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Published on 09/19/2011 at Mon Sep 19 22:48.
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Fat Tire Six Pack

Fat Tire: My Colorado beer of choice. (I'm an exiled Coloradoan; your favorite local brews in the comments).

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

1. This was the 2nd best win in Kyle Orton’s Broncos career

Orton said it was his best, but we’ll leave those honors to his Week Five performance in 2009. (Since it’s a game I so often cite in my pro-Orton arguments on Twitter, I’ll remind you — Orton executed a 98-yard touchdown drive in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots to tie the game. Then he did it again in overtime, moving the Broncos into game-winning field goal range).

Back to 2011… Orton wasn’t perfect Sunday; he wasn’t even spectacular. His stripped fumble in the third quarter had his critics groaning once again. But considering the handcuffs placed on his offense by injury, he was efficient, careful, and dangerous enough to keep the Cincinnati Bengals defense honest.

Kyle Orton

Quarterback Kyle Orton #8 of the Denver Broncos drops back to pass against the Cincinnati Bengals at Invesco Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

“This is one of the best wins that I’ve ever been a part of, and I’ve been a part of a lot of them,” Orton said. “This is a great win, to handle it the way we did, to have a total team win. The defense played great, we ran the ball great, and made enough plays in the passing game to get the win.”

Just consider the adversity Orton faced. With Brandon Lloyd, Eddie Royal, and the Thomases (Demaryius and Julius) out for most of the game, Orton was left with Eric Decker and Matthew Willis as viable targets (and Tim Tebow as a headline). He still made the most of this situation. Most notably, Orton hit Eric Decker deep for two impressive, take-me-off-your-fantasy-sleeper-list touchdowns, not allowing the Bengals’ defense to stack eight in the box and shut down Broncos runners.

Speaking of Tebow… between billboards and boo-birds, Orton had to know his start against the Bengals could be his last. As steadfast as John Fox claims to be, a terrible performance speaks a lot louder than fan angst. Orton didn’t let the pressure get to him.

But this was a total team win; Orton just did his part. He finished 15/25 for 195 yards, two TDs, no interceptions, and a 111.2 passer rating. That, and the ‘W’, will keep the cries for Tebow quiet for at least another week.

2. The Broncos defense held on when it mattered

The Broncos’ defense, bleeding yards and points throughout the second half, can be summed up in one word: clutch. They held the Cincinnati Bengals to 0 for 10 on third downs until their very last drive, where the Bengals improved to a whopping 1 for 11. That’s clutch. Late in the game, with the Bengals threatening to take what would have been their first and the last lead of the game, Broncos defenders Robert Ayers, Jonathan Wilhite, and Wesley Woodyard displayed great speed and aggression in pressuring, sacking, and defending the passes of QB Andy Dalton. Clutch again.

“I thought it was a character, toughness type of win,” Coach John Fox said Monday. “We had two big stops on defense in the last five minutes of the game that were critical. We were only up two points, so a field goal would have been the difference.”

“I’m just thinking, ‘Don’t let them get in field-goal position,'” Joe Mays said. “We were only up two points, and we knew if we got them in field-goal position, there was a chance we might lose the game.

“It was time for the defense to bow up, step up, make a couple plays here and there, and we were able to do that.”

3. Eric Decker just gets it

“Eric is a great player,” Kyle Orton said after the game. “Eric is one of those guys that you can tell is just ready to take off and take it to that next level.”

He’s already reached it. With eight receptions for 166 yards, Decker already has two more catches and 60 more yards than he had all of last season. He’s making great adjustments and developing a real chemistry with Kyle Orton.

Not only is Decker fast and sure-handed, but he’s smart and personable with the fans. On Monday night he tweeted, “Gotta give a lot love and appreciation to all you fans out there! Let’s keep the excitement rolling! #broncoscountry” That, a bunch of touchdowns, and a Mile High Salute or two surely helps his reputation with the fans.

Von Miller first sack

Denver Broncos Von Miller (L) sacks Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (R) for a loss during their NFL football game in Denver, Colorado September 18, 2011. (REUTERS/Mark Leffingwell)

4. Von Doom Sack Count: 1.

Great game by the rookie. Elvis Dumervil was out, but Von Miller was still able to get to the quarterback.

But Miller’s effect was much greater than what can be measured by his first NFL sack. He repeatedly commanded double teams from Bengals’ offensive linemen, most notably in the defense’s coup d’etat, Jonathan Wilhite’s blitz sack of Dalton. Wilhite doesn’t have a clear path to the quarterback without Miller eating up a double team.

Miller enjoyed the first sack on his stat card, but he enjoyed his team’s first victory on the scoreboard more.

“It (the sack) doesn’t feel as good as win No. 1,” said Miller. “Hopefully we can get some more wins.”

5. Five things I think Peter King thinks I think

a. I think the Broncos thought Brandon Lloyd would play. They didn’t sign another wide receiver or promote Eron Riley from the practice squad, and Lloyd reportedly worked out before the game, going so far as to put on his game pants and thigh pads before deciding, with trainers, that he couldn’t go. That’s enough to suggest to me that the Broncos and Lloyd had planned on the 2010 Pro Bowler suiting up. And maybe, against a division rival or a tougher opponent, Lloyd would have toughed it out. Let’s just be glad the Broncos didn’t need him to and were able to pull out a win anyway.

b. I think they’ll address the receiver position this week. Royal and Julius Thomas are out for at least two weeks, and we don’t know if Lloyd or Demaryius Thomas would be available Sunday in Tennessee (though I expect Lloyd will be). Still, the Broncos are in need of at least another body at wide receiver.

Broncos cheerleader

A member of the Denver Broncos cheerleaders performs during a break in the action against the Cincinnati Bengals at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Funny how Brandon Stokley signed with the New York Giants last week. There’s a former Bronco Mike McCoy could have used (particularly against the Bengals). The Giants also have Domenik Hixon — two former Broncos wide receivers that could have opened up the playbook had former coaches done things differently.

c. I don’t think Knowshon Moreno survives this season as the starter. Willis McGahee’s tough 101-yard rushing performance came on the veteran’s first start in a Broncos uniform. It took Moreno 20 games to eclipse a 100 yards rushing in a single game, and it’s a feat he’s only performed twice (both against Kansas City in 2010). And with his propensity for injuries, it makes sense for the Broncos to lean more heavily on the experienced, tougher McGahee. Moreno’s faster, and I think he retains his starting job when he initially returns, but by season’s end either injury or production will have McGahee starting in his stead.

d. I think I’ve underestimated Lance Ball. I was never overly impressed with the short and stout Terp runner, but he ran with authority against the Bengals. He rushed six times for 28 yards (4.7 average), which aren’t overwhelming stats, but I’m simply commenting on his running style. He passed the ol’ “eye ball test” Sunday afternoon. Ball lowered his shoulder and ran downhill with power. I’m excited to see what he can do as he progresses this season.

e. I think D.J. Williams’ days in Denver may be numbered. The old NFL “rule” that you can’t lose your starting job to injury will hold true for Williams… at least in 2011. Credit his productive history and leadership for that, but it says nothing of 2012. The Broncos owe D.J. $11 million over the next two seasons, but they’re getting the same productivity out of Wesley Woodyard for a lot cheaper right now. Woodyard has been effective in run support and superb at times in coverage, and he’s been a special teams captain since his rookie season, so the Broncos wouldn’t miss the leadership element. D.J. Williams’ strongest selling point may be his versatility — he’s played in all three positions in the 4-3, but the Broncos seem set in their other positions too. Joe Mays is laying the wood (he played much better than last week), and they’re not about to bench Miller.

6. Mistake-prone Broncos are lucky they weren’t facing a tougher team.

The fourth quarter was a cornucopia of near-apocalyptic errors by the Broncos’ offensive and special teams units, and they won’t be able to survive such critical mistakes against better competition in the future.

First, Ryan Clady‘s holding penalty eliminated a nine-yard Willis McGahee run, leaving the Broncos in a 1st and 20 situation with less than four minutes to play. The Broncos had a real chance to run out the clock there, but the left tackle’s penalty gave the Bengals life.

A few plays later, McGahee made a mental gaffe of his own, running out of bounds on third down and killing the clock instead of allowing it to wind down to the two-minute warning. Not only did the Bengals have life, they had time.

Finally, on the ensuing punt, Britton Colquitt lost 45 yards of net punt yards on his stat sheet following a Chris Harris out of bounds penalty. His initial 82-yard boomer was re-kicked after Harris failed to return in bounds in time. More important than Colquitt’s stats was the field position it afforded the Bengals. They were a field goal away from the upset, and only twenty yards away from the field goal.

Any of those mistakes could have doomed the Broncos to a loss. The combination almost surely should have. But the Broncos were tougher, better coached, and fortunate to be playing the Bengals Sunday. They need to tidy up if they hope to steal a win on the road against Tennessee or Green Bay over the next two weeks.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with just about everything you said except the Knowshon and DJ Williams statement.. Don’t you think we were deprive so much talent these past years.. who is to say that Woody isn’t playing for a contract.. and yes Woddy balled out last Sunday but he can easily been called for P.I. on that second to last play.. DJ Williams is a beast and he brings the attitude to our LB core.. 
    As for Knowshon don’t let the hype of a 100+ game blow you away.. i wish we had two WR against the Raiders so we could have had a fullback in there for Moreno.. It looked like the same old 3 WR 1 TE 1 RB formation and our O-Line got handled.. Moreno is going to rush for 1000+ this year
    Cassius Vaughn was lucky he wasn’t targeted.. but so long as we dail up the pressure  we’re good for another W.

    P.S. i remember posting on draft day that we now have the Von-Doom pass rush.. check your database 

  • Jrod

    everything sounds about right to me…but i think DJ is here for a long while, you don’t just let talent like that go, especially in the 4-3 system we are now using…

    as far as knowshon goes, if he stays healthy i really think he has the potential to be a consistent 1000 yd back.  he has the downhill style that is essential in a j. fox system and is elusive enough to get the homerun plays.  if you want more in short yardage that’s why you have two backs systems all over the NFL these days and willis more than covers that area.  again he just has to STAY HEALTHY which with knowshon has been a failure to this point…

    i have been surprised at the number of mental gaffes this team has made. i thought under a old-school vetern like fox that kind of thing would go away. i still have faith it will and that it may just take time, but championship teams definitely don’t get called for as many stupid things as we have these past two games…

    the biggest thing i loved about the game was the coaching.  we were obviously much better coached than the bengals were and it showed.  i especially approved of allen having the rocks to call blitzes on those critical late-down plays on the last bengals drive.  no game is won playing prevent and i like the emphasis on pressure even in do or die spots like that…

    P.S. 1554 new belgium no question

  • 5280

    i dont know what these two above me see  out of moreno that makes him a 1000+ back.  he doesnt run north and south, he runs east and west constantly and thats a piece of what killed us against the raiders.  I think its clear that McGahee should be starting from now on and i dont think they should wait until mid season like Monty thinks.  If they wait too long on that decision they could have a mediocre season at best.  Not that knowshons talents wouldnt be utilized in other ways.  I think he should be use primarily on passing downs and third down.  they need to get him out in space. he’s not a between-the-tackles type of back. But, what also helped Mcgahee on sunday was they different types of running plays the Broncos were implementing in this game compared to the last.  Denver used a lot of pulling techniques, pulling one or 2 sometimes 3 lineman out in front of the running back giving him a moving wall to run behind.  Thats somehthing they didnt do a whole lot of against the raiders.

    However, I agree with these guys about DJ. He’s got a whole lot left in the tank.  He is way to versitile and he is way too high energy to just get rid of.  And i think is worth every cent of that $11 mill. With the absence of so many elements on defence in recent years, one thing the Broncos have always been able to claim is good, fast, sideline to sideline type of LB’s, and DJ Williams is the biggest reason why.

  • matty d

    Upslope pale ale Upslope Brewing Company Boulder

  • Mike Birtwistle

    Excellent photographical choice to illustrate Peter King’s points.  I approve of this and would like to see more examples.

    Funny King should mention Hixon and Stokely, I was thinking the other day about if I could have any ex Bronco back who would it be – I made a hard choice between Peyton Hillis and the guy I decided I would like back – Domonique Foxworth.  If we never forgive McD for trading Hillis, we should never forgive Shanahan for trading / not re-signing Foxworth.

  • Anonymous

    Great piece Monty.

    Orton: “my biggest win and I’ve been in a lot of them”… seriously KO??  Orton is fine if everything else around him is working well.  A good running game and solid defense makes all average or less than average QB’s look good.  The problem is when you need him to step up.  For every NE game you mention there are 6-7 Raider games looming.

    Moreno is a bust.  Not sure where people are coming up with him being a downhill runner?  He doesn’t run with speed  or quicknes (rarely makes the first guy miss), dosen’t run with power, dosen’t have run with instinct and doesn’t run with heart and toughness.  Good RB’s do one of those things great and he simply does not.  Magahee runs with heart and toughness!!

    I hope DJ is here for the long haul.  He has had to play outside of his natural postion (weakside LB) since his rookie year where he was damn near rookie of the year.  He’s a Bronco at heart.

    Way too many mistakes, but did think this game was a chacter builder for this team.  To be a good team, this team needs to believe (I mean truly believe) it can go out and win every single week no matter what.  This was a good step with many more to go.  Just think what it would be like had they lost that game…

  • Kyle

    Moreno a downhill runner. um, no.
    Most easily tackled RB in NFL,
    two years in a row fewest runs of >20 yds
    among all starting NFL RBs.
    He is not a starting RB. He should be
    salvaged as a Glyn Milburn type.
    It’s a waste to run him between the tackles.

    McGahee won the job. Moreno will add
    to the offense as a role player..
    But as staring RB, no.

  • Anonymous

    I still don’t think Joe Mays is playing at any starting level. That guy needs to go.

  • areferee

    My favorite brewski:

    New Belgium’s 1554 (an Enlightened Black Ale)

    In honor of Demaryius Thomas and Knowshon Moreno, Bronco’s perennial Black Ails.

  • Anonymous

    Willis was down inbounds on that run.  That was a terrible call.  

  • King

    Little Kings Cream Ale