After 3 Weeks, the Denver Broncos have been chipping away on their 2013 “To-do” list of goals. You may recall that John Elway stated early on in his tenure as V.P. of Broncos football operations, that winning at home (as in 8-0), winning the division games and going at least .500 on the road, were key goals for each season. So far, so good. The Broncos have a 3-0 record after 3 games, 2-0 at home and 1-0 against the division. Now I have always added the goal of sweeping Oakland simply because I’m a Raider Hater, so yesterday’s result could have only been better if the Broncos had pitched a shutout. As it was, the game was decided by halftime and that was fine with me.
It certainly wasn’t a mistake free game. I haven’t seen one yet in all my years of watching football, so I’m not holding my breath. Montee Ball had a Fumble for the 2nd week. Peyton Manning had two in the game. He was able to recover one, but both Fumbles were converted into Touchdowns by the Raiders. Turnovers are bad, MmKay?
However, there was noticeable improvement in other areas. There were 9 Missed Tackles by the Defense last week in New York. This week that number dropped to 3. Last week, the Broncos committed 13 penalties for 132 yards. Yesterday that number was decimated to 5 penalties for 40 yards.
On Offense, Peyton Manning continues his mastery. I mean, come on. 5 incomplete passes? The Sheriff went 32 of 37 for 374 yards (thats an 86.4% Completion rating), threw 3 Touchdowns, while yet having to throw 1 pick this season. Manning averaged 10.1 yards per pass and scored a 135.8 Passer Rating while dissecting the Oakland Defense with surgeon-like precision.
Because I could give Peyton the Game Ball darn near every week, we’ll just say he gets the MVP and hand out the Game Balls on Offense to someone else for each game.
That said, the three-headed rushing rushing attack, “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” did pretty well. Rock – Knowshon Moreno, is still running with swagger and dishing out punishment when he can. Yesterday’s results (12 rush, 39 yards, 3.3 avg) weren’t up to his standards, but were a good balance for the Broncos overall rushing game and kept the chains moving. Paper – Montee Ball gained 61 yards on 11 carries, shredding the Raiders for a 5.5 yard average, but had one miscue, a Fumble during the 4 minute Offense as the Broncos were trying to finish out the game. Scissors – Ronnie Hillman cut Oaklands “D” to pieces with 9 carries for 66 yards (a 7.3 avg) and a Touchdown. In all, the Broncos running game had 164 yards and a 4.7 average for the game.
I would be remiss if I didn’t give some love to the Offensive Line. While it’s true that Peyton got the ball off quicker during yesterday’s romp, his protection did very well. Zane Beadles was stellar in pass blocking and the only lineman that didn’t allow Manning to be touched. The other 4 allowed 1 Hurry each, Orlando Franklin was responsible for the hit on Manning and Chris Clark allowed the only Sack. Manny Ramirez graded out as the best Run Blocker, with Louis Vasquez second-best. The Broncos Offense also went 5-9 (55.5%) on 3rd downs, attesting to the outstanding effort of the Big men.
To get back on track, the Game Ball on Offense goes to Wide Receiver Eric Decker this week. Decker caught all 8 passes thrown to him, for 133 yards, a 16.6 average and a Touchdown. He broke 4 Tackles and gained 60 yards after the catch. After leading the league in drops through the first two games, Eric got back to his normal self. Perhaps the fact that he and wife Jessica are expecting their first child has had him distracted. Let’s hope that is the case.
Someone different will likely “step up” or better yet, be featured each week. It will all have to do with what the opposing Defense wants to take away. Peyton Manning has enough weapons that it doesn’t seem to matter what other teams want to do.
Despite allowing 21 points to the Raiders and 14 of those came in garbage time well after the game was decided, the Bronco defenders had a great game. Not perfect, but great from a team standpoint. Collectively they survived another week without Champ Bailey and Von Miller, two All-Pros. They held the league’s leading Rushing Offense to a paltry 49 yards and a TD (a 2.9 average). Most of that yardage came from Terrelle Pryor. The lone rushing score came in Garbage time on a 1 yd plunge by Darren McFadden with 1:15 left in the game. The Broncos held McFadden, who historically has done very well against Denver, to 9 yards on 12 carries. That’s an average of 0.8 yards! Oakland converted two 1st downs on the ground and were held to 5 for 12 (41.6%) on 3rd downs by the stout Defense of the Broncos. Terrance Knighton graded out as the best overall defender, but Danny Trevathan, Wesley Woodyard and Nate Irving flew all over the field, accounting for 23 Tackles out of 51 plays (45%).
I am giving the Defensive Game Ball to Robert Ayers. Despite only playing 30 snaps, Ayers had 6 pressures 2 Sacks, 1 QB Hit and 3 Hurries. He added 2 Tackles For a Loss making an effective effort.
The Defensive backfield was the weakest link during yesterday’s contest. Chris Harris made 5 Tackles, including one for a loss and rookie Kayvon Webster had 2 Pass Breakups filling in for Tony Carter, who was doing rather well before getting nicked up, but the DB’s committed all three Missed Tackles by the team. Kayvon, Harris and Duke Ihenacho each made a gaffe while attempting to Tackle a Raider. I noticed Webster went for the big hit instead of wrapping up for the sure Tackle. That is something for the rookie to work on.
Defensive Lineman Mitch Unrein had the Broncos only Kick Return, an 8 yard rumble as a result of Oakland not wanting to let Trindon Holliday bust a move. I’m glad that ST’s Coordinator Jeff Rodgers covered that in Training Camp, because Unrein muffed quite a few in practice. Trindon Holliday returned 3 Punts for a healthy 11.3 average, which is actually sub-par for the little man. The Broncos ended up in terrific field position in all three returns anyway, starting at about the 42 yard line.
Britton Colquitt only had to Punt once, a 37 yarder that Phillip Adams called for a Fair Catch at his own 9-yard line after the second drive of the 1st Quarter stalled for the Broncos.
The Special Teams Game Ball goes to the busiest player, Matt Prater. Matt Kicked 3 Field Goals (53, 41 and 40), converted 4 Extra Points for 1005 of his attempts. He Kicked off 8 times, with 6 Touchbacks. Oakland’s Jacoby Ford returned the two Kickoffs for a 22.5 yard average, with Nate Irving and Adrian Robinson each making a Special Teams Tackle.
Next up, the Philadelphia Eagles come to the Mile High City.
– Kaptain Kirk