Four Takeaways from Denver's Tough Loss to New England
Despite yet another loss, Broncos fans are staying optimistic about their season, their quarterback, their defense and their team.
And they have good reason to do so.
Peyton Manning turned in another great performance, throwing for 345 yards and three touchdowns while completing 70.5 percent of his passes. He did so against a decent pass rush and his teammates robbed him of better stats and a chance at winning.
A talented Patriots squad dissected Denver’s defense with ease in an enormous victory, which propelled them over the .500 mark for the first time since Week 1. Denver sunk below .500 for the first time since last year when Tim Tebow was quarterbacking the team.
However, there were a lot of positive things to take away from the game. Denver rallied at the end, but a couple of mistakes hurt them. If those mistakes can be fixed, good things can be expected from the Broncos.
Here are four takeaways from the loss.
Peyton Manning Is Still Peyton Manning
Denver only put up 21 points against a below-average secondary, but we are sure that Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning.
He threw three interceptions in the first quarter against the Falcons in Week 2, but that was the only quarter in which he threw an interception (in 20 quarters this year). His throws are on the money, and his decision-making skills are still superb.
Demaryius Thomas fumbled away a touchdown chance on the game’s first possession, Willis McGahee fumbled in the red zone and dropped a fourth down pass in New England territory and the pass rush got to Peyton at times. However, despite all this, Manning still played a great game and trusted his receivers.
Thomas, Eric Decker, Jacob Tamme, Joel Dressen and others got open, and Manning picked apart the defense while making short throws on the money and engineering long drives. He led a comeback attempt that fell short, but ultimately, it wasn’t his fault.
Denver has played great teams at the beginning of the season and they have kept these games close. Right now, they’re coming together as a team. With Manning still being himself, Denver will be a very scary team. All it takes is the team to come together.
Last year, the Broncos were optimistic with Tebow at quarterback. Now, they have a four-time MVP who has consistently played like the NFL great he is. Because Manning has bounced back so nicely and delivered hope into Denver, Broncos fans must remain positive about the quarterback.
Willis McGahee's Fumbling Problem Is Serious
Despite picking up a lot of yards and piloting a successful rushing attack, Willis McGahee does have some problems.
McGahee dropped a critical fourth down pass and he fumbled in the red zone to eliminate any chance of a miraculous win for Denver. He has had problems with holding on to the ball and the same goes for backups Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball.
When McGahee holds onto the ball, he is a god in Denver. He didn’t, though, and it cost the Broncos twice. He couldn’t find holes to run through, either, which led to an abundance of passing plays. That was especially odd considering John Fox is a run-first coach.
If McGahee can’t resolve his issue or at least cut down on his fumbles, then he won’t get as many carries and Denver will throw the ball more often. Ronnie Hillman has great vision and is a pass-catching threat, which suggests that he can take over at running back or at least split carries.
Fox is a patient coach, so he should give McGahee the bulk of the load next week against San Diego. However, Denver can’t deal with one fumble per game, so this is something to look out for.
Denver's Defense, Especially the Secondary, Needs to Step Up
Denver only allowed 31 points against a prolific offense, but that doesn’t show how bad they were.
Tom Brady easily shredded Denver’s secondary, especially on third down. New England ran for over 250 yards and averaged over 5 yards per carry, while rushing for three touchdowns. Brady ran for one, Ridley snuck in for another and Shane Vereen managed to score, too.
New England was conservative at the end of the game. At times, Denver’s pass rush clamped down on Brady. But usually, the pass rush didn’t come in time and there was always a receiver open.
This has been an ongoing problem for Denver, who has been victimized by long drives and deep passes. Linebackers have struggled, leaving lots of spaces open in the middle. Against good quarterbacks, that’s not going to work. And when the run is working, too, it’s tough to stop, especially for a depleted defense.
Champ Bailey isn’t the Champ Bailey of the past, Tracy Porter has struggled and Denver’s defense as a whole hasn’t been great. The pass rush is encouraging, but if they can’t get to the quarterback faster, long drives will be plentiful for opponents and games will be lost.
Manning Has Capable Receivers and Tight Ends
When Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow quarterbacked the Broncos, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker weren’t able to do much. But now, they are getting a chance to display their true talent on a big stage.
Thomas caught nine passes for 188 yards while getting open continuously and making plays. He fumbled in the red zone, which is a problem, but the rain may have caused that. And, to make up for the fumble, he made a beautiful one-handed catch to set up a touchdown.
Eric Decker made a great catch, too, and it was in the end zone for a touchdown. Jacob Tamme and Joel Dressen have been able to get open, with McGahee and Hillman being threats out of the backfield. Manning is studying his options, the offensive line is buying him enough time, and he is making smart decisions.
Passes have been dropped, but those issues are being resolved and are getting better each week. Everything is getting better each pay and the chemistry is visible.
A lot of people say that Manning transformed these receivers, and while he has let the world see their talents, Decker, Thomas and everyone else still knew how to play football. They have talent, they can get open and they will haul in passes from Manning.
Denver already has a lot of talented receivers. The thought of them getting better is scary for both teams and it’s something that opposing secondaries will have to deal with.