The Embarrassing Denver Broncos: 5 Afterthoughts from the Raiders Game
I have just sat and watched the embarrassing performance of the Denver Broncos against the Oakland Raiders. Although the score of 23-20 suggests a pretty close game, the Broncos never seemed close to beating the Raiders. It seemed like the only thing that could beat the Raiders where the Raiders themselves with over 100 yards of penalties.
I will also admit that I have been highly critical of the decisions of the Broncos' front office and I have also advocated for starting Tebow. So now you know where I'm coming from.
On to my afterthoughts.
The Game Plan
When the Broncos hired John Fox it was obvious that the Broncos would be a much more run-oriented offense. And that was not necessarily a bad thing considering the total lack of a running game in 2010.
However you cannot help to wonder how you can enter a game against the Raiders, know for a stout run defense and a rebuilt secondary, with a game plan that was so run-concentrated.
Even when the run game proved totally ineffective, the Broncos waited until the second half to throw to another receiver not named Brandon Lloyd.
Now I know it would have been great to get the running game going, but when you are unsuccessful you need to adjust.
Couldn't Fox simply not understand that his running game wasn't working, and didn't they have a plan B?
The Run Defense
Prior to the game against the Raiders there was a lot of hype surrounding the Doom and Gloom pass rush.
But why would the Raiders care? They just ran the ball up the middle for almost 200 yards, exploiting the the Broncos' (almost) total lack of run defense.
John Fox has repeatedly made a point out of stopping the run as the most important thing for the Broncos defense. But against an elite running game the Broncos had no answer. Now I know the Broncos had injuries to their starters, but that's still no excuse as the Raiders didn't try to cover their intent of running the ball all night.
I just want to take a trip down memory lane to the 2010 draft, where the Broncos had a plethora of run stuffing DTs to choose from, but didn't pick a single one. Is there any doubt now that Marcel Dareus would have had a greater impact on the Broncos' defense than Von Miller? If you are in doubt, please read the reports coming out of Buffalo on Dareus.
And this is not really a knock on Miller, who I think will be great. But Elway fell in love with the "QB killa," but what use is a Ferrari when you need a tank?
The Running Game
Nothing has changed in the Broncos' running game, its still pretty much non existing.
The one thing Fox was supposed to improve on offense was the running game. Well that certainly didn't show up in the game against the Raiders.
But when you repeatedly run the ball and never try to stretch the field in the passing game AND you are up against a great Raider D-line, then this is what you get: a 2.1 yards per run on average, excluding Orton's runs.
I don't think you can fairly judge the running of McGahee and Moreno based on this game. Because from where I'm sitting the lack of production is as much the result of terrible game planning and a total lack of ability to adjust the play-calling during the game.
The Passing Game
In the first half of the game it seemed like the passing game was just a sidekick to the running game, as Brandon Lloyd was the only wide receiver targeted by Orton.
The Raiders' secondary as pointed out by several commentators and analysts is their weakest link on defense. And even if the Broncos under John Fox are going to be a much more run-oriented offense, it was surprising that the Broncos hardly attacked the Raiders in the passing game, especially deep.
That meant that the Raiders could stack the box at will, closing down the running game and putting pressure on Orton with blitzes from the secondary.
It didn't seem to me as if the receivers were shut down by the Raiders' secondary and if only the Broncos would have used Eric Decker in the first half as they did in the second, things could have been a lot better.
And on a side note — what a great return by Decker.
The Passing Game
I almost feel sorry for Kyle Orton. Even though I have been critical of the decision to go with Orton as the starter I did not expect him to falter like he did tonight.
Now I know he didn't have a running game and that the play-calling wasn't his fault —but everything he's been criticized for was what we saw tonight.
This includes his inability to perform when the game is on the line and his poor performance in the red zone.
I'm not saying that Tebow would have performed better in this game, but the calling for Tebow from the fans has certainly become stronger after tonight. I mean it couldn't be much worse.
Now if Kyle Orton doesn't improve, the QB controversy will have the potential to put a huge rift in the fan base of the Broncos.
With Orton's performance I only see one way for this team to move forward. Play Orton when he is at his best—between the 20 yard lines—and bring in Tebow when the ball is in the red zone and when big plays are needed. It would give Tebow time to develop, Kyle Orton a chance show what he does best and the fans something they can believe in together, which I have thought was the right solution from the start — read here.
Open Letter to John Elway
Dear Mr. Elway.
You got what you wanted in John Fox. An old school head coach that reminded you of the old days, when the Orange Crush and a tough running game was the foundation of your success.
But the NFL has moved on and good defense and running the ball isn't enough anymore. It's a passing league where QBs toss for more than 400 yards on a regular basis— even rookies in their first game.
It's all about four receiver sets spreading out the defenses, unpredictable play-calling and multi-purpose running backs and hybrid WR/TEs.
QBs don't have to play the game primarily from the pocket, you don't have to take every snap from under center—and dual threat QBs are gaining ground all over the NFL.
As a fan I can appreciate your intention of establishing a solid power run game—but as a fan I also want excitement and plays that sends chills down my spine: Imaginative running plays and a breathtaking passing game.
I know you are building from scratch, but don't be afraid to let it rip — because after last night, it really can't get any worse.