The Broncos lost a game they should have won Sunday due to self-inflicted errors and coaching failures that allowed an adequate but inferior Jaguars team to pull out a win at home last Sunday.
The Bronco errors were a result of inexperience and lapses in concentration, but in two instances they resulted in missed scoring opportunities in the first half.
The first was a holding penalty on Zane Beadles that nullified a first down run to the Jags 12-yard line on the opening drive.
That penalty put the offense in third-and-long situation and resulted in a sack that put the team out of field goal position.
Granted, Beadles was playing for the first time at right tackle, replacing an injured Ryan Harris, but even a rookie has to understand the cost of penalties like this in key situations.
The other mistake was Correll Buckhalter’s fumble at the Jags 25-yard line to open the second quarter. After running for a first down on second-and-six to the Jax 25-yard line, Buckhalter put the ball on the ground fighting for extra yards.
Buckhalter didn’t get a lot of full-contact reps in training camp and the preseason due to an early injury, but a turnover like that is inexcusable and likely a big reason for the trade for Laurence Maroney.
These holding penalties and fumble cost the Broncos at least six points and could have resulted in a 14-point swing early in the first half that would have changed the complexion of the game.
Two face mask penalties on Ryan McBean on the final Jacksonville scoring drive were additional errors that caused real damage and were definitely avoidable.
A defensive lineman should be playing low anyway, and grabbing a player's face mask on a tackle is bad the first time, and a complete mental meltdown the second time.
Those two mistakes cost the defense 30 yards on what should have been a long 83-yard drive but resulted in a shorter 53-yard field for the Jags offense to exploit.
Coaching failures on offense and special teams were typical of teams in the past and continue to frustrate Broncos fans that see other successful NFL teams that do not have the same issues.
Special teams are the most obvious weakness, but even the offense seems to struggle when the plays come in late and they have to take time-outs when they aren’t needed, and the offense is out of sync, which leads to penalties and poor timing.
The special teams looked good in the preseason but immediately returned to the bad habits and poor discipline that Broncos teams have had in the past. Successful special teams players must be disciplined and stay in their lanes and carry out their specific responsibilities.
Both Jacksonville scoring drives in the third quarter started with kick-off returns of 46 and 53 yards and were caused by players over-pursuing and not staying in their lanes.
The coaches bear responsibility for these problems as much as the players. Well-coached teams have good special teams, and the Broncos do not.
Josh McDaniels continues to have problems making his mind up when calling the offensive plays. The late play relays put Orton into situations where he has to take a time-out of take a delay of game penalty because there isn’t time to go through their pre-snap routine.
McDaniel’s may or may not be a genius, but he needs to make up his mind earlier and let the offense run through its pre-snap progressions.
So much of the offense depends on reading the defense and making the right calls at the line, and the least the coach can do is get the plays in on time.
There were other problems in Sunday’s game that need to be addressed for the team to succeed this year.
These problems include the lack of a consistent pass rush, poor tackling on the defensive line, predictable play calling, soft coverage in the secondary, and a running game that needs better blocking and backs that turn up field instead of dancing sideways.
For Sunday’s loss though, a perfect storm of self-inflicted errors and coaching failures cost the Broncos valuable scoring opportunities in the first half and assisted Jacksonville on all three of their second-half scoring drives.
NFL teams are closely matched by design, and games are won by the team that makes the fewest mistakes.
The Broncos need to tighten up on their miscues as they embark on a tough five-game schedule starting at home Sunday against an improved Seahawks team.
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