Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Denver Broncos: Full Report Card Grades for Denver
Turnovers were the name of the game, and it was Peyton Manning who lost the ball three times on Sunday. Manning fumbled and lost two snaps, plus he threw one interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Getting careless with the football allowed the Jaguars to hang around a lot longer than most expected. The Jaguars did a good job of putting Manning under duress as much as they possibly could.
The Broncos' saving grace was Knowshon Moreno on Sunday. He's enjoying a resurgence in 2013, and his three rushing touchdowns helped put the Broncos over the top.
It's Moreno's attitude that is energizing the offense. He's running hard and punishing defenders on most every carry. The Broncos can be the bully when Moreno is in the zone like he was in Week 6.
Moreno’s three rushing scores tied for the third most in a single game in Broncos history and the most since Tatum Bell had three against the Chargers in 2005. He is also the NFL leader with seven total rushing touchdowns this year, tying his career high set during his rookie season of 2009.
We once again saw Wes Welker get into the end zone for the Broncos. His eight receiving touchdowns this year tie 2007 for second place for the most in a single season during his career. In 2011, Welker caught nine touchdown passes for the New England Patriots.
Welker became the 27th player in NFL history to post 800 career receptions on his 20-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. He joins Broncos Ring of Fame wide receiver Rod Smith as the only two undrafted players to reach that milestone.
Welker’s touchdown marked his team-leading eighth score in 2013. He also tied the team record for most consecutive games (6) with a touchdown catch.
Tight end Julius Thomas made a difference on Sunday. He hauled in four passes for 22 yards and one touchdown. Thomas did catch another pass in the end zone, but the referees examined the play and decided he didn't have control with both feet inbounds.
After six games, Thomas has seven touchdown receptions. He's on pace to smash the team record for receiving touchdowns in a year for a tight end (Shannon Sharpe, 10, in 1996 and 1998).
The offensive line was banged up again when right tackle Orlando Franklin went down in the second half with a knee injury. There's no word yet on the severity, but Franklin was seen on crutches in the locker room after the game.
The Broncos defense had trouble slowing down the Jaguars' passing game. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon was able to regularly burn any Broncos defender tasked with covering him. Blackmon finished the game with a whopping 14 catches for 190 yards.
This win keeps the Broncos among the ranks of the undefeated in the NFL. In fact, Denver and Kansas City remain as the only unbeaten teams in 2013.
This win over the Jaguars also gave the Broncos their franchise-record 17th-consecutive regular-season victory. This mark ties the Chicago Bears (1933-34) for the fourth-longest streak in NFL history. That number is only six behind the top spot in the record books, as the Indianapolis Colts (2008-09) won 23 consecutive regular-season games.
By scoring 35 points in Week 6, the Broncos own the record (265) for most points scored in the first six games of the season. The previous record was held by the 2000 St. Louis Rams, who scored 262 through their first six games.
After the game, Broncos head coach John Fox commented on whether the team felt dissatisfied with its performance even though it won by 16 points:
“I think it’s just noise on the outside to be real honest with you. I think all these games are hard. I’ve heard people tell me it looks easy—there is nothing about it that’s easy. It’s all hard. I’m just pleased that we’re sitting here 6-0 and getting two games away from the bye week. All of our focus is on Indianapolis coming up soon.”
Teams don't get style points in the NFL. It's all about the record, and the Broncos have an unblemished one at 6-0.
Check out the grades for each Broncos player against the Jaguars.
All quotes and injury/practice observations were obtained firsthand. Record information provided via email from the Denver Broncos.
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Peyton Manning: B
This is the first time in 2013 Manning hasn't received an "A+" for his performance on the football field. He was off on Sunday against the Jaguars, turning the ball over three times.
The Jaguars brought plenty of pressure on Manning, and they were getting some hits on the veteran quarterback after he would release a pass. This put Manning under duress, and he made mistakes because of it.
Manning tried to throw into double coverage to fit a pass into Wes Welker down the seam. He threw with proper touch but failed to recognize linebacker Paul Posluszny reading his eyes underneath. Posluszny stepped in front of the pass and returned it 59 yards for a touchdown.
In addition to the pick-six, Manning also had two fumbles against the Jaguars. He didn't go after either fumble, and both were recovered by the Jaguars. After the game, Manning explained why he didn't go after the fumbles when they hit the ground. “I didn’t think I could get them.” Manning said.
After the game, Broncos head coach John Fox commented on whether or not he was worried about the fumbled exchanges between Manning and center Manny Ramirez.
“I was really concerned when we gave it to the other team. It’s all a concern and something we’d like to address and work at. We practice it every day, but we’ll have to practice it a little bit more every day.” Fox said.
With his two touchdowns, Manning passed Dan Marino for second place in NFL history with his 204th career game with at least one touchdown pass.
This could have been another "A+" performance from Manning had the turnovers not happened.
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Knowshon Moreno: A
Moreno was the heart and soul of the Broncos offense on Sunday. His tough running style set the tone for the rest of the team. The Jaguars played with a physical edge on defense, and Moreno made sure to punish them every time he touched the ball.
After the game, Moreno earned high praise from quarterback Peyton Manning:
“Knowshon was huge. His red-zone running was huge. I thought the running game got going a little bit better [in the] second half. We had better first- and second-down production. And then he caught the ball well. We had a couple incompletions on first down. That’s been kind of rare for us. We have been really good on first- and second-down completions. Talk about staying in phase, we had some first- and second-down incompletions which made it more difficult for us on third down. Knowshon was awesome, especially down there in the red zone.”
Ronnie Hillman: C-
Hillman had another fumble on Sunday. It was his first of the regular season, but his fourth since the preseason. The Broncos were able to recover the fumble, so Hillman was allowed to get a few more touches later in the game.
He showed his trademark explosion as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. Hillman finished the game with five carries for 20 yards and two catches for 16 yards.
Montee Ball: C-
Ball didn't cough up the ball like Hillman did, but he failed to impress once again on Sunday.
Yes, he had a long run of 15 yards in the first quarter, but the hole on that play was big enough to drive a Mack truck through. Ball has to do a better job of creating his own space when the blocking doesn't open up a gaping hole.
Ball finished the game with only 15 yards on three carries. He gets a low grade because of his rushing total, but also because of his performance as a receiver out of the backfield.
He had two bad drops in this game, and the rookie failed to record a reception because of them.
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Demaryius Thomas: A-
Thomas wasn't really able to shake free until later in this game. The Jaguars defense did a good job of keeping safety help over the top against the Broncos' deep threat.
When the Broncos tried a wide receiver screen, it was quickly sniffed out by the Jaguars. They also did a good job of wrapping up Thomas quickly after the catch to minimize his run-after-the-catch ability.
Thomas did overpower the defense late in the game with a big 42-yard catch. That play bumped up his total numbers for the day. Thomas finished with three catches for 78 yards.
Wes Welker: A+
Welker continues to get it done at a high level. Even though he wasn't known as a huge touchdown machine with the Patriots, Welker has certainly become one with the Denver Broncos.
He's caught a touchdown every week for the Broncos, setting a new NFL record for the most consecutive games (6) recording a touchdown catch with a new team.
After the game Welker talked about getting some tough wins over the last two weeks:
“I think it’s big for us to understand that every game is going to be tough and we got to come regroup at halftime and put it all together. Put it all together all 60 minutes and be on top of what we need to do. I’m proud of the way we came out there and played, especially in the second half and really the way we started the game. There was a lot of bad football out there and we got to correct that stuff and get better next time.”
Eric Decker: A
Decker gets a top grade this week for a couple of reasons. He didn't get into the end zone, but he did make difficult catches against the Jaguars. Decker finished the game with five catches for 50 yards on seven targets.
He gets a bump in his grade for quick thinking. After running back Ronnie Hillman fumbled, it was Decker who reacted quickly and pounced on the football.
Andre Caldwell: C
The Broncos showed off a trick play when Caldwell gathered in a toss on an end-around. He quickly scurried down the field for seven yards on that play.
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Julius Thomas: A
Thomas had another huge day for the Denver Broncos. He is tough to match up against because of his size-and-speed combination.
Thomas scored another touchdown for the Broncos, bringing his season total to seven. He hauled in another pass in the end zone, which was originally signaled as another touchdown. However, after booth review, the officials decided Thomas did not have control and two feet down.
The second touchdown would have pumped up the numbers, but Thomas still did a fantastic job and finished with four catches for 22 yards and one touchdown.
Thomas talked after the game about how the Jaguars' energy disrupted the offensive rhythm:
“They play with great energy. Sometimes we didn’t match that. I think there were some possessions where we came out where we were out there but we weren’t playing with the intensity that they were playing at. I think we punted more this game than we have in a while.”
Virgil Green: C
Green has developed into a quality run-blocker. He didn't show up in the box score as a receiver, but he helped the ground game produce on Sunday.
Joel Dreessen: C
Like Green, Dreessen is also a good run-blocker. He recorded his first catch of the season against the Jaguars, a four-yard reception.
Jacob Tamme: C
Tamme saw a few snaps for the Broncos in two-tight end sets. He did not record a catch but did shine on special teams once again.
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Chris Clark: A
Clark continues to provide quality protection for Peyton Manning's blind side. Manning was not sacked on Sunday, and Clark's play was a big reason why. Clark also continues to be a standout run-blocker as well.
Zane Beadles: A
Beadles played the role of enforcer for the Broncos. He stood strong against the Jaguars' active front, and he got into it with Andre Branch after at least one play. Beadles is known as a fiery player, and he didn't back down from the challenge on Sunday.
Manny Ramirez: B-
There was a problem between Ramirez and Manning on Sunday. Two fumbled exchanges that were lost to the Jaguars helped Jacksonville hang around.
Louis Vasquez: A
Vasquez did a good job at his starting position of right guard. He is a road-grader as a run-blocker and helped spring Knowshon Moreno on his three touchdown runs.
Vasquez gets a higher score because he moved to right tackle after the injury to Orlando Franklin. He earned praise from quarterback Peyton Manning after the game.
Orlando Franklin: B+
Franklin ended up leaving this game with what the team is calling a knee injury. After the game, I saw him in the locker room on crutches.
Orlando Franklin knee injury his return is questionable #Broncos— Cecil Lammey (@cecillammey) October 13, 2013
No word on the severity of Franklin's injury at this time. Losing him for an extended period of time would hurt the team after already losing left tackle Ryan Clady for the season.
Chris Kuper: A
Kuper is a seasoned veteran who can play anywhere across the line of scrimmage. Once Franklin went down with injury, we saw Kuper take over at right guard as Vasquez kicked outside. Kuper stepped in and the team didn't skip a beat.
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Derek Wolfe: B+
Wolfe did a fantastic job as a run defender against the Jaguars. He redirected the play to the inside on most occasions and did a good job of controlling his man. Wolfe had two tackles, including one for a loss against the Jaguars. He would have gotten a higher grade had it not been for an offsides penalty he received on a 4th-and-1 play. The penalty allowed the Jaguars' drive to continue.
Malik Jackson: A+
Jackson had a fantastic game against the Jaguars, finishing with two sacks on the day. He was constantly harassing quarterback Chad Henne and did a good job of using multiple moves to create pressure.
He had his first career sack last week against the Cowboys, and Jackson carried that momentum over to this week. After the game, he talked about that:
“Yeah, you know because I’ve been working really hard this week and this season to get those sacks and they kept slipping out of my hands. Last week was the first one and hopefully they just keep falling in my lap.”
Not only did he get pressure, but he also wrapped up his man as a run defender. Jackson also got his hands up and deflected a pass against Jacksonville.
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Terrance Knighton: C
The Broncos' run defense was put to the test against Maurice Jones-Drew. Knighton did a good job of taking up space, forcing Jones-Drew to find other spots to run. He did let Jones-Drew slip out of his grasp once, failing to wrap up when the veteran back spun out of his clutches.
Kevin Vickerson: B+
Like Knighton, Vickerson did a good job of redirecting traffic in the middle of the line. Vickerson showed an impressive vertical when he leaped to bat down a pass in the second quarter. That play stopped the drive and forced the Jaguars to attempt a field goal.
Mitch Unrein: B+
Unrein came in as a rotational player and played with great energy. He finished with two tackles against the Jaguars, both solo. Unrein also continued to work as a short-yardage fullback for the Broncos, blasting open holes for Knowshon Moreno near pay dirt.
Sylvester Williams: C+
Williams made a few plays early in the game against the run. He was stuffing the run, and he showed good spring in his step at the snap of the ball. He was even credited with one quarterback hit.
Williams injured his neck in this game and did not return. There's no word on the severity of the injury at this time.
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Danny Trevathan: A+
Trevathan did a good job getting middle pressure on quarterback Chad Henne. He finished the game with six tackles, four solo, and one pass defensed. That play was another interception by the talented second-year linebacker. Trevathan now leads the team with three interceptions this year.
Nate Irving: A
Irving is a force against the run. He did a good job of wrapping up against Maurice Jones-Drew. Irving is an impact tackler who forcefully brings his opponent down.
Coverage is not his strong suit, but Irving was able to defend one pass against the Jaguars. He knocked away a pass on the outside intended for fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou. There was plenty of room down the sideline, and that would have been a big play for the Jaguars had the pass been completed.
Paris Lenon: C
Lenon filled in for an injured Wesley Woodyard on Sunday and did an OK job against the run. He was around the football on most plays, but Lenon seemed a step slow at times. Lenon was getting middle pressure on the quarterback but struggled in coverage. On one play, he let Justin Blackmon get behind him in zone coverage.
Shaun Phillips: B
Phillips was able to generate pressure from the edge for the Broncos. He failed to record a sack against the Jaguars, but he did put Chad Henne under duress. Phillips finished the game with two passes defensed.
However, Phillips did have trouble wrapping up Jones-Drew. The slippery veteran was able to fight through for extra yards after Phillips let him get away on one play.
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Champ Bailey: B
We saw Champ Bailey on the field for the first time this season. He missed the first five games of the year coming back from a preseason foot injury.
Many expected Bailey to be rusty on Sunday, and that's what he was. Bailey seemed a bit slow to react at times, getting burned by wide receiver Justin Blackmon for a 23-yard gain on a drag route.
After the game Bailey, talked about his performance. “It was a tough challenge, I’ll tell you that. It definitely wasn’t a cakewalk. It was challenging, but I got one under my belt and I feel good going forward.” Bailey said.
While rusty, Bailey did intercept a pass during a two-point conversion attempt by the Jaguars. He also continued to shine as an open-field tackler. While other defenders were having trouble with Maurice Jones-Drew, Bailey had no such problems.
Kayvon Webster: B+
The Broncos tried many different defenders against Justin Blackmon and nothing worked. Webster got his shot to cover Blackmon and struggled to stop him on a slant play in the second half.
Webster continued to play with controlled violence when asked to make the tackle. He finished the game with one tackle for a loss, and he's a big hitter for the Broncos in the secondary.
His fourth-quarter interception helped seal the victory for the Broncos.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: C
It was an up-and-down day for Rodgers-Cromartie. Early in the game, he broke up a deep pass intended for Stephen Williams. Then he missed a tackle on receiver Mike Brown. Rodgers-Cromartie did a good job wrapping up Jones-Drew but was regularly burned by Blackmon.
His inconsistent performance gets a mid-level grade.
Chris Harris Jr.: C-
Like Rodgers-Cromartie, Harris had a rough day at times. He was able to wrap up shifty rookie wide receiver Ace Sanders in the open field. However, he could not stop Blackmon. He also let Mike Brown get wide open for a 14-yard gain. Harris is a quality player but did not play up to his standards on Sunday.
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Rahim Moore: B+
Duke Ihenacho: B-
Ihenacho is all about big hits and provides the Broncos with an intimidating presence at the strong safety spot. He finished the game with six tackles, all solo, against the Jaguars.
Ihenacho would have gotten a higher grade, but he guessed wrong on a run by Maurice Jones-Drew in the first half. That error left a lane wide open that Jones-Drew had no problem finding for a big gain. Ihenacho also was shaken up on a play later in the game, but he didn't miss much time.
Mike Adams: C
Adams received a few snaps as a part-time player on Sunday. He finished the game with one tackle and one pass defensed.
David Bruton: A
Bruton is a standout special teams player and proved that again on Sunday. The Broncos faked a punt on a 4th-and-2 in the third quarter. Bruton was the upback and had the ball snapped directly to him. He showed off his speed by running for 35 yards before getting tackled.
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Briton Colquitt: A
We actually saw Colquitt on Sunday! The Broncos had to punt more than they had all season. Colquitt booted three punts for 129 yards, including a long punt of 48 yards.
Matt Prater: A
Another perfect day for Prater. He didn't attempt a field goal, but was 5-for-5 on extra-point attempts.
Trindon Holliday: A
The Jaguars made a point of kicking away from Holliday on Sunday. Any kickoff went out of the end zone, and Holliday only had one punt return for one yard.