seemed a little premature for this; there was a clear momentum shift that was palpable on the field.  The score quickly morphed to 17-12, and a subsequent turnover didn't help matters either.

5. Joe Mays has to get a better drop in the Tampa-2, especially on 2nd and 23.  The big play from Dalton to Jerome Simpson was a direct result of Mays' mental error and a bit of poor tackling by both of the Broncos' safeties.

6. The Broncos lost the turnover battle again, this time by two.  Keep doing that and the losses will pile up.  Not every team is as weak as the Bengals.  Thankfully, the Broncos' defense bailed out the Broncos both times.

7. Fans will now face pat downs before Broncos games by security.  You feeling violated or just a little naughty?

8. Ryan Clady had two penalties and gave up a sack.  How often does that happen?

9.  Seven penalties is still too many, unless you're part of Raiders Nation or you're just one kinky cat.

10. Sure, the Broncos managed to survive their injury crisis at wide receiver, but does that mean going into the game with three healthy wide receivers was the smartest move?

Who The Heck Knows?

1. If you guessed that Tim Tebow's first appearance of the year would be as a split wide receiver, please stand up.  Okay, sit down, you liar.  John Fox said after the game that Tebow had never had any reps at receiver before and that they "drew it up in the sand."  Come on, Fox, you're supposed to say that you had planned for it all along.

2. Kyle Orton's line in the first half reminded me of his time with the Bears.  He was 9 for 16 for 97 yards.

3. Adam Schefter noted in a pregame interview that Cam Newton had peppered Tom Brady with questions for hours on end during their recent Under Armour commercial shoot.  I would suggest that Jockey approach Mr. Brady with an endorsement deal sooner rather than later.

4. Tell me, were you shocked that Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski was charged with another crime?  The only surprise was that the crime didn't involve food or marijuana.

5. If you're not a Bills fan, feel free to jump on that bandwagon.  In two weeks, they've taken down both Oakland and Kansas City.  Now, if they can just tear Philip Rivers in half, we can all give thanks.

6. The first sign of Carson Palmer during the NFL season happened to be at a tailgate party before a USC game yesterday.  I'd say that put the chances of him coming back to the Bengals at zero.

7. Shannon Sharpe said during the radio broadcast he took care of his money so he wouldn't have to work a nine-to-five job.  Got any stock tips, Mr. Sharpe?

8. Cassius Vaughn decided to bring out the Broncos' first kick of the year at SAF.  He quickly regretted the decision, struggling to make it back to the 16-yard line.  We may not see another kickoff return at home all year.

9. Welcome to your new favorite personnel package, the 221, which features two running backs, two tight ends, and one wide receiver (if he's not injured).

10. Britton Colquitt tried to singlehandedly win the game with an 81-yard punt with a little over five minutes remaining in the game.  Unfortunately, the Broncos' special teams unit did not want to comply.  The out-of-bounds penalty on Chris Harris ended up swinging the play 44 yards.

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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