It had to happen sometime. The Denver Broncos finally lost a game in 2013. A trip to Indianapolis revealed that the team is human by virtue of a 39-33 loss to the Colts. There was an abundance of hype, mostly generated when Colts owner Jim Irsay decided to make a circus of Peyton Manning’s homecoming and the media ran with it. I believe he was trying to shield his own Quarterback, Andrew Luck, from a barrage by the reporters. Irsay’s ploy had it’s intended result, in part. Truth be told, the Broncos have done wonders with the injuries they’ve had. The coaches and players won’t use it as an excuse and the entire league is suffering from this injury trend, but even though the Broncos have more roster depth than I’ve seen since the Super Bowl seasons, the fact remains, the NFL is an extremely competitive Association.
Coughing up the ball and committing unnecessary penalties are what cost the Broncos on Sunday. 4 Turnovers make it very difficult to win. Personal Fouls due to a lack of discipline during the last two games have been a problem. There were other factors involved in deciding this contest as well. The losses of All-Pro Left Tackle Ryan Clady and Linebacker and team Captain Wesley Woodyard have shown to be huge. Not only that, but the Offensive Line as a whole has been in flux. Chris Clark, Clady’s replacement, has done an admirable job, but he is a quality backup, not a quality starter. When Right Tackle Orlando Franklin got hurt last week, Right Guard Louis Vasquez moved over and Chris Kuper took his old position. Vasquez did okay as a stopgap and Franklin should be back for the Redskins game, but Kuper got bowled over a few times, clearly showing that he isn’t back in game shape. It is vital that Peyton Manning gets that protection up the middle. It has shown to be his vulnerable spot. With the team scrambling to fill the holes on the Offensive Line, it has kept the front five from maintaining cohesiveness, which is crucial to their success.
The loss of Woodyard has been tough as well. The Linebacking corps were the weakest link on the team coming into the season, though the Front Office did try to find a few Band-Aids that could hold this unit together for this season. They couldn’t afford an injury in the first place and Stewart Bradley, one of the stopgaps brought in via Free Agency, was lost to Injured Reserve and promising College Free Agent Lerentee McCray found the same fate. Nate Irving is coming on after being required to learn all three Linebacker positions and Danny Trevathan is definitely coming into his own, but Woodyard’s speed in the middle of the field has been a big difference-maker in coverage. We’ve seen that hole exploited in the last three games.
Of course, the Colts deserve much of the credit for their victory. Robert Mathis was in Pro Bowl form, disrupting Manning several times, putting on a pass rushing clinic and schooling Chris Clark. Andrew Luck threw 3 Touchdown passes and ran for another. Former Bronco Defensive Back Mario Butler got a measure of payback with 5 Tackles and 3 Pass Breakups. Cassius Vaughn, another ex-Bronco, made 2 Tackles, broke up a pass and averaged 29.3 yards on 3 Kickoff returns.
The Broncos got standout performances from Eric Decker, Wes Welker and Danny Trevathan in my opinion.
Even with all this happening, the Broncos still had a shot to win at the end. They put up 33 points and are still averaging 42.5 points a game. With that kind of firepower, we won’t see a 2-6 finish like 2009 when the Broncos began the season at 6-0 with Kyle Orton at the helm.
All is not lost. This is a speed bump on the road to the postseason.
– Kaptain Kirk