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Published on 09/13/2011 at Tue Sep 13 09:00.
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McFadden and Bailey

Darren McFadden #20 of the Oakland Raiders is tackled by Champ Bailey #24 of the Denver Broncos at the one yard line after rushing for 47 yards to set up a fourth quarter touchdown at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 12, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Raiders defeated the Broncos 23-20. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Broncos Six-Pack is a new weekly segment discussing six things we learned the day after the game. I hope you enjoy.

1. Giving credit where it’s due

This is a tough pill to swallow, Denver Broncos fans, but the Oakland Raiders are just better. Their defensive line outperformed the Broncos’ offensive line, sacking Kyle Orton five times and only allowing 38 rushing yards. The Raiders’ offensive line outmanned the Broncos’ defensive line, opening up 190 yards worth of rushing holes. In the most crucial plays, Michael Bush and Darren McFadden were able to run for double-digit yards.

The Raiders didn’t just out-phyical the Broncos, they outsmarted them too. While sloppy play and penalties were abundant on both sides, the Raiders didn’t commit another turnover after the fumble they yielded on their first offensive snap. They took the ball out of Jason Campbell‘s hands because they didn’t need to rely on him, effectively taking away the Broncos’ pass rushing strength on defense. They ran the football, didn’t turn it over, and did less to lose the game. Often, in the NFL, that’s all it takes.

2. Kyle Orton’s days are numbered

I said a few times this offseason that the biggest task for Kyle Orton would be to finish his typically-strong starts to a season. The trend he has set in Denver is to be statistically sound in the months of September and October before collapsing down the home stretch. In 2009, he boasted a 100.9 rating in his Broncos debut. In 2010, a respectable 89.8 in Week One (he had better numbers in several consecutive weeks). Last night? 71.3. It was 46.5 in the first half.

Kyle Orton sacked by Richard Seymour

Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton (8) is sacked by Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Richard Seymour (92) in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

That’s not going to cut it. That’s not going to win this Broncos team many games, and that’s not going to keep Tim Tebow at bay. Granted, his offensive line did little to help him. His receivers dropped a number of catchable balls. But Orton was directly responsible for two turnovers (an underthrown interception that led to three Raiders points and a ghastly fumble that led to seven). He may not have been the worst player on the Broncos’ offense last night, but as the quarterback — the only person who touches the football every single play — he needed to be better.

Finish the season strong? If he doesn’t pick it up quickly he won’t make it to October.

3. Same problems plague the Broncos

Let’s list them out, shall we?

  • Ground game grounded — 38 rushing yards? 2.9 ypc? I don’t want to look up whether this puts the Broncos back at the bottom of the NFL rushing ranks, because it probably does.
  • Can’t stop the run — Raiders rushers averaged 4.9 ypc. McFadden averaged 6.8.
  • Third down (in)efficiency — The Broncos finished 6-of-13, but they were 3 of 10 before that last drive. Unacceptable.
  • Red zone stalls — From the first drive to every other but the last, the Broncos were not able to punch it in. Would a Tim Tebow Wild Horse package killed them there?

These are all problems a veteran, reliable coach like John Fox is suppose to solve. So far, not so good.

On to some positives…

4. Eric Decker can flat-out play

Eric Decker

Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker (87) runs for a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders in the third quarter of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Eric Decker is 220 lbs., but on that 90-yard punt return, he was lighter than air, slicker than oil, smoother than butter. The kid runs with speed, authority and (did we mention?) smoothness. Furthermore, on a night when Eddie Royal and Willis McGahee were bit with a case of the dropsies, Decker was more than sure-handed — he was a playmaker. Tough, fast, and smart, he could very well end up being Josh McDaniels‘ best draft pick (as sad as that is).

5. Miller sackless, but impact still felt

Von Doom sack count: 0 (We’ll keep track of this all year). A bit of a disappointing debut on the stat sheet, but I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed overall. The Raiders were afraid to let Jason Campbell fling it around, limiting Batman and Robin’s chances, and Batman (Dumervil) was hurt from practice. Plus, let’s not forget Miller’s first-play forced fumble, which was ridiculously sick.

You know (if Doom is healthy) that “sacks” stat won’t stay at zero for long.

6. All that being said… A remarkable field goal was the only difference

Only twice in NFL history had a field goal from 63 yards been successfully attempted, but Sebastian Janikowski made it three against Denver. The final score was 23-20 — a three-point game. All that separated the Broncos from victory (or, at least a tie game) was a record-tying, nearly impossible field goal.

Put that into perspective. Last year’s final score was 59-14 at Mile High, a disgraceful showing that many consider to be the low point of the last 10 years (maybe franchise history). These Broncos didn’t quit. These Broncos put up a fight. Last year Denver went down 21-0 and didn’t bat an eye. Last night, yes, they were sloppy, undisciplined, and ineffective in fulfilling the promises of their head coach (better rush offense, better rush defense), but they still were within striking distance of a win when all was said and done.

That’s not terrible for a rebuilding team. They had as many turnovers in this game as they did in the massacre last year, but they were competitive. They didn’t quit. If John Fox can coach the slop out of them, next time they can win.

  • Anonymous

    The word you’re looking for is faith.

  • LevonZevon

    This implies the Colts are stupid enough to think the year has a point without Manning.  They knew months ago that he wasn’t going to play and didn’t announce it for fear that their fans would demand a trade for a QB like Hasselback.

    They are tanking it for Luck and want to emulate the way the Spurs got Tim Duncan at the tail end of David Robinson’s career.

    They know Kerry is all washed-up and they also know its a QB’s league (and one year of 1-15 is worth 15 of a superstar behind Center).

    In that sense, thank God for Janikowski’s field goal.  We can’t let any opportunity to lose pass up by.  Tebow might actually win 3-4 games with his running and moxie.

    And that would screw everything up.

    By the way, “wild-horses package” implies that Tebow is on the field with Orton.  We just need him to get ALL the snaps at Center when within 15 yards of the end-zone (to make the opposition MLB commit to spying him.. thus opening up the seams for a TE or slot receiver tos lant in for six points).

    If Orton is offended, tough noogies.  Let him scare defenses with his QB-draw abilities like Jason Campbell predictably did.  Otherwise, shut up and keep grooming your moustache to look tough, K.O.

  • LevonZevon

    Maybe even more useless than Robert “we’ll still waiting on you” Ayers.

    Jared Veldheer towered over our D-linemen at game’s end at mid-field (while Richard Seymour did the same to our three marshmallow’s in the middle of Denver’s O-line).  Just look at the final credits if anyone taped that long.

    Keep waiting for the altitude effect to show the advantages of speed-over-size 98-lb. weaklings, Broncos Management.  Maybe another 50 years without a man-mountain in his youth is all you need to prove the shrewdness of Elvis, Von, Ian Gold, Mike Croel, Kenny Walker, Wesley Wodyard and the other smurfs we line up to play tackle-football (while wondering why we always lose the battle of the trenches while never once bidding for guys like Bryant McKinnie, Leonard Davis or LaGarrette Blount)..

    Maybe Trevor Pryce. Lyle Alzado and Rich “Tombstone” Jackson are the only studs Denver could lineup in the trenches.  And no one will ever get added to the list unless they are above 32-years-old and injury-prone (see long list of the past decade of half-ton 35-year-old rentals).

    I wonder if Denver even considers guys like Packers 350 lb. Howard Green in the off-season.

    “He’s too heavy for the 8 home games in our altitude,” I can hear the X-man carefully reasoning aloud.

  • LevonZevon

    Too bad Bowlen wouldn’t interview Rex Ryan instead of believing McD’s boasts about making Tom Brady who he was (despite the chronological impossibility that any 8-year old not named Joe Ellis could have explained to him).

    We would have kept and improved Cutler, signed Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard– as we offered more $$$ than the Jets– and probably kept Marshall and a happy Peyton Hillis as well (thus using all those wasted picks on aggressive and strong 3-4 defenders who can bring the pass-rush).

    Oh, and Ryan would have brought in more CB’s to help Champ (to enable his max-blitzing scheme).

    Arghhhh.  Not enough of a company man or too dissimilar to a young Mike Shanahan?

    Only Pat Bowlen knows.  Rex showed up 45 minutes late for his Jets interview weeks later with Woody Johnson.  But they have an owner who understands football and grasps what players will like (and not be embittered by.. like a tin-eared Napoleaonic moron).

  • LevonZevon

    We’ll never know if its all Orton’s fault since all the other pieces suck too (besides Brandon Lloyd).

    If we had Hillis and WR’s named DeSean Jackson and Dez Bryant– both of which we could have drafted but failed to due to personality concerns– it would be easier to assess Orton.

    Speading out Bryant and Lloyd with Jackson in the slot and Hillis in the backfield could have allowed pitchouts like Shanny utilized the “White Rhino” for in his rookie year.

    But McD lied about his edge speed and benched him after one fumble.

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