Gut Reactions - Week 13, Broncos-Chiefs


Trapped in Kansas City.  

Surrounded by evil.  

Low on gas.

On a day in which the Broncos could have used his arm, Kyle Orton had nothing in the tank.  

Arrowhead Stadium in December can do that do a guy.

With 3:45 left in the game, Orton had yet another opportunity to come up with that signature win everyone has been waiting for.

Instead, he was ruled in the grasp.  It appears that even when Orton makes a play out of nothing, he can't make a play out of nothing.   

Blame the referees?  No.  That's an exercise in futility during a season in which the Broncos are sinking to the bottom of the AFC.  They are truly coasting on fumes.

The real story today is that the Broncos played a tough game on the road within the division. Their defense played tough; their offense ran the ball; they could have won the game.

During a season of such dramatic disappointment, it's just nice to see a competitive game.  

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

The Positives

1) Thank Tebow God that Matt Cassel was his usual inaccurate self early in the game.  The score could have been much worse.  

2) As they've done recently, the Broncos tried to establish the run once again, showing their 221 personnel package (2 RB, 2 TE, 1 WR) extensively in the 1st and 2nd quarters.  They ran this package ten times in the 1st half by my count.  They averaged a somewhat respectable 3.3 yards on their first seven runs of the game.  By the time the 2nd quarter ended, this average skyrocketed to 5.7 yards per carry.  As hard as it is to believe, this offensive line is on the right track.

3) David Bruton was flying all over the field today.  He had almost as many tackles as Joe Mays and DJ Williams did in the first half.  If Bruton is the future of the Broncos at strong safety, I'm liking what I'm seeing thus far.  Criticize McDaniels for some other draft picks, but not Bruton.  

4) Knowshon Moreno looks like he's running with a purpose and a mean streak these days.  Funny what even a little space will do for a guy.  Don't forget that the guy is also covering up the ball upon contact, too.  For the game, Moreno had 161 yards on only 23 carries. 

5) Eric Decker in the seam--lovin' it.  

6) The Broncos' defensive strategy was again to stack the line of scrimmage and force Matt Cassel to beat them.  This forced them to play a lot of man coverage.  For the most part, it worked.  In case you missed it, Champ Bailey made Dwayne Bowe look like Marcus Nash today.   

7) Great corner blitz call by Wink Martindale (Bailey again) early in the 3rd quarter; better call on 4th and goal after the Broncos got screwed (and lost momentum) on the defenseless receiver call.  He brought the blitz and kept the coverage on the back end of the play.    

8) Mario Haggan's sack stats are not what they seem, but I'll take them anyway.

9) How good does it feel to see the Broncos finally get a turnover?  Justin Bannan forced and picked up the fumble all in the same motion.  Dude also played some linebacker today.  Groovy.

10) Matt Prater is quietly having a Pro Bowl year.  He's hitting almost 90% of this field goals this year.   

11) No matter how bad it gets, at least the Broncos don't have a Succop on their team.  

The Negatives

1) Expecting the tight end to cross the formation and pick up an unblocked rushing defensive end has resulted in huge sacks and huge momentum killers twice now in two weeks.  There has to be a better way to scheme this play.  

2) Kyle Orton was horribly inaccurate all day.  This was easily his worst game all year.  Of course, he had pressure coming up the middle a lot of the time.  The Chiefs could have easily ended up with three interceptions by the middle of the 2nd quarter and five by the end of the 3rd.  Kansas City played great in coverage today - let's give them credit - but Orton was well below average.  He held the ball in the pocket too long and his completion percentage through the middle of the 4th quarter was only 29.2%.  His quarterback rating during the same period was 41.8.  Teams are going to continue to play two-deep coverage if Orton insists on forcing the ball to Brandon Lloyd.  How much of this is Josh McDaniels' calls?  My gut tells me it's more about Orton.  

3) All of the pressure coming up the middle early in the game.  The Chiefs brought the house several times through the A and B gaps. 

4) The Chiefs made  a concerted effort to attack (as they usually do) the Broncos on the outside today with sweeps and passes to running backs.   Mission accomplished.  They finished with a whopping 5.4 yards per carry at the end of the 1st quarter.  As Brian Griese accurately stated on today's radio broadcast, when you run a 3-4 defense, teams are going to try and attack you on the outside in the passing game because your outside linebackers are usually large and have trouble covering running backs and tight ends.  A team like Kansas City with a quick set of running backs and a talented rookie tight end is exactly the sort of team that can attack a 3-4 this way.  

5) Kyle Orton, don't be afraid to dump the ball off to the running back as an outlet every so often. 

6) Brian Griese is money in the broadcast booth.  His criticism of Martindale's man coverage to end the 2nd half was spot on.  Griese blamed scheme for giving up the field goal, pointing out that eight-man zone coverage would have been a better strategy.  Given Denver's lack of a pass rush, it's hard to disagree with him.  Wink had been running man coverage for most of the game (so Denver could put more guys in the box against the run), but at the end of the half, KC had to pass.  Would have been a good time to play zone.

7)  The defenseless receiver call on DJ Williams was a complete travesty--worse than when Garth Brooks became Chris Gaines for a year.  Later it was followed up an equally brutal call when Kyle Orton was ruled in the grasp in the 4th quarter.

8)  The gift that keeps on giving:  DJ Williams in space = great linebacker; DJ Williams in traffic = below average linebacker.    

9) Ryan Clady is an All Pro tackle, but the guy is still getting his All Pro legs under him in pass coverage this year. Or he's not as good as advertised, which I'm not buying.

10) The poor handling of the punt by Eddie Royal has to be a negative.  There's no way around it.

11) Over their past three games the Broncos are 5 for 33 on third downs.  That's pretty damn painful.  Today, they were 3-12.  Lloyd is drawing double coverage (safety over the top) often on these plays.  The Broncos simply must look for a way spread the ball around.  Kyle Orton admitted as much in his postgame interview.

The Who-The-Heck Knows?

1) McDaniels got pretty cutesy with his formations on the first drive today.  

2) Todd Haley's goatee doesn't make him look more intimidating.  It makes him look like he's about to rob a local 7-Eleven.

3) JD Walton's ineligible man downfield penalty?  That's on Orton. 

4) The Chiefs ran much more 104 and 113 sets today than their tendencies would indicate.  Charlie Weis may not be a great head coach, but he's great at breaking his own tendencies.  

5) Could McDaniels have managed the clock better near the end of the 2nd half?  

6) Is Robert Ayers that rusty in the pass rush?  Or have we just been projecting his pass rushing skills?  

7) Is Renaldo Hill as slow as he looked today?

8) I hate it when Eddie Royal disappears for long stretches like he did today.  Are we to believe that Royal is not getting open out of the slot?  Or does Kyle Orton lock on to Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney too often?  

9)  Given that I have the hindsight of the final score, I'm not going to criticize Josh McDaniels for not going for it on 4th down with 2:23 remaining in the game.  The Broncos were on their own 39-yard line.  Their defense had been shutting the Chiefs down all day.   The Broncos had their timeouts.  If the Broncos' defense had held to form, Orton would have had another chance. 

10) Josh McDaniels' voice gets softer and softer after each loss during his postgame radio interviews.  This is not the same guy who took over the Broncos with such brashness.  Am I allowed to feel sorry for the guy?

11) Champ Bailey's postgame interview only continues to make one believe his days in Denver are done.  He used the phrase "my job" too often for comfort's sake.   

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

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Gut Reactions