Denver Broncos: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 12

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Denver Broncos: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 12
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos were able to get a big win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11. They don’t get any rest as they have to travel to face the New England Patriots in Week 12.

Peyton Manning threw for more than 300 yards passing for the ninth game this season. The Broncos passing game is all about getting the ball quickly to the skill position players. They are incredibly successful picking up big yards after the catch.

Denver compiled 187 yards after the catch against the Chiefs, the highest total they’ve allowed all season long. The Broncos continue to use short routes to move the ball efficiently, but they did take a few deep shots against the Chiefs on Sunday.

On Monday, interim head coach Jack Del Rio commented on taking those deep shots. “Yeah, we took a couple of deep shots; we just didn’t hit on all of them. We had a near miss down the right sideline with ‘DT’ (WR Demaryius Thomas). Getting the ball out, I think we had a good plan going in. We wanted to execute, we wanted to run it, we wanted to get the ball out. We did some things to move (QB Peyton Manning) around a little bit despite the fact that nobody thinks he can move. I thought he did a good job of moving around, sliding in the pocket, buying some time and getting the ball out. So it was a combination of a good plan, execution, the line, the tight ends, the backs—everybody contributes—the receivers running the right route—how big is that? They run the wrong route, now there’s confusion. The quarterback—‘What the heck is going on here?’ can lead to problems. I think everybody got on the same page and operated efficiently, and that led to a good night.”

Knowshon Moreno had a season-high 27 carries against the Chiefs. This was only the second time in his career that he’s had more than 25 carries in a single game.

The team used rookie running back Montee Ball more in Week 11. He scored two rushing touchdowns against the Chiefs, and Ball gives them another weapon to use because of his nose for the end zone.

Demaryius Thomas was nearly unstoppable against the Chiefs. He finished the game with five catches for 121 yards, doing most of his damage in the first half. The team will need Thomas to come up big against Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib in Week 12.

The Broncos defense held Jamaal Charles to his lowest total of all-purpose yardage (72) this season. Their pass defense is also continuing to improve each week. They’ll be put to the test against Tom Brady and company on Sunday night.

Del Rio seems content with the way the defense played against the Chiefs. “I feel like we still have a ways to go, but (we were) very, very salty early. Especially, I thought the first quarter and the third quarter was outstanding. It was what we’re looking for. We had a drive or two where we broke down, made mistakes, didn’t hunt the ball like we need to, things like that. So it was good, it was certainly good enough to win. It was hard, it was tough, it was rugged, all those things—but I think there is still room for improvement, and that is what we’re pushing for.”

 

Division Standings

 

Team Wins Losses
Denver Broncos 9 1
Kansas City Chiefs 9 1
Oakland Raiders 4 6
San Diego Chargers 4 6

The Broncos are back on top of the AFC West. They’ll need to stay on the winning track if they want to keep their perch atop the division and the conference.

Kansas City lost to the Broncos on the road, but this week they return to Arrowhead Stadium to play another divisional game. The high-powered Chargers offense will get its turn against the Chiefs defense. We’ll see if Kansas City can either play better defensively, or put up more of a fight offensively in Week 12.

The Chargers come in off a 20-16 loss against the Dolphins in Week 11. San Diego was plagued by penalties and missed tackles against the Dolphins.

The Chargers have lost three in a row, and they will need to play a much cleaner game if they’re going to compete with a superior Chiefs team.

The Raiders have found a new quarterback in undrafted rookie Matt McGloin. He started this week in place of injured Terrelle Pryor and led the Raiders to a 28-23 win over the Texans.

Head coach Dennis Allen has already stated that McGloin could be the starter in Week 12 against the Titans, per Paul Gutierrez from ESPN.com.

 

 

The team is also benefiting from the strong play of veteran running back Rashad Jennings. Against the Texans in Week 11, Jennings had 22 carries for 150 yards starting in place of injured Darren McFadden.

 

Injury Report

The Broncos kept Manning from getting hit, but they didn’t get through this game unscathed. Starters Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and Rahim Moore all got banged up against the Chiefs.

On Monday, Del Rio talked about this group of talented and injured players. “On the injury front first, (TE) Julius Thomas has a knee sprain, he’ll be day-to-day. (WR) Wes Welker had a concussion. It’s my understanding that we followed protocol. He was cleared to return, and he had symptoms come up, and then he was pulled. So he’ll go through the protocol this week. The first concern, obviously, is to make sure he’s ready to return when the doctors give the green light. When we’ve been told that he’s able to go, then he’ll go. Until then, he’ll be following that protocol. (S) Rahim Moore—a lateral compartment syndrome, which required surgery earlier this morning. He’ll be out, and the time frame is unknown at this point. He’ll be out this week, for sure, and possibly longer. We’ll just have to see what the prognosis is coming out of the surgery and all that. But he did have the procedure. He’s recovering in the hospital right now.”

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Welker was concussed in the game, and his status for Week 12 is up in the air right now. He’ll have to pass the NFL’s protocol for dealing with concussions before he’s allowed back on the practice field. The Broncos resume practice Wednesday, and we may not see Welker until Friday’s practice.

Julius Thomas was able to return to the game briefly after sustaining his knee injury. The injury is considered minor, and he should be able to play Sunday night against the Patriots. Expect him to be limited during the week of practice so his injury is not aggravated.

Moore’s injury is the most serious, and it is quite severe. Lateral compartment syndrome is a freakish and uncommon injury most in the league have never heard of. It could lead to loss of a limb or potentially loss of life.

The Broncos will move on without Moore for the foreseeable future. They have depth in the secondary that they’ll need to lean on now.

Del Rio talked about their different options without Moore. “We have depth. We haven’t had any sulking, as you said. Mike started all of last year. Proven player, veteran player, poised—went in and did a nice job for us. We’ve got some depth—guys like (CB) Quentin Jammer, who played another 20 or 25 snaps last night, played well for us. Mike stepped in, played over 50 snaps and played well for us. (S) David Bruton is in the flanks and playing in some packages for us. So no, it’s great to have depth, and it’s great to have some veteran depth and guys that you can count on to step up, step in and play well for you.”

 

What Must Improve

The Broncos took care of their biggest problem against the Chiefs; they protected Manning better. In fact, their offensive line played flawlessly against Kansas City. Manning was not sacked or even hit Sunday night.

Protecting Manning is priority No. 1, but that’s not the only concern the team has. The Broncos must improve in a couple of different areas defensively.

They must do a better job of hunting the ball. There were a few times against the Chiefs where the linebackers lost players in coverage.

In the picture below, we see Chiefs tight end Scott McGrath finds a wide open spot in the seam. Linebacker Danny Trevathan failed to follow McGrath to the middle of the field. Wesley Woodyard turned to run with Donnie Avery and turned his back to McGrath. The result of the play is a 19-yard gain.

NFL.com - Game Rewind

On Monday, Del Rio talked about needing to do a better job of hunting the football. “I feel like we still have a ways to go, but (we were) very, very salty early. Especially, I thought the first quarter and the third quarter was outstanding. It was what we’re looking for. We had a drive or two where we broke down, made mistakes, didn’t hunt the ball like we need to, things like that. So it was good, it was certainly good enough to win. It was hard, it was tough, it was rugged, all those things—but I think there is still room for improvement, and that is what we’re pushing for.”

The defense also needs to cut down on unnecessary penalties. Duke Ihenacho plays with a ton of emotion, but the second-year safety needs to play with more reserve after making a big play.

In the second quarter Ihenacho prevented Jamaal Charles from hauling in a touchdown pass. After the play, he let Charles know about it.

NFL.com - Game Rewind

In the picture below we see Ihenacho continuing to go after Charles well after the play was over. The official near the play had enough and threw the flag.

NFL.com - Game Rewind

Del Rio also talked about these types of penalties Monday. “I don’t like seeing it. I don’t know exactly what occurred. But that’s just silly. It’s not necessary. Unsportsmanlike is what was called, and it’s unnecessary. He’s a young player; we want to help him learn from that and hopefully we never have it ever again.”

 

Summary

The first four games after the bye week for the Broncos are incredibly important. After two games, the Broncos are 2-0 after their bye. Traveling to face the Patriots in Week 12 and the Chiefs in Week 13 will determine whether or not the Broncos can stay at the top of the AFC West (and the conference).

Playing against the Chiefs in Week 11 had a playoff atmosphere, and this week will be no different. The Patriots are coming off a 24-20 loss to the Panthers on Monday night. They will be looking to get back on the winning track by beating the Broncos at home.

We’ll see if Welker can be ready to play against his old team in Week 12. Having him on the field would be a huge boost against the Patriots.

If Julius Thomas is ready for this game then he would be difficult to stop. His 10 touchdown catches this season leads the team. It’s a mark that only two tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham) have been able to reach over the last two seasons.

Moore may be placed on injured reserve if his condition is unable to improve. Playing without him, we’ll see more from veteran Mike Adams. The secondary will be under plenty of stress playing against the high-powered Patriots offense in Week 12.

Losing players in space against the Patriots will get you beat. The Broncos linebackers need to be much better in coverage in Week 12.

The team also must play with better discipline against the Patriots. Keeping drives alive with a dumb penalty against the Patriots is a recipe for disaster.

The Broncos continue on their path to the Super Bowl. This game against the Patriots could easily be a playoff preview. Depending on the outcome this week, we could see any playoff game between these two in either Denver or Foxborough.

It’s a massive game for both teams with plenty on the line.

 

All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record information provided via email from the Denver Broncos. 

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