It’s said that an NFL game frequently comes down to just a few plays that direct the outcome of the game. In this case, the culprits weren’t all that hard to find. Coaches often follow up quickly by pointing out that on any given play, it’s possible for someone to step up and make one of those plays - you can blame the victims of the plays for the outcome of the game. That’s true too - you can’t expect that only those few plays that stand out are going to be the only things that could have happened. But all too often, they seem to the fans to be the hooks that the game was hung on, the standards that led to the win or the loss. In this case, it’s easy to see which ones stood out.
Let me say that there was a lot to work on, but a lot that Denver can develop off of. It was a slightly sloppy game in the worst heat that Jax had ever experienced for a game (Note to NFL Scheduling Department - scheduling teams to play in Florida Week 1 is maybe a very foolish idea). That’s not an excuse, but it is a fact. Every team has to adapt and still force the other team to play their game, and the Broncos didn’t. David Garrard had one of the good ones - last year he had four games with QB Ratings above 100 and four below 65. Sadly, Denver got him on the former kind of day. They still could have won it had they not given up some big plays. The MJD runs were only part of it, although that was eventually the Jax strategy.
And, there were things that were so bad that you had to mention them - the special teams (the defensive ones at least), were offensively bad. When a team is given a chance to start on their own 40-yard line on average the way Jacksonville does, you’re in a bad way already. Those two issues were important - but they weren’t the only keys to the game.
One of the good things - I loved the 41-yard reception that Lloyd had. When a team is in Cover 2 as Jax was, you’ll always have the strong chance that the defense will be in press (you won’t see it in Cover 1 or 3). Lloyd has been in the league long enough to notice that he’s facing Cover 2, and knows how to defeat the press coverage and take the go route up the sideline. Orton was under some pressure when he threw it, or that could have been an even longer connection. Orton could have saved at least one of those three sacks by tossing it away, but he needed a little better protection. Typically, he said that he thought that it was fine all day. He would - he survived behind the line in Chicago. Do you recall that he had a problem because he’d get rid of the ball too quickly? If I had that number of hurries, I’d get rid of the thing, too.
The running backs weren’t doing what they need to, and it looks like they’re going to have to do a certain amount without the offensive line. The line wasn’t terrible - it just wasn’t strong. They need to get a decent push going, and a couple of more holes wouldn’t upset anyone on this side of the ball. I noticed that Hochstein was in for Chris Kuper - the ankle is not doing as well as the team had hoped, and it will be a few weeks or more before Harris’ ankle will be ready for him to come back. For a team with a part-time starting LT, a new LG with Stanley Daniels (who got toasted several times - welcome to the NFL), a new center with JD Walton and Hochstein or Kuper (Kuper came out after a while) at RG with Beadles as RT, Denver has a very new look at OL. Now they need to learn to communicate and play as a unit - and that’s the hard part for the OL anywhere you go.
That doesn’t let the RBs off the hook. Buck isn’t prone to fumbles, really, but that one hurt. That part reminded me of last year - people don’t have to make a lot of mistakes - they just need to make them at the wrong time, and to have a few like that. Perhaps, if Maroney can get healthy and join the lineup, we can move forward, literally. The line will learn, and Clady will return more full time. He’ll have to shake off some rust, too, and you have to expect that.
We gave up too many runs up the middle. Most were shorter: the big guys were in for that (J. Williams and Justin Bannan), too. However, MJD is a talented runner with remarkable vision for someone so short compared to those around him. He bounced some outside for good gains - which told me to look for overpursuit at the LOS. It wasn’t hard to find, once I know what to look for. I lost track of Mario Haggan too much - it’s his first game in the middle, but he was exposed in coverage (in the past, that’s happened to DJ Williams and Wes Woodyard, although WW is the best of them) and he also came off during the first drive of the second half, limping somewhat and clearly shaken. On that play, the offensive line was in the second level before you could sneeze; the DL was caught napping a little on that play. Joe Mays is a good run stopper, and I would have liked to see him in Haggan’s slot, but Denver still needs a ILB who can cover, and until they have one, they are going to get exposed.
It wasn’t a terrible game by any means. We saw a lot of good things - Eddie Royal looked incredible, Brandon Lloyd did a very fine job and Jabar Gaffney added a few, including a nice TD. The running game left a lot to be desired, but there was a very good sign - first, K. Moreno had a great first drive, and showed why Denver drafted him. He ended the game with only 60 yards, but a 4.0 YPA, and that’s not upsetting, although it needs to get better. But there were things that lost the game, and you have to talk about those, too. Buck played badly, and there’s no way around it. Maroney would be a nice addition - Lance Ball, as Coach McDaniels pointed out, hasn’t played in the NFL yet. McD has consistently preferred to play veterans.
The first one I’d like to talk about is simple - Zane Beadles isn’t experienced at right tackle, and he was badly exposed several times. He’s not as bad as Polumbus was (we play Polumbus this season - he’s currently starting at LT for Seattle), but he showed his inexperience. He also had a nice run by Moreno for a 1st down called back for holding on Beadles, who was holding Aaron Kampman. I think that he would have tossed a net over him if it was legal. Kampman is very good (he came right past Walton and Daniels, splitting them once they locked onto other rushers, on the next play and sacked Orton, who never had a chance). Beadles also saw a lot of Derrick Harvey, who is no slouch either. Beadles will be good, but all his experience is at LG and LT, so he’s going to have a sharp learning curve. It’s a great chance to know who he is, and what he can do. It’s also a reminder to pick up a good RT in the next draft. I love Harris’ work, but I need him to be on the field. If this is how his career may go - and when he’s healthy, he’s incredible - having someone who isn’t just a backup may be necessary.
7 of them for over 70 yards. Brian Dawkins got nailed for a pass interference for 15. McBean probably has burns where McD toasted him for a while - dumb mistakes are bad, but two of them in short order on a single drive are unforgivable - 30 yards that they didn’t earn is a lot of yards.
The opening kickoff of the second half used an illegal 3-man wedge (with a 4th guy who came on to it and peeled off). The third guy peeled off when he found a gunner, but there was also a hold right at the beginning of the runback, near the top of the screen. The refs managed to miss both - I usually don’t comment on refs. It’s an impossible task to see all 22 players and to get every call right. I respect what they have to do and I think that they do a very good job in general. This time, the wedge was blatant and the call was missing. That’s insult to injury with the missed hold on top of it. But the tendency to let the run backs go long was generally Denver’s fault, and they are going to have to get this right. It was an issue last year, and it was an issue on Sunday. I know that some of the players have changed, but that’s part of the game.
Perrish Cox and Eddie Royal both looked good. Too often, Jax was able to get to their own 40 and kick deep on the punt, leaving Royal with nothing to do but call for the fair catch.
These guys often have a tough, thankless job, but I have to single them out, because when the RB is consistently getting 4-8 yards on running plays, when you can’t stop the run on 3rd and 2, and when in addition, no one is setting the edge (yes, that’s on the LBs, who didn’t get it done enough), you’re not going to win the game. It’s really that simple, and I miss firstfan telling people that the game is won and lost in the trenches. He was and is right, and we put some money into that this offseason. Of the three we brought in, Jarvis Green didn’t make the cut (more power to the Broncos for accepting that he was a mistake and cutting him), J. Williams is older and just a bit slower. Bannan got caught for a hard-count offsides, but otherwise played pretty well - they didn’t get the same kind of yardage strongside. McBean didn’t have a good game, and that goes way beyond those foolish face mask penalties. He’ll develop well, but he’s still learning, and it shows. The Jax offensive line beat Denver’s defensive line, and it led to the win. I’m not so worried about the 3-step drop completions - there’s a limit to what you can do about them. I’m concerned that the DL was made to look foolish on too many plays. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that Coach McDaniels mentioned this to them once or twice. Besides calling out McBean loudly on the sidelines, I mean.
Plain old mistakes, briefly:
I was surprised to see Brian Dawkins taking the over on the pass that went for a TD. Renaldo Hill was guarding the end zone and already had the over - if Dawk takes the under, it’s either an INT or an INC, and either would have kept them from scoring that quickly. The shot available didn’t show how the WR got in front of him, but it could have been a speed issue. He’s such a quality player that I expected him to take the right angle, but everyone does make mistakes. Denver’s kept them from winning - or at least making a better contest of it.
In the first quarter, MJD had a nice outside run, and there was a brilliant block on DJ. The problem comes in that it was Ayers who was supposed to hold that edge, and he was, granted, lined up more inside than usual, but he still missed the pursuit with a poor angle. Two mistakes, one play, first down.
Batiste is NOT Ryan Clady. No one is, but oh, my…...
Orton’s 2nd quarter delay of game was just careless. He has to pay better attention.
Buckhalter is too experienced to have the ball slide out like that in the 2nd Q at the Jax 24-yard line, money zone. Mike Klis was right - in two weeks, we could see Moreno and Maroney as our tandem backs. We still need that 3rd-down back - Larsen comes to mind. We need someone who can stay in and block, know what lane to block and/or chip or swing outside for the outlet pass. It’s not an easy job.
Haggan may not work out at LILB, although a single game isn’t a fair sample. They moved him to WOLB on one play and he couldn’t seal the edge, which lead to the first TD. I don’t hold anything against him - everyone gets beat - but I do wonder why Haggan and why ROLB?
STs were terrible, in terms of stopping them, but that’s where film comes in.
Good Things to Build On
The Ayers sack. Garrard took a 5-step drop and said “Hi” to the Denver defensive team photo.
Jason Hunter is very good. He’s going to get better fast, at this rate. Keep an eye out for #52. Hunter split the line and took down MJD beautifully on an early play.
Moreno made a great catch of an off-target short Orton pass. It was far behind him and he was wearing a defender (no call), but reached back and one-handed it. The announcers missed it.
10 minutes in the second quarter. Third and three, Beadles doesn’t get out to lead the blocking, Buckhalter is felled shy of the line - 4th down. Why is this under ‘Good’? Because on the next play, he did the same play and powered through with Beadles leading the way for him - he’s learning, and learning quickly. More power to him.
I loved seeing Spencer Larsen catching one out of the backfield. I’d love to see him carry a few, too. I know - he’s there to block. But he’s also a big load with a serious attitude on the field. Why not? It would beat watching Tebow get stuffed for a yard.
Brandon Lloyd and Eddie Royal are for real. So is the 2-minute drill. It didn’t work out in the second half, but they put points on the board with the passing game in the 2-minute drill of the 1st half. The OL really helped out on that drive - good for them. The bad news is that they were fresh - the DL didn’t get that luxury.
It’s a Wrap
I’m pretty sure that Tyler Polumbus and Ben Hamilton will be looking to whip their old squad. I’d love to see our DL prove to them why we had to let them go - Polumbus is playing LT and didn’t exactly wall it off last week. We need to hammer through that and give Matt Hasselbeck hives. If we do, we win. This isn’t a great team, even if they played a great game last week.