We decided not to do Chewing the Fat on Sunday, as New Year’s Eve recovery efforts remained underway at 4:15 PM ET. I went out of my way not to overdrink on Saturday night, so I’m pretty spry, and I decided to do a running diary of both the Broncos game and the one between the Raiders and Chargers. I’m hoping for simultaneous excitement that comes across as compelling writing. If the games disappoint, at least you’ll get my on-the-fly thoughts on both games.
Step into my man-cave:
4:15 PM ET - By the way, all times are going to be eastern, because I live there, and because IAOFM is a globally read website, although none of us would be so arrogant as to say that we're "globally renowned." Tebow prays, and some Raiders fans look like drag queens who just got back from a pirate-themed New Year’s party. Par for the course so far.
4:18 PM - Antonio Gates makes a catch. He still looks really fat, like he gave up on conditioning.
4:19 PM - Dwayne Bowe gets good separation against Champ Bailey. On the next play, Dexter McCluster bounces off a “blow-up” tackle attempt by D.J. Williams. Bad start.
4:20 PM - The Raiders are still taking personal fouls, so we have that going for us.
4:21 PM - Ugh. (That “ugh” was for Doug Lee.) Philip Rivers is back to throwing ugly interceptions. On the bright side, the Chiefs didn’t score on their first possession, and are punting to the Broncos 10.
4:25 PM - The Chiefs look like they’re ready for the Dive Option. They just stuffed Lance Ball on second down and had all three options covered. Then, of course, it’s a QB draw from empty on 3rd and 9. Cue the complaints about conservative play-calling. Meanwhile, the Raiders are having some early success running the ball against San Diego. The Chargers struggle with the Raiders’ physical offensive line.
4:29 PM - I feel like Champ Bailey has been looking more bad than good for about a month now. I wonder if he’s hurt. Bowe has separated from him downfield a couple times now. The Chiefs are really trying to run to the edges too, and having a little success with it. Von Miller continues to struggle in run support.
4:31 PM - First and goal Raiders, as the Broncos force a Field Goal attempt. Nice coverage by Andre’ Goodman on 3rd down. Ryan Succop promptly misses the kick.
4:32 PM - The damn Raiders scored a TD when I was watching the Broncos. Who could have seen this one coming? Oh yeah, me. Lame, anyway. Speaking of lame, have you ever noticed how CBS claims every show on their network is the #1 something or other? I wonder what measure they’re using, because it’s highly implausible that everything is #1. What the hell does #1 necessarily mean, anyway, from a truth in advertising perspective? The Raiders TD is under review, and might come back. In Denver, Chris Kuper is down on the field. More lameness.
4:35 PM - The Oakland TD stands. Of course it does. The Kuper injury looks pretty gnarly, and the cart is on the field. I like the show of unity of the whole offensive unit Tebowing… err, praying, in a circle. Welcome to the field, Russ Hochstein. I hope your first real snaps of the year aren’t rusty. This guy has been so buried, I watched him stand with the defensive group on the sideline for the entire game against Buffalo.
4:39 PM - The Broncos have gone three and out twice now. This thing is really playing to form. Britton Colquitt just got a bad punt off, and got lucky with a great roll to the Kansas City 10. Field position is now favorable for the Broncos, thanks to the Succop miss.
4:41 PM - Rivers completes a downfield throw. Keep it up, Marmalard.
4:44 PM - McCluster splits Marcus Thomas and Robert Ayers, who dominated their blockers. First down, Chiefs. We need to see better tackling than this.
4:47 PM - The early flow of this game is really favorable for the Chiefs. They’re getting a lot done early between the 20s, and it feels a lot like the middle part of the Bills game last week.
4:48 PM - Gates waddles into the end zone for a 38-yard TD. 7-7 game in Oakland. That's better.
4:49 PM - Ayers makes a big play inside and sacks Orton. This is the kind of play the Broncos needed to force a 2nd and 15. Bowe promptly makes his fifth catch of the first quarter (!!!!!), and it’s 3rd and 7.
4:50 PM - McCluster is a big problem so far and just picked up the first down on a draw. Who could have seen this one coming? Oh, yeah. Me.
4:51 PM - And there goes McCluster for a touchdown. Von Miller lost contain badly, and this is how a game gets away. The Broncos defense looks awful so far, as it has for the last few weeks.
4:56 PM - I’m starting to feel like the officials have money on the Raiders. I’ve seen several questionable catches awarded to them, including the Heyward-Bey TD.
4:57 PM- The second quarter begins, and the Broncos have been outgained 162-16. This has been the disaster quarter all season, but Tebow completes his first throw to Spencer Larsen. Before the Broncos can run a QB Sneak on 3rd and 1 (thanks for the good thought at least!) Zane Beadles false started. Thankfully, Tebow picks up seven yards on a designed QB sweep on 3rd and 6.
4:59 PM - McGahee is starting to get it going, despite looking a bit tentative early. The Broncos are starting to make some blocks on this series. Two first downs now.
5:01 PM - First zone-read, and McGahee gets 14. This is starting to look better, and Orlando Franklin has been burying fools the last few snaps. After a 3-yard loss by Lance Ball, Tebow makes a nice throw to Demaryius Thomas for 17 yards and another first down.
5:03 PM - Gates must have heard me. He’s waddling very well now. Good for us, good for the Chargers. The San Diego running game is starting to move too.
5:04 PM - Tebow makes a great cutback, almost gets another first down, and then loses a fumble near the sideline. That’s at least a lost opportunity at a field goal. Come on, man. At least the Chargers are now in the scoring area, with a first-and-10 at the 15.
5:06 PM - Stanford Routt, AKA Mr. Defensive Holding, goes a different route and commits pass interference in the end zone. First and goal from the 1, Chargers, and Mike Tolbert sticks it in there. 14-7 Chargers.
5:07 PM - No, guys, let’s not cover McCluster at all. Brilliant. Just %^$&ing brilliant.
5:09 PM - Goodman is having a nice game so far. He knocks away a 3rd-down pass, and the Broncos are getting the ball back. Eddie Royal fair catches at the 14.
5:11 PM - Carson Palmer continues to be Mr. Checkdown. Anybody who thinks that he can drive the ball downfield the way he used to is crazy. He’s an inside-only guy when it comes to putting any velocity on the ball.
5:14 PM - Tebow makes a good throw to Eric Decker on 3rd down as a blitz came from the opposite side, but Decker was pushed out of bounds two yards short of the first down. Colquitt crushed another punt inside the 20.
5:17 PM - Marcus Thomas is here to dominate today. He’s really playing well amid a bunch of bad performances on the Broncos defense. Thomas needs to get paid, and so does Brodrick Bunkley. They’ve been a good pair of inside starters all year since Thomas got healthy.
5:18 PM - I wasn’t paying much attention to the game, but the Raiders somehow got in position to kick a 54-yard Field Goal. 14-10 Chargers with 6:20 to go.
5:20 PM - It’s time for some game management. The Broncos have the ball at their own 25 with 2:15 to go, and while they could use some points, the overriding goal is not letting the score at halftime be any worse than 7-0.
5:21 PM - Richard Goodwin of the Chargers just ran back the kickoff 105 yards for a TD. 21-10 Chargers. You have to love that. Meanwhile, McGahee just gained 7 yards on first down to take it to the 2-minute warning with a 2nd and 3. Not a bad situation at all. Time for another run or easy completion to run some clock after the commercial break. Both teams still have 3 timeouts.
5:24 PM - I’m going to take my tentative comment back on McGahee. He’s really gotten into the flow. I really like the game management here, getting it under 1 minute and facing a 3rd and 5 near midfield. It seems that somebody figured this out.
5:26 PM - Tebow finally pitches out to Royal on the play he’s faked a lot of times, and Royal gets 10. Tebow then throws a near-interception, and runs for 1 yard. 3rd and 9, 36 seconds to go, second timeout used.
5:29 PM - Tebow misses wide on 3rd down for Demaryius Thomas. Bad throw. I’m fine with the decision to punt, because it makes good risk management sense. Kansas City is going to kneel on it, and if Prater missed, they’d have been looking good to be up 10-0.
5:31 PM - So, as it turns out, they’re not kneeling on it. D.J. Williams made a big play to finally tackle McCluster after a first down was gained. Half over, no damage done. 7-0 Chiefs.
5:34 PM - The Raiders were driving, but Palmer couldn’t complete a deep out on 3rd down, in fact almost throwing it to Antoine Cason of the Chargers. Janikowski kicks another field goal. It’s 21-13 Chargers with 2:19 to go. San Diego has all three timeouts.
5:41 PM - The Chargers have picked up a first down, and now it’s time to let them go after some points. For some reason, they called timeout with 1:44 to go. No telling why. Rivers hits Patrick Crayton over the middle for 23 yards. They’re abusing the crossing route against the Raiders blitz.
5:43 PM - Rivers just got lucky not to get called for intentional grounding on 2nd and 10. The Raiders fans booed the lack of a penalty, which is ironic. Vincent Jackson promptly drops a good 3rd-down throw downfield. Nick Novak kicks a Field Goal to make the score 24-13 with 47 seconds to go.
5:46 PM - The Broncos are about to get the ball to start the second half, and it’s time to get something going, especially through the air. The Kansas City CBs have been excellent so far, and I think it’s high time to go after some inside players.
5:49 PM - Phil Simms just pronounced “accolade” ack-you-lade. How Bushy of him, sort of nuke-you-lar, in a way.
5:51 PM - Tebow makes a good throw on a play action. He put it behind Daniel Fells, but it needed to be behind him, because his defender was in front of him. Nice play, first down. Then, Ryan Clady promptly gets busted for holding on first down. Ugh.
5:54 PM - It’s 24-13 at halftime in Oakland. That hold just ruined a promising possession for the Broncos, as Tebow was stopped for a 3-yard loss on 3rd and 18. Colquitt’s knuckleball directional punt is muffed by Javier Arenas, and recovered by Matt Willis. First down Broncos at the 20. (!!!!!!!!!)
5:56 PM - The officials miss an obvious facemask by Tamba Hali on Tebow, then the Broncos take a stupid delay of game penalty on the made 33-yard field goal attempt. Prater luckily (barely) makes the follow-on 38-yarder. 7-3 Chiefs.
6:03 PM - I’m still furious about this facemask. A downside of having a running QB like Tebow, Michael Vick, or Cam Newton is that the officials let a lot go in the pocket. That helps on not calling premature in-the-grasp penalties, but it hurts on a lot of the hits that the QB takes, with no penalties being called.
6:07 PM - The Broncos forced a punt with some cautious pressure on 3rd and long, and a good tackle by Jonathan Baldwin. Dwayne Bowe hurt his neck and isn’t expected back. Good news for the Broncos. By the way, it’s starting to get chippy.
6:09 PM - Congratulations to the 2011 Oakland Raiders on becoming the most penalized team in NFL history on the opening kickoff of the second half. It’s quite an achievement, guys.
6:10 PM - Ugh. Denarius Moore beats Quentin Jammer deep for about 80 yards. Way to capitalize on that penalty, Chargers.
6:12 PM - Janikowski kicks another field goal. 24-16, Whale’s Vagina.
6:13 PM - Meanwhile, the Broncos continue to get the running game blocked. McGahee, Lance Ball and Eddie Royal are all having success on the ground.
6:14 PM - Tebow isn’t trying to hit tight windows that he needs to be trying to hit. Simms mentioned that he needs to learn what’s open in the NFL, and I agree completely.
6:17 PM - Rivers continues to hold up his end of the bargain, and is picking up some more first downs. The Raiders defense is susceptible to this, of course.
6:19 PM - Rivers is still playing pitch-and-catch, and Chris Harris deflects a 3rd and 5 throw to force the Chiefs into a three and out. Royal gets his first chance to return one, and it’s coming back on a bogus penalty. Kyle McCarthy dove to the side to avoid blocking in the back, and got called for a block in the back. Of course.
6:21 PM - Rivers hits Vincent Jackson in the back of the end zone. 31-16, Chargers. Why do I feel so uncomfortable being happy about this?
6:25 PM - Here’s a thought, brought to you by stupid Coors Light commercials on mute. How many Bengals fans would rather see the Broncos and Raiders win and knock the Bengals out of the playoffs with a loss to Baltimore? That keeps the Raiders’ chances alive to give up a second first-rounder by making it to the AFC Championship game. You have to think there are some insane draftnik fans who think like that.
6:29 PM - The Broncos have now run the ball 8 straight times, and are grinding out good yards. McGahee is on the sideline limping though. Bad news there. I’d like to see more Jeremiah Johnson.
6:30 PM - The Chiefs blow up a play action pass pattern and sack Tebow when he has nowhere to throw it. It looked like they knew what was coming. Colquitt punts inside the Chiefs 5, with a great play by Matt Willis to keep it out of the end zone. The Broncos defense has been much tougher since the second quarter began, so this has good potential here.
6:33 PM - How many NFL fans are going to go see Joyful Noise of their own free will? Just wondering. KC’s Branden Albert was probably pondering that same question when he false started at his own 3.
6:35 PM - Kyle Orton didn’t feel appreciated in Denver. Boo hoo. Going 4-14 in the last two seasons, and showing body language like you don’t really care will make people not appreciate you, jackass.
6:37 PM - The Broncos benefit from a meh punt by Dustin Colquitt and take over just inside midfield. That’s taking advantage of good field position by holding the other guys to a weak three and out. That’s now three of them in a row this half.
6:38 PM - Meanwhile, the Raiders got another short field goal from Janikowski, to pull within 12 points at 31-19. They’re trading 3 for 7, and that’s a great way to lose.
6:40 PM - The toss play out of the shotgun finally gets strung out on 3rd down and 5. Fox plays field position again. I can’t blame him – Chiefs ball at the 10 with 6:30 to go. Anything less than giving up a TD has to lead to the loosened up playcalling we see at Tebow Time.
6:42 PM - Jason Hunter just did a great job in man coverage on McCluster, forcing Orton to throw the ball out of bounds. That was a subtle hero play by Hunter.
6:47 PM - The Broncos burn a timeout on defense on first and 15. Jim Nantz said that Elvis Dumervil was limping off the field before we were whisked away to commercials. WTF? Is what’s happening in the game not important?
6:48 PM - Meanwhile, in Oakland, the Chargers are driving and taking advantage of the Raiders’ best efforts to pad their NFL record for penalties in a season. There are 13 minutes left, and the Chargers are looking like they’re in a favor-doing mood.
6:49 PM - Quinton Carter takes a dumb personal foul penalty for a late hit. So much for good field position, as the Chiefs cross midfield.
6:51 PM - Dumervil makes a huge play to stop a second-down McCluster run for a loss. The Broncos burn their second timeout on defense. This 3rd and 15 is huge, especially as Nick Novak just missed a field goal for the Chargers. Orton throws incomplete to set up Tebow Time.
6:53 PM - Broncos ball at the 20 with 3:59 to go and 1 timeout. This is what they call Tebow Time. He’s had a terrible game today on balance, and promptly makes a terrible deep throw to Decker into double coverage. The Chiefs commit an illegal contact penalty, though.
6:56 PM - The Chiefs secondary has been awesome in this game. Tebow just threw a good ball to the sideline on 3rd down, and Arenas broke it up with a great play while injuring himself. I think I would go for it on 4th and 7 here with 2:37 to go and 1 timeout. I would damn sure start using more 4 WR alignments as I watch Arenas go to the sideline hurt. But, the Broncos are going to punt. Of course they are.
6:58 PM - Palmer just threw a TD pass to Kevin Boss, but there’s a flag on the play, and Boss is down in the end zone. The penalty was unnecessary roughness on the Chargers. Fantastic. 31-26 Chargers with 9:37 to go.
7:00 PM - The Broncos defense did what they needed to do on first and second down. I imagine the Chiefs will run it after the 2-minute warning, and punt with about 1:20 to go. It’s not looking real good here, friends, but it’s over if the Broncos don’t tackle on this 3rd-and-12 play.
7:03 PM - We have a stop, and Thomas Jones didn’t even have the decency to run out of bounds like Marion Barber. The Broncos will have just over 1 minute and no timeouts. It sure would be a great time for a big Eddie Royal return.
7:08 PM - The Broncos lose the game. That last possession was a mess from the start. Now we’re rooting for the Chargers. Ugh.
7:09 PM - Literally, right after I changed the TV to the Chargers game, and took off the computer monitor, Malcom Floyd goes for a long TD to make it 38-26. Good news there.
7:12 PM - Win or lose in this Chargers game, I’m really disappointed with the outcome of the Broncos game. It was a pathetic showing by the passing offense, and a masterful one by Kansas City’s passing defense. I’m going to think this through some more before I talk more about it. For now, it’s wise to go radio-silent on the Broncos.
7:16 PM - Antoine Cason just picked off Carson Palmer. I think we may have lost the battle and backed into winning the war. 38-26 Whale’s Vagina, with 4:36 to go. Raiders have 1 timeout.
7:19 PM - Vincent Jackson runs for about 45 yards on 3rd and 7 via a double reverse. I’m on the phone with my brother, and all I could yell was “Interesting!” when the ball was flipped to Jackson, and then a louder “INTERESTING!” when he broke free. Interesting, huh?
7:23 PM - San Diego is kneeling on the ball on 2nd and 10 and 3rd and 11, just inside the 2-minute warning. They’ll punt, but 12 points in about 30 seconds is highly implausible.
7:27 PM - The Raiders run out of time. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 AFC West Champion Broncos. The Running Diary had little drama, because the games were pretty undramatic too. This is going to require some reflection overnight, I think. I’ll have more tomorrowish before this runs on Tuesday.
MONDAY NIGHT – 9:30 PM – So, I’ve given this a lot of thought, and while I am obviously disappointed with the way the last three games of the season went, I’m not apologizing for a division championship. The Broncos won the 8 games and overachieved their Pythagorean expectation. Some people will act like that’s bad, but where I come from, overachievement is always a good thing. I reject the notion that a higher draft pick is better than winning. This is not the NBA where picking in the middle of the first round every year is a death sentence. The NFL has 7 rounds, and good players can be found at any point in any one of those rounds. Save that “15th would be better than 21st and a playoff appearance” crap for somebody else.
I wrote an article, way back when, that announced that the Broncos had Rebuilding Fever. Even during the winning streak, as hard as it was to do, I’ve tried my best to stay grounded to that thought. As with when I wrote the article, the last three losses have made it easier for perspective to return.
This is a rebuilding team that overachieved and won a division championship. Woody Paige is an idiot if he thinks this is a "hallow" accomplishment.
Actually, Woody is an idiot anyway. The goal in the NFL is to win your division, make the playoffs, and give yourself a chance to win a championship, even if it's not a great chance. I learned this from Billy Beane in Moneyball - Make the playoffs, and worry about what happens there when you get there. The Broncos haven’t been to the postseason in six years, so I’m inclined to enjoy the experience next Sunday, regardless of the outcome. We’ll worry about the offseason once the Broncos lose again.
To address Mr. Tebow, I’m obviously very disappointed in his recent play. I don’t think that it necessarily proves anything, one way or another, but it’s definitely cause for concern. For his first 9 starts of the season, there were a lot of signs of progress, regardless of the stats. For the last two games, Tebow has looked bad in some areas in which he was previously making progress, and that’s very troubling.
I don’t ever like to say that a young player has regressed, because doing so implies that progression and regression routinely happen on a straight-line basis, and they don’t. Progress doesn’t put a player at a place where he’ll stop and always operate from, and regress doesn’t mean a player will never operate at a place where he once was but fell off from.
Fantasy football sucks for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones is that it encourages fans to see players as entities of expected statistical performance. That is a little opaque, so let me try to clarify this deep thought. If Matthew Stafford averaged 17 fantasy points per game last year, and he averages 20 this year, he improved. How did he get that 20 average, though? Was it 20 every week for 16 weeks, or was it four 10s, four 15s, four 25s, and four 30s? And then, in what order did they come in? Were the bad games bunched together? A fantasy owner just wants his or her 20 every week, on a straight-line basis, and that’s an unreasonable expectation.
I’m not going to make any apologies for Tebow, because he needs to get going and play better. We don’t necessarily have to see that improvement on Sunday, but it would help a great deal. If he doesn’t, then exploring other options for 2012 is very reasonable. The Broncos need a QB who can do the things necessary to win. For a while, it looked like Tebow was on that path, and lately it hasn’t. Football and life are competitive endeavors, and if the guy can’t do what he needs to do, then that’s the way it goes. As I’ve always said, I am a Broncos fan, and I could ultimately care less who the players on the team are, as long as they win.
Bill Polian, who has outstanding football management skills and who is a world class jerk, was fired on Monday. Tim Tebow, who has raw quarterbacking skills, and who is a very nice guy with great intangibles, can get fired too if he doesn’t do his job well enough. Performance has to be 360 degrees, or it’s deficient.
The Broncos have had an excellent season, vis-à-vis their talent, and should be commended. I get mad at John Fox for being too conservative, and at Mike McCoy for being too predictable with his playcalling at times, and even lately with Dennis Allen, for being reticent with his blitz packages at times. That group, and the rest of the coaches, got a great deal out of this team, though, and have done a terrific job overall.
Some players proved their worth, and others showed some flashes but have a way to go. We’ll start sorting that out soon, probably next week, if things go as expected against Pittsburgh. For now, let’s enjoy playoff football, and having as good a puncher’s chance as anybody else, even if it is just for one week.