Notes on Broncos/Cowboys and 4-0

Winning ugly.

Sometimes, that's all that it comes down to. Kyle Orton had an incredible day - unfortunately, it was on this past Friday and it was practice. Today, he missed open receivers, 7 off them in the first half, and with a few better throws, the game never should have come down to the 4th quarter. It did, though, and Orton missed on only two passes in the 4th quarter and threw 2 TDs. Each week, it seems that it's the 3rd and 4th quarters when the Broncos are really tough to stop and today was one more in that pattern. Following their usual pattern, there came the adjustments as the game went on that Josh McDaniels has been know for since his first coaching job. Mike Nolan did everything he had to do on defense, too. In the end, it was the kind of all-team effort that is beginning to mark the kind of Broncos squad that has well earned its 4-0 record.

The last few drives were really the game in short. It started by stopping the Cowboys, something the Broncos did effectively from the late first quarter onward. When the Broncos took over with 9:35 to go in the 4th quarter, they began to slash at the Dallas defense. Orton, under pressure, somehow completed a pass to a diving Eddie Royal before being illegally hammered by Theo Ratliff. Eddie only had two receptions for 16 yards, but sometime it's when you do it, not how many times. Next, Moreno knifed up the middle for 14. And then, Orton and Brandon Marshall hooked up for a long yards after catch scoring pass with Marshall doing his best angles and ambles running, ala Correll Buckhalter. Marshall was greeted on the sidelines by Josh McDaniels himself (who may need a soapbox to hug the tall receiver), which Kyle Orton in his usual ebullient manner went up and down the sideline, greeting, congratulating and hugging or high-fiving every player involved in the play, or those who just wanted in on the fun. Prater kicked the ensuing kickoff into the stands, splitting the uprights for emphasis.

Dallas got the ball back with enough time to make the game concerning. They knocked on the door, too, with a long pass and run of their own, to Sam Hurd for 53 yards to the Denver 20. Hurd got another reception to the The 'Boys would press deep, to the 2 yard line where Patrick Clayton was nicely tackled by Jack Williams, who played well in today's contest. And then? This far: no further. there was a single incompletion. Then it was that Dallas would make the mistake of the game. They decided, as they had all game, to go after Champ Bailey. After all, he's older, and over the hill. Right? Certainly seemed to be on that one INT at the 6, didn't he?

Didn't he?

Champ gave up the inside route to Hurd, who thought that he was in the right spot at the right time. He just hadn't counted on Champ's hand deflecting the ball. Undeterred, the Cowboys called the same play again. Again, Hurd took the inside route. Again, Champ reached in almost casually and tapped the ball away to give him 4 passes defensed on the day. Jack Williams added a little injury to insult by hammering Hurd's middle as the play ended. The ball turned over to the Broncos on downs, the knee was taken and the victory went into the record books. 17-10, Broncos by a touchdown. Game, set and match for the 1st quarter of the 2009 NFL season. You can only play the ones that they give you. The Broncos took them all.

A couple of comparisons - Tony Romo was 25 of 42 for Zero TDs and one INT (Champ Bailey, again) and a 67.1 QB rating. Kyle Orton was 20 of 29, 243 yards, 7.6 ypa, no INTs again and 2 TDs. It's been 157 passes since he threw an INT and his QB rating was 117.5 for the game. Not bad, for a guy who had accuracy issues in the 1st half. In fact, there was a question at one point how we would do if we were a couple of scores down. The answer was simple - just fine. The 4th quarter is the Broncos quarter so far this year.

A few earlier quotes, a few predictions and their outcomes. This one is worth celebrating. Aren't they all?

From Mike Lombardi:

DeMarcus Ware has zero sacks in his last four games, his longest streak without a sack since his 2005 rookie season. Is this because he's not happy with the progress on a new deal?

The Broncos' wideouts are a bad matchup for the Cowboys' corners. If the Broncos get protection, they'll throw the ball effectively.

The Cowboys will have to tackle very well in their secondary, as the Broncos have very effective receivers with the ball in their hands. Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal are hard to get to the ground.

Expect Denver to change and shift formations and personnel groups as the Cowboys struggle to get lined up at times on defense. The Broncos' offense is very effective creating confusion.

Denver QB Kyle Orton will need to play well in the passing game for the Broncos to win the game. He can't allow the Cowboys to play on a short field because of an interception.

Alert: Expect the Broncos to go after the Cowboys safeties down the field. Denver is one of the best new game-plan teams. Each week, they attack the weakness of their opponents very well.

DeMarcus Ware had exactly zero sacks on the day. The Broncos did give up 3, an unusually generous total for this line, but none came to Ware. Orton didn't give up an INT and had a Qb rating of 117.5. I think that's Ok - we'll take it. Each team lost one fumble and the Broncos ended the contest in the black in the turnover margin yet again.

From the Denver Post:

When Romo is chased from the pocket (and even when he's still in it, really), he is looking for tight end Jason Witten, who has 19 catches this season, more than double that of any other Dallas player.

Tight ends have not been particularly effective against the Broncos' defense in the first three games (five total catches for 49 yards), but Witten is one of the NFL's best receiving tight ends.

The Broncos experimented with two nickel packages in training camp, one with bigger players that could come in handy against a player such as Witten. In that "big nickel," safety Josh Barrett might be used to shadow Witten.

Other options could be linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who plays in the standard nickel package, or even safety Brian Dawkins.

"The challenge is to understand that they're going to look for him, and if you're responsible for him, you can't let him have 2 yards of space," McDaniels said. "If you're responsible for him on a play, you better get on him, and you better get on him tight because he doesn't need much space, and neither does Romo."

Feedback -- The Broncos did well in this regard. Witten was held to a mere 31 yards and 4 receptions. Wes Woodyard was sorely tested at times and will be better for the experience: he had two solo tackles and an assist by the end. The big nickel did what it had to do. More will come when I have more time for the film. In general, the Broncos challenged Romo well, scoring 5 sacks and many hurries and knockdowns.

Same source article:

Clady and Ware battled through four joint training camp practices at Dove Valley in August 2008 during Clady's rookie year. In the preseason game between the two teams, Ware did not record a sack.

Clady and Ware went on to stellar 2008 seasons, with Ware recording 20 sacks and Clady giving up only a half sack. This season, Clady has yet to allow a sack, and Ware does not have a sack.

"I thought for a rookie who came in straight out of college who came in starting from Day One, I thought he did a tremendous job against DeMarcus Ware," Broncos outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil said. "I think he'll do really well against him now that he has a season under his belt."

He did. Clady help his own and Ware didn't get a sack, finishing the game with 2 tackles solo and 2 assists although he did have a forced fumble. Congratulations to Ryan Clady for setting a new record with his firs 20 games, starting as a rookie, without a single sack. What a player he is!

Robert Ayers saw more time and did well, stopping Choice for a 3 yard loss in the first quarter, staying at home and holding his gap on passing plays in which he mimicked an ILB and generally playing well overall. I'll break down the film in the next couple of days, but I saw him playing well several times. Once again, though, DJ Williams leads all Broncos with 9 solo tackles, 1 sack, 2 passes defensed (the one against Roy Williams was incredible) and a TFL as well as a non-sack hit on the QB. There were no shortage of great names on the defense today - Andra Davis had another good game, Brian Dawkins continues to intimidate, DJ looked great, Jack Williams deserved a lot of credit fo rthe job that he came in and did and the lis gets long indeed. Doom added another two sacks to bring his total to 8 for the year.

The Broncos had a completely unacceptable 10 penalties for 81 yards, while Dallas chimed in for 7 and 70 yards. It was, at times, a frustratingly sloppy game. Denver also only made 2 of 10 third down opportunities. There are some good sides, though. The Broncos had 15 first downs, 8 by passing and 7 by rushing, a balanced attack. The defense continues to come up big when they are needed. They shut down most of the Dallas rushing attack and let them have only 3.0 yards per carry and 75 yards rushing, total.

Overall - the Broncos have done to Dallas what they did to other teams. They shut them down overall, held them to no points in the final three quarters and generally made them miserable. I'll worry later about the offense's lack of cohesion - Orton had a bad half, and when we clicked, we paid for too many penalties. Still - this is a tough team that no one will take lightly for the rest of the season.

Congratulations, Bronco Country - you're 4-0!

Originally posted at MHR

Learn to laugh at yourself. You will be ceaselessly amused. - Sri Gary Olsen

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