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Published on 10/03/2007 at Wed Oct 03 16:25.
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I’ve had a chance to review the game thanks to NFL Replay, and I’ve come to several conclusions. The first, is that this a pretty damn good team, despite what the collective fan nation may be thinking. Second, we really missed Javon Walker and John Lynch out there, more than you know. The third note is that we really need to learn to tackle.

We need to play perfect on offense to beat Peyton Manning, and we didn’t do that.

I think we have a good-to-great pass rush, and you could tell Manning was bothered at times. Forcing them to punt on their first possession was a direct result of Jarvis Moss getting around Manning’s ankles and forcing a throw into tight coverage by Ian Gold. There were other examples of this too, where guys like Moss, Dumervil and Rice were mere steps away from getting to Manning. But Peyton is just that good, and knows how to get rid of the ball when he needs to.

The Colts didn’t have much of a pass rush on Jay Cutler, and this seemed to be a direct result of what I like to call “Travis Henry paranoia.” They were constantly trying to step Henry. I couldn’t count how many plays he had over 10 yards.

But the one young mistake in the third quarter that immediately followed a quick Colts scoring drive cost the Broncos big time. Cutler’s pick was the turning point of the game. Suddenly we were in a deep hole. The Colts defense wasn’t stopping us any more than we were stopping them. It was really a fluke interception, but we can’t afford those against the Colts.

The offensive playcalling is just fine, settle down with the Fire Shanahan crap.

Seriously. The “red zone offense woes card” is getting way overplayed. We’re not even in the bottom half of the league in that department. Do you think for one minute if we had Javon Walker in the game, the Colts would have been smothering Brandon Marshall the way they were? With only one really big threat at receiver, the Colts cover two was perfect to shut down the passing attack for the most part, particularly in the red zone.

If I would have changed anything with the playcalling, it would have been minor at best. I would have liked to have seen Cutler throw the ball once before being relied on in the red zone during the first drive. I tend to notice he needs a few game passes to get warmed up – his first few throws just seem to be slightly off target every game.

Still, when we needed to extend a drive in the third quarter after the Colts had put up 14 in the blink of an eye, the offense faced a third and one. The call? Nine Broncos push the Colts defense to the right, and Cutler and Cecil Sapp roll to the left. Cutler could have crawled to make the first down, but he tossed it to Sapp who took it for ten more yards. Great call!

He used Daniel Graham as a receiver at least three times during that drive as well – that’s called a halftime adjustment. Noticing that Marshall is simply swamped, that the Indy defense is spending every spare man they can muster at covering him – they made the Colts pay play after play (yeah, that’s what I say) with quick throws to the tight end. A few plays later Shanny even lined Marshall in the slot, knowing he has the ability to break one off every time he touches the ball.

Capping it off? QB sneak. You really think the offensive playcalling was that bad?

It was the first drive the Broncos could complete after the fluke interception, and it resulted in a touchdown.

D.J. Williams is doing better than fine as a middle linebacker.

It’s just that our defensive line is horrible against the run. I think we have the worst DT rotation in the league right now. I’ll be honest, I’m missing my Browncos!

D.J. has incredible pursuit and lateral speed. I consistently see him moving left to right to make the play. Without him, so many of Joseph Addai‘s runs would have gone for so much further.

And he knows how to tackle. He made touchdown-saving stops at least twice in the game, where if any other member of the front seven had been there Addai would have plowed right through them. It’s just a shame these stops were on first and second downs and the Colts scored anyway in the next plays.

He’s flying to the football despite getting blocked consistently, and I’ve just been nothing but impressed with his adjustment to the middle. I’ve seen good and bad from Gold, and I would say Webster played much better in earlier games than he did last week, but D.J. is far and away the star of the linebackers, and he’s on pace for over 150 tackles.

Champ Bailey needs a half decent run defense and special teams to repeat last year’s success.

The 3rd and 3 call in the 4th quarter went to TE Dallas Clark, right over Bailey. I mean, he just got plain beat, it’s that simple. But do you think he would have gotten beaten if he wasn’t the team player that he is, helping out in run support and special teams?

It was obvious he was watching for a running play on third and short. Clark blew right past him. This is EXACTLY what brings Domonique Foxworth‘s quote from his recent blog post into light:

I’d say one of the things right now we’re really lacking and we’re working on is just experience with each other. We have a lot of league experience, but this is the first time for a lot of us working together, and that type of experience and continuity is very valuable. … We’ve added a ton of talent, but just the continuity in working together is something we need to improve upon and just be able to trust that each other is going to be where we need to be on particular plays.

You think Champ trusts this run defense to stop them on third and three? Hell no. He’s a team captain, and he believes in his teammates, but he’s not going to act like a fool out there and abandon the run defense. He got caught peeking at the running back, and there isn’t another quarterback who will make him pay more dearly for that than Peyton Manning. That said, he was still only a half step behind Clark and tackled him the moment the catch was made.

Field Position isn’t just about kick returns

The Broncos have forced two turnovers in two weeks. One of those turnovers gave us the ball at our own one yard line – not exactly glowing field position, but of course we’ll take a red zone turnover any day.

Our opponents have forced four turnovers on us, and each time we’ve given them simply outstanding field position. Twice now these turnovers have happened on the Broncos’ opening possession of the second half.

We’re not getting the picks we’re used to, and the reason is simple. The teams aren’t challenging Bly and Bailey – they’re throwing quick passes underneath or running it down our throats. If we can get a big lead against a quarterback who isn’t a freaking robot (ahem Philip Rivers), we’ll force our opponent to throw deep and that’s when our two stud corners can go to work.

Few last minute thoughts and notes on the game –

  • The offense seems to go as the guards go. When either Myers or Holland pull to the other side, beautiful runs happen. Similarly, when they’re slow to get off the ball our running game struggles.
  • John Lynch would have made a few big plays in the second quarter to keep the Colts out of the end zone. Losing him, we lose an edge to our defense that keeps tight ends and running backs nervous when they enter the middle of the field. We need a hard-hitting safety who can cover, it’s just that simple, and Lynch at least fills the first half of that description.
  • Our young defensive ends are going to be special.
  • I’ve noticed that Cutler is locking in on receivers. Fourth quarter, 3rd and 7, the Broncos still have hope with over 8 minutes remaining. Colts blitz heavy and Cutler locks onto Brandon Marshall. Pressure is heavy and Cutler gets the ball off quickly, but it’s incomplete. Glenn Martinez was wide open in the slant a mere five yards behind Marshall and could have easily moved the chains – Marshall wasn’t even in a position to get the first down anyway.

I’m not surprised we lost this game. The Colts offense and defense is better, and they were at home. But we’re in great shape to win this weekend and have a very talented team that can still go deep into the playoffs. Yardage-wise, we still have the 5th ranked offense and 6th ranked defense. We’re losing, but we’re still showing signs of greatness (unlike the Chargers who rank 25th and 26th in those categories).

Let’s win at least 2 of the next 3 games at home and head into the traveling portion of our schedule ready to rumble.

  • Jonathan Douglas

    Great points!

    I would also add to your comment on Cutler’s reads, that I remember even the announcers pointing out a redzone play in that game in which Cutler was locked on a receiver and totally overlooked Stokley (who was so widely open he was waving his hands like he was in a pickup flag football game).

    I think that comes back to experience and having time with Shanahan to learn from his game tape. It seems to me that Jay has very sharp games after a disappointing showing the week before (I think he’s motivated to get it right).

    And as we’ve said time and time again, he has all the talent he needs to be great. Now he just needs time to learn from one of the best QB head coaches in the league.

    I’m looking forward to seeing Culter have a good game vs SD.