Gut Reactions - Week 3, Broncos-Colts

Turnovers are hard to overcome. 

Red Zone sterility doesn’t make it any easier.

Against Peyton Manning and the Colts, both are an RSVP to your own implosion.

Today the story will be how Peyton Manning defeated the Broncos—again. 

But the true story is that on a day in which the Broncos defense finally mastered the Colts, their offense and special teams let them down. Whether it be through an interception, a lack of push on 3rd-and-short, or a fumbled punt, turnovers and lack of red-zone execution were the seeds of destruction.

Denver had a great game plan today.  From doubling Dallas Clark at the line of scrimmage to some great pass calls out of running formations, this was a game they could have easily won, despite the final score.  Unfortunately, a great game plan, no matter how great it is, just can’t overcome turnovers and horrendous execution in the red zone. 

Let’s get right to the gut and see if we can hold down our lunch.  First, the positives.


1) This is a better team than last year, no matter what you might hear about 6-0 starts.  This team is may be 1-2, but this year’s team is better.  They are stronger on both sides of the ball up front, their receiving corps is unselfish, and the secondary is extremely deep.  In addition, Robert Ayers is emerging before our eyes as a great talent.  You’ll hear a lot of talk about the Chiefs beginning the year 3-0 and the Broncos’ difficult schedule, but the season is a marathon, not a sprint.  For those that want to crown the Chiefs, as Dennis Green would say, go ahead and crown them.  But it would be a foolish thing to do this early.  I’m sticking with this team, and so should you.   

2) As we’ve seen all year, Brandon Lloyd is the real deal.  Pencil him in for a 1,000-yard season.  And please forget Brandon Marshall—forever.  If all it took was sending Marshall packing for this kind of pass distribution, it should have happened long ago.  I’d take Demaryius Thomas and Lloyd right now over Marshall straight up.  The two second-round draft picks are just gravy.

3) Great pass blocking by both Ryan Clady and Zane Beadles today.  Beadles made a giant leap today as a professional, while Clady is settling into his old role as the best pass-blocking tackle in the NFL.

4) McDaniels utilized his 221 personnel package (2 RBs, 2 TEs, 1 WR) extremely well today.  In the 1st half, he used it primarily as a running package.  In the 2nd half, he play-faked out of it and used it primarily as a passing formation.  Each week when I chart plays during the game, you can see the tendencies developing by halftime.  In this case, you could see that McDaniels might switch gears and throw out of this formation. 

5) I’m down with Laurence Maroney and you should be, too.  His understanding of McDaniels’ offense was evidenced in both the running and passing games today.  If Knowshon Moreno is out for an extended period of time, the Broncos are going to be fine.  From what we saw today, Maroney is quicker than Moreno.  Moreno had better pick it up when he gets back. 

6) Again, you have to like the strategy that the Broncos employed against Dallas Clark this game.  They doubled Dallas Clark and their OLBs were jamming the tight end on the line of scrimmage.  Good game plan by Wink Martindale. 

7) What a job by the defense in defending the run against 3- and 4-WR sets.  Excellent work up front by Mario Haggan, Robert Ayers, Justin Bannan, Jamaal Williams, Ryan McBean, and even Marcus Thomas.  Just amazing.

8) Speaking again of Ayers, he is the real deal.  Not only did he apply good pressure today, his strength against the run was very impressive.  Alphonso Smith was a bust.  Ayers won’t be.

9) The 3-4 is a superior defense against the Colts.  The last two games the Broncos have been in both games, and being able to play a 3-4 and run man coverage has been critical to keeping the Broncos in both games.

And now, the negatives.


1) McDaniels will sound like a broken record this week.  Last year he spoke about how the Colts converted in the red zone, while the Broncos did not.  Today the Broncos were 0-5.  I don’t know how to categorize that other than to say it’s about as bad as you can get.

2) Turnovers.  Enough said.  They suck.  Big Time.

3) You’ll hear about Orton’s 476-yard performance, and for the most part, Orton played above average, but I have to tilt him slightly to the negative today.  He started the game slowly with some inaccurately-thrown balls on the first two drives.  Also, Orton’s pre-snap read on the interception was particularly horrifying.  The cornerback (on both sides) was in an obvious soft zone coverage with the safety over the top, and he was simply squatting at the markers.  Perhaps Orton believed he was being baited, we can never know, but a bad ball nonetheless.  Lastly, on several key plays late in the 3rd and 4th quarters, Orton threw out patterns, while his receivers ran in routes.  It’s hard to know if these were option routes or not, but either way, they were critical plays. 

4) I’ll nitpick McDaniels on his draw call on 3rd-and-11 in the 1st quarter.  They fooled the Colts completely with the play, but still only got 7 yards.

5) Perrish Cox can run really fast, but can he actually catch a football?

6) Holding calls during punt returns cost the Broncos a lot of return yardage today.

And I’ve created a special category, called, Who the Heck Knows:

Who the Heck Knows?

1) McDaniels had several interesting calls during the game on 3rd-and-short and 4th-and short which will certainly be questioned this week (it will also provide me with plenty of “Huge” calls to analyze).  The most interesting was the 4th-down call late in the middle part of the 4th quarter in which the Broncos could have cut the lead to 4 with a field goal. 

2) It could be argued that the Broncos misused their timeouts during the two-minute drill at the end of the half.  They took all three way too early in the drive and it cost them when they were facing 2nd-and-1 outside of the 10-yard line.  They could have used that one running call and that last timeout. 

3) Broncos fans continuing to sit down in their seats on 3rd down?  I suppose this is a sign of the times, but the ghosts of the South Stands are crying. 

Feel free to tell me your gut reactions in the comments below. 

Right after a game like this emotions are high and all fans are disappointed with a loss.  Still, I can’t help but feel like this team is going to emerge on the other side of this tough schedule much stronger. 

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

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Gut Reactions