How quickly things can change. Last week, the Seahawks were the darlings of the NFL. And we were subjected to the oft-repeated opinion that Denver could very well be on its way to an 0-6 start, since they were going to have to face the mighty Colts, Titans, Ravens and Jets in the next 4 weeks.
Not only did Denver paste the Hawks 31-14, but the domination of the Broncos’ next 4 opponents is in question, and just as Denver’s offensive line is getting healthier and more cohesive. Denver’s wide receiver corps isn’t just surviving, they are thriving. It wouldn’t shock me to see the Broncos go 2-2 in the next 4 weeks. Vince Young, Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez aren’t going to scare this secondary, and the Broncos are scoring points this year.
Now, let’s look at today’s game. First, the positives:
1) 3 things you can count on in life: death, taxes, and Champ Bailey will bail you out. Matt Hasselbeck was out of his skull when decided to test Bailey instead of Andre’ Goodman on 4th down in the 3rd quarter.
2) 3rd-down efficiency. The Broncos were 14 of 20 on 3rd-downs. They had a better hit ratio than Tommy Lee at a sorority-pledge drive. As Coach McDaniels said after the game, the key was getting into 3-and-5 and shorter.
3) Turnovers and penalties. The Broncos kept them to a minimum, which was a welcome change from last week. Can’t say the same for Seattle. Mistakes like turnovers and penalties hurt. In the red zone they can infect you quicker than a rabid bite from Al Davis . Although Seattle played great physical football in the 1st and 2nd quarters, concentration errors (two stupid interceptions and a miffed punt) killed a potential 14 points for Seattle and allowed the Broncos to score 10 points of their own. Two false-start penalties, a holding call, and an illegal shift only added to the pain for Seattle. This set the tone for the rest of the game and brought the crowd’s emotion to the players early and often.
4) Great call by McDaniels on the Broncos’ 2nd touchdown. On 3rd-down and goal, he brought in Correll Buckhalter and 4 wideouts, and made it look like the Broncos were going to pass. The Seahawks matched up with nickel coverage and only had 3 down lineman. Buckhalter scored easily.
5) Kyle Orton (again). Denver really tried to come out and sell their run fakes in the 1st quarter in order to set up some passing opportunities, but Kyle Orton wasn’t exactly the epitome of accuracy. As usual, however, Orton settled down—and then some. After two games, it’s safe to say that spreading the ball around works better than targeting one receiver 150 times. It’s also good to see Orton utilizing his outlets out of the backfield. Orton finished the day 25 for 37, with a completion percentage of 71.4% and a QB rating of 117.2. Pedestrian and…awesome.
6) Eddie Royal. Another great play (and day) by Eddie Royal on Denver’s first touchdown. Royal went low for a pass, hauled it in, and rolled into the end zone. As we saw last week, Eddie is much stronger this year. Looks like the “Royal Treatment” includes a few bench presses in the off-season. He’s Wes Welker, but faster and with pipes like Hulk Hogan. Eddie finished with 5 catches for 65 yards and 13 yards per catch.
7) Robert Ayers was dinged up in the 3rd quarter, so he didn’t have a big 2nd half. However, it’s not too early to say that Ayers has made vast improvements in his 2nd season. Strong, quick, and all over the field. In the off-season, it looks like he took a course in nasty as well. Could have had another 2 sacks today before he left the field were it not for Seattle’s quick-paced passing game.
8) Knowshon Moreno is just starting to get into football shape, despite his low average per run numbers (51 yards and 2.1 yards per run). Some of these runs occurred when Denver was running out the clock in the 2nd half. There’s no doubt that he ran extremely hard, is beginning to read his blockers better, and despite his fumble out of bounds in the 2nd quarter, he is actually putting two hands on the ball upon contact. He welcomed Earl Thomas to the NFL in the 2nd quarter by simply lowering his shoulder and pasting Thomas into the turf.
9) Brandon who? Welcome to the NFL, Demaryius Thomas. I’m probably getting a little overzealous here (not really), but Double-B already looks like he runs routes (and uses his hands) better than Brandon Marshall (no, I’m serious). His 2nd-quarter screen was poetry in motion. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t think he could run routes at all when the Broncos drafted him, but in my defense, I didn’t know that he planned on attending the Rod Smith course in becoming a bad-ass wide receiver. Rod Smith is still paying dividends for the Broncos even after retirement, and now, so will Thomas. Thomas had 8 receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown.
10) The offensive line did protect Kyle Orton better today. Orton is no Mike Vick (I think he really likes dogs, too), so the sack he took in the 1st half can be chalked up to “Hey, it happens sometimes, man.” In particular, Ryan Clady and J.D. Walton provided excellent protection. Zane Beadles also came back from a poor performance last week and provided some decent pass protection (although he still has room to improve).
11) Daryl Johnston uttered the words, “money shot” with 2:45 left in the game.
And now the negatives, which were hard to find today:
1) The backside running lanes were wide open in Seattle’s zone-blocking scheme most of the time, which is common against zone running teams. However, this should still concern Denver. Brian Dawkins was all over the field, but when Dawkins leads the team in tackles, it’s a sign that the running game is getting to the 2nd level. Seattle rushed for 109 yards today.
2) Special teams were again a weakness for the Broncos as they missed several tackles today. Golden Tate’s big return in the 3rd quarter was just a horrible example of losing lane discipline and missed opportunities. Tate had 82 yards of return yards in just two attempts. Denver made him look like Rick Upchurch today.
3) Pass rush (well, maybe). Seattle also utilized 3-step drops almost exclusively during the game, which rendered some great pass rushes by Jarvis Moss and Robert Ayers ineffective. So it’s hard to say Denver was horrible in the pass rush today. It’s going to take a game against a team that uses more 5- and 7-yard drops to really see how much the Broncos miss Elvis Dumervil (and now potentially Robert Ayers). Congrats to Jarvis Moss, though, for getting a sack today.
4) Rushing offense. Hard to nitpick the Broncos, but I have to find something. Look, Ryan Harris and Chris Kuper were out, so I’m not going to read too much into Denver’s 1.7 yards per carry average. But there is work to do here. Zane Beadles wasn’t exactly tearing it up in the running game today, but since he started playing this position only last week, I’m going to cut him some slack.
5) Andre’ Goodman. Again, I’m nitpicking here. Goodman gave up on a few plays (notably in his coverage on Tate) and only registered 1 tackle.
6) Fans watching the game on mini flat screens while actually at the game. Come on, Broncos fans, go old school. Get toasted, take off your shirts, and go all South Stands.
Feel free to point out your positives and negatives from today’s game in the comment section below.