Gut Reactions - Week 8, Broncos-49ers

Jet lag—like a set of perfect English teeth—may not exist.

But the Broncos are believers.

The only way to describe their performance today was sluggish.  How about just plain blah?

They may have walked off the plane 48 hours ago, but, in what has come to be a hallmark of this Broncos team, they again couldn’t get their wings off the ground to start the game.  They barely got airborne the entire game. 

The usual suspects appeared—and we aren’t just talking about those British hoodlums that show up to soccer games.  The Broncos showed a plethora of penalties, blown assignments, and miscommunications.  They were also 0-for-4 on 3rd downs through their first 4 drives.

Can god save the queen?  Who knows.  But it would be nice if he’d at least bless the Broncos’ run defense.

On Halloween in London, the only thing that kept the frightened Broncos in the game was the the fact that the 49ers limited their starting rookie quarterback to 1/4 (if that) of the playbook in the first half.

I feel sorry for the English.  It was a bloody shame they had to pay to watch this game.

The Broncos didn’t find their mojo until the middle of the 3rd quarter when Brandon Lloyd wore his Randy Moss costume—something he’s been doing weekly.

Dave Logan, play-by-play announcer for the Broncos (and coach himself), said during his halftime broadcast,

“You get the feeling, that if the Broncos can just get a lead in this game, they have an excellent chance of winning.”

Unfortunately, Logan assumed the Broncos defense was a normal NFL defense.  He knew that the Niners putting the game in the hands of Troy Smith was a long shot. 

But it wasn’t a long shot today. The Broncos love long shots—remember this is the same team that allowed a record-setting 59 points last week through 3 quarters to Oakland.  So letting Troy Smith hold his own costume party was no big deal.

Happy Halloween, Broncos fans—your team is the apple full of razor blades.  Blame the referees all you want, but you know in your heart it’s true.
 
Let’s get to the positives, the negatives, and the who-the-heck knows.  First, the positives:

 

Positives

1) The Broncos should get some credit for at least trying to establish the run today.  They did an average job, but at least they stuck with the running game when they could have abandoned it early on.  I also liked the game plan early, despite the sluggish play.  The Broncos showed several 221 packages (2 RBs, 2 TEs, 1 WR) and even a few 131 sets (1 RB, 3 TE, 1 WR) to put the right guys on the field to pound the ball. 

2) Knowshon Moreno looked quicker this game and ran extremely hard. He averaged 3.6 yards per carry for the game.  By the Broncos’ recent standards, this was monumental.

3) Not sure I’ve ever seen a better fake on a sweep than Orton gave in the 3rd quarter on the long pass to Lloyd.  When you fool everyone in the stadium and on television, the defensive back doesn’t stand much of a chance. 

4) Congrats to Tim Tebow on his 2nd NFL touchdown carry.  He hasn’t thrown a pass yet, but the kid runs hard. 

5) Eddie Royal was great on punt returns today.  Don’t tell Jarvis Moss, though. 

6) Every time the Broncos are in the two-minute offense or the hurry-up, they seem to play with a sense of urgency.  This is good—I guess. 

7) Brandon Lloyd averaged almost 30 yards per catch today.  His body control on the last touchdown was truly poetry.

8) Ted Ginn, Jr., thank you for simply falling down on the last kickoff and giving the Broncos a true chance to tie the game.

9) Getting beaten by 8 points makes me feel a little better than losing to Oakland by infinitely more points—but only a little.

10)  DJ Williams, when not caught up in traffic, is a great linebacker. 

 

Negatives

1) Britton Colquitt’s shanked punt on the first series flipped the field on the Broncos—essentially wiping out Demaryius Thomas’ great opening kickoff return.  Neither team moved the ball, but the Broncos faced a negative proposition through special teams.  On their 1st drive they started on their own 32-yard line; on their 2nd, they started on their own 3-yard line.  I don’t need to walk you through the Expected Points Calue of these two drives for you to see the value of good punting. Colquitt’s punt in the 4th quarter for 21 yards was even worse.

2) On their 2nd drive, the Broncos faced a 3rd-and-long near midfield and went with a max-protection set of 203.  The 49ers still brought Orton down within seconds.  Not from the outside, not from the inside, but from all sides.  Zane Beadles and Russ Hochstein were both victimized. 

3) On their 2nd, the 49ers gave us a classic pound-the-ball affair—eating clock and wearing out a jet-lagged team (so we were told).  Statistically, the 49ers averaged 5.6 yards per carry in the 1st quarter.  This possession is also the kind of drive that will continue to ensure the Broncos turn over their interior line again next season.  On a positive note, they held the 49ers to a field goal.  But do you doubt that the 49ers would have rushed for the 1st down if they had gone for it?

4) Correll Buckhalter needs his head examined after taking the outside blitz on the play in which Orton was injured.  The inside blitzer was clearly coming up the middle on this play.

5) An absolute abysmal call by the referees on the flea flicker at the end of the 3rd quarter.  Dan Dierdorf said the refs were technically correct, but Dierdorf was wrong.  By the way, expect more of Dierdorf as the Broncos struggle.  This is who they assign to games that don’t matter to the NFL. 

6) Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey in double coverage is usually a safe bet—unless of course, you are playing on Halloween.

7) The Broncos’ rush defense continues to allow 100-yard rushers.  At this rate, Taco Bell ought to be thinking about a promotion of some sort. 

8)  Tim Tebow at the goal line = clever.  Tim Tebow at midfield = drive stalled. 

9)  Don’t tell me how great Kyle Orton is playing.  He’s getting all of these stats while playing from behind. 

10) Denver finished 1-for-9 on 3rd downs.  Yep, that’s 11%.  Want to keep telling me how great Orton’s stats are?

 

Who The Heck Knows?

1) Andre’ Goodman was picked on with 3 consecutive passes in the 1st quarter.  What does this mean?  Probably only that Champ Bailey is as good as ever.

2) Does Jamal Williams require a double-team any longer? The 49ers didn’t think so today.

3) Mike Iupati looked good at left guard today in the running game.  For those who were calling for the Broncos to draft Iupati—which means at least half of Broncos fans—this can’t make you feel any better.

4) Resorting to the Tebow package on the goal line continues to impress.  I’m not sure what it tells us about the short-yardage running game, however.

5) Flea flickers against the 49ers are cute.  I hope that’s not what the Broncos need to beat teams like this, however.

6) The 49ers did their best to move Troy Smith out of the pocket on his passes.  Can’t blame them.  If only the Broncos had some version of a pass rush. 

7) For the last two weeks, Josh McDaniels truly looks humbled on the sideline.

8) Odds that Pat Bowlen makes a change during the bye week?  Yeah, I know.  It’s pretty low, right?  Everyone said the same thing when he dumped Mike Shanahan, however.  Don’t tell me the thought hasn’t at least crept into your brain. 

9) Odds that Jerry Jones makes the same move.  Not so low.  Sorry to former Broncos coach Wade Phillips. 

10)  Is it too early to start a mock draft that includes 5 interior linemen?  Can we get a 7th-rounder for Richard Quinn?

Feel free to give us your gut reactions in the comments below. 

Lastly, have a great Halloween, Broncos fans.  Remember, it’s just a game.  Enjoy the time with your family and friends.

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

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