Gut Reactions - Week 16, Broncos-Texans

ralphie And God said, "Let there be two halves."

How could the Broncos look so bad in the 1st half and so good in the 2nd?

They let their quarterback play one on TV.

The first half was one of screens (slip, bubble, running back, silver?).  The Broncos' coaching staff either didn't trust their young quarterback or they simply wanted to continue to take his development as slowly as possible.  Did they realize they were facing the league's worst defense in the Houston Texans?

The 17-0 deficit was actually a blessing in disguise.  It forced the Broncos' coaches to finally unleash the Tebow.  In the 2nd half, they had no other choice.    

Tim Tebow may be a lot of things (young, inexperienced, and still under development), but there's one thing he's not--boring.  He gave the Broncos energy today.  Energy to burn.  

We can temper our excitement knowing that the Texans probably should have won; we can temper our excitement knowing that the coaching staff coached like zombies and shut it down in the first half; we can even temper our excitement knowing this team is one of the worst in Broncos history.

But today, the Broncos won--there's even proof of it.

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

The Positives

1) A three-and-out on each of the first two series for Denver's defense was nice to see.  I'm sure it's happened earlier this year, but I'm having a hard time remembering when.  We knew the good times wouldn't last, of course, but it was refreshing--for a least 10 minutes.  And a defensive stand to win the game is a defensive stand to win the game, whether it comes from a tipped pass or not.

2) Mike McCoy's screen-pass call and two slip-screen calls early on were a good way to get Tebow into the flow of the game.  That said, continuing them incessantly was madness.

3) Tebow used his feet to avoid several sacks today that would have put down most quarterbacks.  He also throws well on the move, as one would expect.  He's practiced these kinds of plays all his life.  He was also an absolute gamer in the 2nd half.  The guy must get bored until the pressure is on.    

4) If Brandon Lloyd doesn't make the Pro Bowl, Broncos fans should go postal--namely, they should send the NFL an avalanche of postcards pleading Lloyd's case.  And you thought I meant something else, didn't you?

5) I don't mind Tebow throwing the ball up for grabs to Lloyd.  Kyle Orton's been doing it all year long. When Orton does it, it's called "giving your receiver a chance."  When Tebow does it's called being "careless with the football."  It's a double standard, but get used to it until the Broncos start winning with Tebow a lot more.

6) What's better than calling yet another predictable screen pass?  Calling a double screen, that's what!

7) Correll Buckhalter did the jitterbug today.  I just did a double take.  Where the hell has that been all year?

8) The Broncos were 5 of 11 today on 3rd downs.  It's been awhile since they were over 40%.  You can pick your jaw up off of the floor. The Texans, for their part, were only 1 for 8.  

9) Wesley Woodyard got burned in pass coverage (see Negatives below), but there's no doubt the guy is a tackling machine.  Today he led the team in both tackles and assists.  He's earned another start next week.  If the Broncos play a 4-3 front next year, his stock just went up.

10) Eric Studesville got a Gatorade bath with water bottles.  I suppose that's better than no bath at all.

The Negatives

1) Last week, Broncos fans (including us) lamented the fact that Tebow wasn't allowed to audible to pass plays.  Today, on the first series of the game, Broncos fans got what they wanted.  Tebow made the right audible in the red zone.  He got the man coverage he was looking for; he simply made a bad read and throw.  On a positive note, Tebow made several good aubiles today as well.

2) Speaking of Tebow, he's got to keep his head focused down the field.  He had Jabar Gaffney wide open on the 2nd drive of the game as his secondary receiver, but because he lost his first read, he tried to tuck and run immediately for what amounted to a 2-yard gain.  A series later, he had Eddie Royal open, but instead chose to duck and run again--right into a baptism by Brian Cushing.  In the 2nd half, however, Tebow did a much better job.  To begin the 4th quarter, he was sliding in the pocket as if he'd been there for ages.

3) Speaking of Tebow yet again, it seemed like he was having some trouble with snaps today.  It's impossible to be certain, but he appeared to be getting back into his drops a little bit slowly to me.   A few times he double-clutched the football on the snap.  This will simply take time.  

4) The Texans watched the film from the last several weeks exposing how poor the Broncos' starting linebackers are in pass coverage on tight ends and running backs.  Wesley Woodyard got the start this week and decided to join the party.  DJ Williams again led by (poor) example on Owen Daniels' touchdown catch.

5) Renaldo Hill took some seriously bad run angles on the Texans' first touchdown drive.  On Arian Foster's 34-yard run that set up Houston's first TD, Hill ended up tangled with an offensive lineman;  on Foster's subsequent three-yard touchdown jaunt, he just failed in geometry.

6) As Brian Griese noted on today's radio broadcast, the continued use of the same slip screens in the first half was poor coaching.  You can't continue to call slip screens and bubble screens with so much frequency without expecting the Texans to adjust immediately.  OC Mike McCoy is as much to blame on the injury to Jabar Gaffney as any of the players executing the play.

7) Ryan Harris and Ryan Clady were both top-5 in the league at their positions two years ago.  I wish I could make that statement again this year.  Can the injuries have taken this big of a toll on them for this long? If that's not the reason, what is?  And are you prepared for the answer?

8) Just when you thought the Broncos had generated a pass rush, you realized it was Houston simply running a screen pass.  Denver was again brutal in generating pressure today without the blitz.

9) Brian Dawkins is not the Brian Dawkins you saw in Philadelphia.  He's not even the Brian Dawkins you saw last year.  That's unfortunate, because Wolverine is one of the better comic book heroes.  The Broncos' version is not so heroic in man-to-man coverage.

10) Seeing Champ Bailey get injured was bad - but knowing that Perrish Cox, who has a ton of talent, won't likely be here next year is worse.

Who The Heck Knows?

1) A 2nd-and-17 run call on the Broncos' 2nd drive?  That's a coaching staff that doesn't trust its rookie quarterback.

2) I know Eric Decker has been doing a great job of returning kicks.  However, that spin move is going to get him killed.

3) Tim Tebow, please - when you scramble and get out of the pocket, don't run back into it.

4) Without Spencer Larsen, the Broncos did their best to compensate with a bigger package that included Russ Hochstein as an extra tight end and a formation that included Lance Ball as the second running back.  It wasn't great, but it was serviceable.  

5) When you're backed up inside your own 10-yard line, Mike McCoy, you've got to go downfield.  I know you don't trust your quarterback;  I know you're just doing this by yourself for the first time; I know you're probably taking orders from the front office to avoid pushing Tebow too much, but you have got to at least try to pass downfield.  I haven't done an EPV (expected points value) article for awhile, but running and punting in these situations is just like handing your opponent a field goal.

6) If you don't think Tim Tebow knows coverages and X's and O's, you are kidding yourself.  In his postgame interview with Brian Griese, he discussed both his interception and his touchdown run - not in the typical generalities that most players use, but with the descriptions of the formations the Texans were running on the field.  

7) I wish David Veikune was a world-class player because he's got world-class hair.  

8) Gary Kubiak probably signed his death wish in Houston with the Texans' loss today.  I actually think losing to the Broncos may have also killed his chances of becoming the Broncos' next coach as well.

9) How badly do you want to prematurely compare Tim Tebow to John Elway because of the 4th-quarter comeback?  Yeah, me too.  So let's don't and say we did.  That way no one can accuse us of drinking too much egg nog.

10) Cincinnati beat San Diego.  The gift that just keeps on giving.  

As always, feel free to give us your gut reactions in the comments below.

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

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