In the Denver Broncos week 9 loss, the defense played horribly. They could not get off the field, unless the New England Patriots had scored some points. They did do a good job stopping the run, but that was about it.
The Broncos pass rush was negated by quick passes from the Patriots offense. Helping out the their offense with those quick passes, was the Broncos secondary, who gave the receivers five yards of space to make wide open catches. The defensive front was able to do their job, only to be let down again and again by the secondary.
The big issue with the defense comes from the coaches. The play calling was awful. To start the game, the Broncos were in a base 4-3 package, despite looking at a 3 wide receiver set from the Patriots. This ended up with a linebacker on a wide receiver; a complete mismatch. Issues like this persisted throughout the game. The coaches have to step it up. They need to use the defensive players to their proper strength, instead of using them in an area they are weak at.
Now, onto the defensive player grades. Each player starts with a C grade. A positive play helps their grade, while a negative play hurts it.
You can check out the offensive grades from week 9 here.
Snaps: 62. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hit, 3 hurries, 3 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 4 stops. Targeted twice, with 1 catch for 15 yards.
One of the few bright spots for the Broncos was their defensive line. Leading the way was Ware, with strong play in the pass and run game. Ware played so great that the Patriots offensive line had a hard time keeping him in check. What was effective, were quick passes to negate his rush. His grade: B+.
DE Derek Wolfe
Snaps: 65. Stats: 1 hit, 5 tackles, 3 stops.
Wolfe never gets the credit he deserves. He is one of the best run stopping defensive ends in the NFL, but he struggles rushing the passer. However, against the Patriots, he played a good game in all aspects, even in his one coverage snap. He was a big reason the defensive front played well. He executed what he was supposed to, play after play. His grade: B+.
DE/DT Malik Jackson
Snaps: 38. Stats: 2 hits, 2 hurries, 2 tackles, 2 stops.
Again, the Broncos defensive front played well, including Jackson. He saw less snaps than he had in previous weeks. In the snaps he did get, he was strong and caused problems for the Patriots offensive line. He stepped up his game as a run stopper and was stout against the Patriots. His grade: B+.
Snaps: 15. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop, 1 deflected pass.
In Smith’s small amount of snaps, he had a big impact. He flat out destroyed the Patriots left tackle to blow up a running play behind the line of scrimmage. Then on a pass rush, he was unable to get to the quarterback, but got his hand up to deflect the pass. His grade: B+.
Snaps: 45. Stats: 1 tackle, 1 stop.
In week 9, Knighton saw an uptake in snaps from previous weeks. Part of this was due to the Patriots playing more up-tempo, keeping the Broncos from substituting on defense. Despite not being able to get off the field, the big man played great. He was getting push on the OL and gave the Patriots fits in trying to block him. His grade: B.
Snaps: 27. 1 hit, 2 hurries, 1 missed tackle.
Williams was the weak point of a strong unit. On one play, he hit the running back at the line of scrimmage, but failed to bring him down. The running back ended up picking up 7 yards. Williams was great against the pass. He got solid penetration in a short amount of time. Like the other defensive linemen, Williams was hurt by quick passes to wide open receivers. His grade: B-.
Snaps: 26. Stats: None.
Austin put up no stats on paper. That does not mean he didn’t impact the game. That is a common mistake, especially with interior defensive linemen. Austin did exactly what he was supposed to do. He maintained discipline in the run game, even if he wasn’t getting penetration into the backfield. In the pass rush, he got interior pressure, but like previously stated, it was negated with quick passes to open receivers. His grade: A-.
OLB Von Miller
Snaps: 79. Stats: 3 hits, 1 tackle. Targeted twice, with 2 catches allowed for 7 yards and 1 touchdown.
Miller played a great game, when he wasn’t used in coverage. He was getting pressure, but wasn't used consistently in that way. In the run game, he set the edge and forced the runner back inside. Both are normal for Miller. But the defensive coaches decided to use him in coverage. Once, in a base 4-3 look, against a 3 wide receiver set, Miller got matched up on a quicker receiver for the Patriots, which went for a solid 6 yard gain. The other, he got matched one-on-one with Rob Gronkowski. That, which never, ever should have happened, led to an easy touchdown for New England. His grade: B.
MLB Nate Irving
Snaps: 58. Stats: 6 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops. Targeted five times, with 1 catch allowed for 18 yards.
Irving had an up and down game. He got bailed out in coverage with a few drops by the Patriots receivers. But Irving has always struggled in coverage. His strength is in the run defense, which he was up and down with as well. Some plays he looked great reading and reacting to make the stop. Other times, he read it wrong, but was able to correct his mistake. Unfortunately, Irving got hurt in the game and will miss some time. Get well soon, because Denver needs your run defense capabilities. His grade: C+.
WLB Brandon Marshall
Snaps: 85. Stats: 2 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops. Targeted twice, with 2 catches allowed for 23 yards.
Marshall had a down game. He was borderline awful. Marshall seemed unaware of what he was asked to do multiple times pre-snap, and once the ball was snapped, it supported that belief. He looked lost and made mistakes. His run defense, where he normally squeaks through blockers to make the tackle, was not there. He was getting taken out of the play. In coverage, he could not stick with his man. He also bit on multiple play-action fakes, and quick twitch moves from receivers. His grade: D-.
LB Corey Nelson
Snaps: 22. Stats: 2 tackles, 3 assisted tackles, 1 missed tackles, 1 stop. Targeted three times, with 3 catches allowed for 42 yards.
The rookie has been a good find for the Broncos. He has played well in the snaps he has received. Well, at least he had before the game against the Patriots. Nelson looked like he had no business being on the field. He was being beat at the line of scrimmage by his cover assignment and was unable to recover. Against the run, he looked lost. In previous games, he looked, at worst, solid in all aspects. This time however, he just looked bad. His grade: F.
Snaps: 8. Stats: None.
When McCray subbed in, it was obvious. He didn’t get any kind of push on his one QB rush snap. On his five coverage snaps, he looked like he had no idea what he was supposed to do and his 2 run defense snaps, he was taken out of the play. His grade: F.
CB Aqib Talib
Snaps: 84. Stats: 7 tackles, 2 stops. Targeted eight times, with 5 catches allowed for 73 yards.
Talib had a rough game. All of the Broncos defensive backs did. Talib played a lot of off-coverage, giving the Patriots receivers plenty of space to catch the ball. However, he was quick to make the tackle, almost immediately. He showed up big a couple times in run defense and stopping running back screens. His grade: D.
CB Chris Harris
Snaps: 83. 1 hurry, 4 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops. Targeted seven times, with six catches allowed for 47 yards.
Before the game Chris Harris looked like the best cornerback in the game. Afterwards, he looked like a rookie. Like Talib, Harris played a lot of off-coverage, giving the Patriots receivers plenty of space to make the catch. The difference is, Harris did the same thing when playing on coverage, or press. He sat and waited for them to make the catch before coming up to make the tackle. He also did not have such a good game in run defense, or watching for screens. His grade: D-.
CB Bradley Roby
Snaps: 57. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop. Targeted eight times, with 3 catches allowed for 22 yards and 1 touchdown. 1 pass defensed and 1 interception.
Surprisingly, the rookie had the best performance, but that is not saying much. Before the game, many Broncos fans figured the Patriots quarterback would pick on the rookie, and for one point of the game that looked to be true, until two back-to-back plays. After allowing a big catch, Roby deflected a pass for an incompletion. Then, after a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage by Derek Wolfe, and another tip by a Patriots receiver, Roby was aware enough to come down with the interception. His grade: D+.
Snaps: 12. Stats: 2 tackles. Targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 14 yards.
In limited use, Webster has struggled. He does not look like the corner he was early in his rookie season. He looks lost most of his time on the field. When watching over this game, it looked like he gave up on plays early as well. His grade: F.
SS T.J. Ward
Snaps: 85. 7 tackles, 3 assisted tackle, 2 missed tackles, 1 stop. Targeted nine times, with 6 catches allowed for 52 yards and 1 touchdown.
Ward continues to be misused by the coaching staff. He is not the best coverage safety, yet continues to be used like he is one. He is a downhill safety who plays great vs the run. It is on the coaching staff to figure out how to properly utilize his talents. When Ward is used effectively, he looks great, but that has been rare the last few games. His grade: F.
FS Rahim Moore
Snaps: 83. Stats: 7 tackles, 2 stops. Targeted three times, with 3 catches allowed for 20 yards and 1 touchdown.
Bad angles continue to be an issue for Moore. That is not the end of his issues from the Patriots game though. On multiple run plays, Moore seemed unaware of where the ball carrier was. In coverage, he could not handle the responsibilities he was given. He continues to struggle after starting off the season really strong. Which leads one to wonder, is it a similar issue with Moore as it is with Ward? Are the Broncos coaches not utilizing Moore to his proper strengths? His grade: F.
Snaps: 1. Stats: None.
Bruton only came in for one defensive snap. If I included special teams play, Bruton would be getting a bad grade. However, I grade only on defense. With the one snap he got, Bruton did what he seemingly was supposed to do. His grade: C.
The defense was a major let down. The secondary was unable to stop anyone. Playing off-coverage, when facing a team that uses quick passes to move the ball, is idiocy. That falls on the coaching staff. Did they even spend any time in the film room to prepare for this game? The film makes it seem like they didn’t. The Broncos were out-coached and unfortunately for the players, out-executed. The majority of the blame falls on the players, despite them just doing what they were told to. Step it up, defensive coaches. If you don’t, it might be time to move on to a different defensive staff.
John Elway put this defense together to help the offense out. So, if the offense had a down day, the defense can step in and secure the win. This time, the defense was a major let down. They were unable to do their part on a day the offense struggled.
Next up are the Oakland Raiders.