As a Broncos fan, it was hard to watch the past five seasons as teams like the Ravens continued to simply beat up on Mike Shanahan’s finesse offenses.
But in some ways, it’s even harder to watch the same thing happen to a bigger Broncos team like the one Josh McDaniels is creating.
The Broncos are bigger. The Broncos are tougher. But against the standard bearers of big and tough—the Baltimore Ravens—they continue to play small and weak.
For all of the talk about the Broncos high-octane passing attack, they were the ones to internally combust.
But can a team really light itself on fire in all phases of a football game? Apparently so.
The Broncos lost the game 31-17. As a player, a coach, an owner, and a fan, you can point in a lot of different directions. Drive-killing penalties? Check. Turnovers? Check. Lack of pressure? Check.
It’s true that we should be careful not to get too carried away. After all, it’s one game on the road against a tough opponent. It’s early.
The Ravens are a great team. They are going to run off 10-12 wins this season. They played a classic game in today’s NFL. They passed the ball early, got a big lead, then killed the clock in the 2nd half with the running game. So hats off to the Ravens.
And the schedule eventually gets easier.
But that doesn’t make your gut feel any better today.
Let’s get to the positives, negatives, and the who-the-heck knows. First, the positives:
1) The Broncos came out on the first drive with two-back sets and did attempt to run the ball, both up the middle and to the edge. If not for a holding penalty on Eddie Royal’s big run, the drive had a chance to be successful. Although a little cutesy, it was something different the Ravens hadn’t seen before. In addition, the Broncos ran better today, but they were playing from behind, so they didn’t have the opportunities to establish anything.
2) DJ Williams continues to fly around and make great one-on-one and open-field tackles. He finished the game with 10 tackles and 5 assists.
3) For two weeks straight, Kyle Orton has used the pump fake to perfection on deep routes to Lloyd. This is a big deal. Early in his career, Orton didn’t do this. There’s a reason Lloyd gets behind the safety, and it’s not just because he’s fast. The safety is reading Orton, and that pump fake is key to the play. This is another part of Orton’s maturity.
4) Brandon Lloyd’s body control. When they make Breakin’ 3, Funky, Fresh, and Free, Lloyd could star.
5) Wink Martindale began blitzing midway through the 2nd quarter. It was a good move. Flacco couldn’t survey the field any longer (see Negatives also) for 4 seconds. Flacco went from having a near perfect quarterback rating after the first quarter-and-a-half to a QB rating of 81.4 for the game. Still, with a running game and a defense like that, he could be Trent Dilfer and win.
6) The Broncos offensive line protected Kyle Orton for the most part today, only giving up one sack.
1) The Broncos’ defense clearly came out flat on the first few drives, despite the Ravens showing their standard 212 personnel package, which the Broncos had seen on film the entire week. The Ravens really just had their way with the Broncos. The Broncos were forced to take a timeout because of personnel issues, and they didn’t expect the Ravens to come out passing the way they did. In some ways it was fortuitous that the Ravens faced the goal line and short yardage at the end of the first drive, because it played into Denver’s strength. However, at the end of the 2nd drive, the Ravens didn’t foolishly try and run a pass in the flat for a defensive tackle.
2) We already miss you, Elvis Dumervil. Denver delivered little pressure of Flacco’s 5- and 7-step drops early on.
3) Martindale decided to wait until the Ravens had had 17 plays on the Broncos’ side of the field before he decided to bring some pressure. Might have been something to consider, oh, I don’t know, after the first drive during which Flacco was pitching for 20-plus yards a pop.
4) When it’s 3rd-and-10 or longer, the draw play may fool the defense, but in the NFL, it rarely gets you a first down.
5) Kyle Orton’s reads early were poor. He forced to Lloyd too often at the markers when the cornerbacks were simply playing soft coverage and squatting these routes. Kyle makes decent pre-snap reads always, but he’s got to know corners like Fabian Washington are going to continue to show press coverage early on the clock and backpedal to soft coverage right before the snap.
6) Again I say, Perrish Cox can run really fast, but can he cover? Until he proves otherwise, he’s going to continue to get picked on. He did a better job in the 2nd half, though, to his credit.
7) A delay of game penalty immediately after a holding penalty? That deserves a big WTF.
8) I honestly stopped charting plays midway through the 2nd quarter due to, well, the beat down the Broncos were receiving. It didn’t really matter. The Broncos had to again abandon the running game and operate from 113 sets (1 RB, 1 TE, and 3 WRs) for most of the 2nd half.
8) Dan Fouts was right with 4 minutes left in the game. You don’t punt in that situation unless you are waving the white flag.
9) Third-down efficiency was again less than stellar. The Broncos were 5 out of 12 for 41%, but most of this damage came in the 2nd half and while passing from behind.
10) Penalties suck. They really do.
Who The Heck Knows?
1) Quick, how fast can the Broncos’ biggest critics jump on the why-do-you-have-your-1st-round-draft-pick-returning-kicks-and-risking-injury train? Wait, they already jumped on the train? I’m shocked. You can’t blame Thomas for bringing out the ball on the kickoff. The Broncos were down 14-0 at that time and the kid was trying to make a play.
2) If you had that Tebow pick back today, would you rather have used it to close the door at the revolving left guard or on a guy who is going to take up valuable cap space for 2-3 years? A fair question in my mind. Let’s hope that Zane Beadles is the answer because Russ Hochstein is not. And I’m still not a fan of the Chris Kuper extension, either.
3) After the hot-and-cold play of Perrish Cox, do you think the Broncos want to reconsider that Champ Bailey extension offer again this week?
4) If you’re Champ Bailey, you sure you want to sign it?
5) Why not go for the 55-yard field goal on the 1st drive of the 2nd half? McDaniels saw his defense improving and was hoping to pin the Ravens back, that’s why. Was it the right call?
6) Kyle Orton will continue to approach 300-yard passing games until the Broncos establish the run. This is what happens when you are playing from behind in the 2nd half most of the time. It doesn’t mean the Broncos’ passing game is the best in the NFL. But the stats will look good. Today he was 23 out of 38 for 314 yards and a QB rating of 104.5. So if you want to drown your sorrows somewhere, you can keep track of Orton’s stats this year. They will be very nice.
7) As rationale for their running game, how long do the Broncos get to use the excuse they they are starting a rookie at center and that the starting offensive line has had injuries and hasn’t played together?
8) Apparently, the Ravens were not excited to see Kyle Orton throw for 300 yards. They were blitzing with 1:00 remaining in the game. For this, I was glad to see Lloyd beat them deep yet again. Stay classy, Baltimore.
9) Please, Josh McDaniels - let Kyle Orton run the no-huddle offense someday.
10) The whispers of the Broncos secondary being too old are premature. Despite the up-and-down play from Brian Dawkins today, the lack of pass rush was brutal.
Feel free to give us your gut reaction in the comments below. I’m sure it’s not going to be pretty. What did I miss or forget?