For the third straight week, the Denver Broncos offense started the game out of sync. Unlike their previous game in week 10, they did not turn it around.
They struggled from start to finish. Losing a few key players on offense did not help their situation either. The biggest letdown for the Broncos offense came in the trenches, where the offensive line could not win their battles. That is where each play starts and when they are struggling, it is hard for everyone else to be able to play at their normal level.
The issues for the Broncos offense are clear and need to be fixed. In their remaining games, there are multiple teams that can capitalize on the formula the St. Louis Rams used to beat the Broncos. Their weaknesses are known to the NFL. Whether teams will exploit them is the real question.
Now, onto the player grades. Each player starts with a C grade. A positive impact on the play raises their grade, while a negative impact lowers it.
Snaps: 71. Stats: 34/54 for 389 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Also had 2 passes dropped.
Manning played an awful game. He was under pressure on the majority of his drop backs, but even on plays he wasn’t under fire, he was still bad. His throws were off, either behind, low, or wide of the receiver, which would cause an incompletion.
A few times his passes even kept the Broncos from moving the ball. On top of that, Manning was forcing awful throws into double coverage, or worse. That is something he has done a lot the past three games and something that is not acceptable. He tempts the interception and it has not panned out in his favor. His grade: D-.
Snaps: 66. Stats: 1 QB hurry allowed. 9 rushes for 29 yards, 1 missed tackle forced. Targeted 8 times, with 8 catches for 86 yards.
Anderson was one of the few bright spots for the Broncos on Sunday. He ran hard, but got betrayed by the play calling that saw the Broncos only run the ball a total of nine times. As a receiver, Anderson was excellent, which is saying a lot because his receiving ability has always been suspect. He made some great catches for the second game in a row and picked up a lot of tough yards. Going forward, he should remain the starter, but that would require the Broncos to actually run more than 9 times. His grade: B+.
RB Montee Ball
Snaps: 4. Stats: Targeted 2 times, with zero catches, 1 dropped pass.
Ball should not have played in this game. In his first snap it was clear his groin injury was still holding him back. Yet, they kept him out there. Not long after, he aggravated his groin injury, which will cause him to miss more time. His grade: D.
Snaps: 2. Stats: Targeted 1 time, with 1 catch for 5 yards.
When Ball got hurt, the Broncos just stuck with Anderson instead of subbing in Thompson to split reps and keep Anderson rested. The lack of usage on Thompson is not a fault of his, but like many of the other issues with the Broncos, a fault of the coaches. His grade: C+.
Snaps: 70. Stats: Targeted 9 times, with 7 catches for 103 yards.
Thomas has kept up his excellent play, despite the rest of the offense struggling. He was another one of the few bright spots from an offense that performed horribly. He posted his seventh consecutive 100+ yard receiving game. He is hard to cover for any defense and the Rams could not figure out a way to stop him. Even with double or triple coverage, Thomas managed to create space. John Elway needs to pay this man and needs to pay him yesterday. His grade: A-.
Snaps: 34. Stats: Targeted 8 times, with 5 catches for 102 yards and 1 touchdown. Dropped 1 pass.
Sanders took a hard hit that cause him to leave the game and enter concussion protocol. There are things that can be said about the throw, but that is not for player grades. Sanders was near unstoppable. He was so quick and agile that the Rams had a hard time defending him. He also broke the coverage to get deep for an easy touchdown, which was almost botched by a throw behind Sanders. His grade: A-.
WR Wes Welker
Snaps: 66. Stats: Targeted 6 times, with 4 catches for 28 yards.
There is a lot that can be said about Welker’s lack of production, but the truth is, he isn’t producing because of how he is used. Welker has become the underneath target that crosses under the linebackers coverage. He does that with ease and Manning has found him multiple times for solid gains. Welker has never had the speed to take those short passes and go the distance on a somewhat consistent basis. His grade: B-.
Snaps: 35. Stats: Targeted 4 times, with 3 catches for 31 yards.
When Sanders left the game, Caldwell was called upon in hopes of picking up some of the slack. He failed to do so, but that is not all on Caldwell. Offensively, Caldwell did a commendable job trying to do what he could to help the Broncos move the ball. After his struggles and lack of usage since game one of the season, he played well. With Sanders under concussion protocol, the Broncos may be calling on Caldwell more the next few weeks. Hopefully for the Broncos sake, he is up to the task. Caldwell also got banged up, but he returned to end out the game. His grade: C+.
WR Isaiah Burse
Snaps: 2. Stats: None.
After Sanders was concussed and Caldwell got banged up, Burse entered the game. He should not see any offensive snaps going forward this season. He shows a complete lack of understanding in what he is supposed to do. In addition, he does not see the ball thrown his way, often putting him in a position to try and block for whomever does get the ball. He cannot block, at all. His grade: D.
Snaps: 13. Stats: Targeted 3 times, with 2 catches for 3 yards.
Thomas had to deal with bad Manning throws on each of his targets. One was an overthrow that Thomas had little chance to catch. The other two he obviously made the catch, but was held to short gains because of ball placement.
The worst was a third down where Thomas would have had the first down. Instead, Manning was late and behind on the delivery, forcing Thomas to adjust to make the catch, taking away his momentum that would’ve purchased a first down. As a blocker, Thomas was his usual self. Meaning, he couldn’t block anything. He ended up leaving the game with a strained ankle. His grade: C.
TE Jacob Tamme
Snaps: 58. Stats: Targeted 10 times, with 4 catches for 31 yards.
After Julius Thomas got hurt, the Broncos had no one else to turn to but to Tamme, as Virgil Green was out with a calf injury. When Tamme entered the game, it did more harm than good. Manning, time and time again, tried to connect with Tamme with no success. Tamme did not have to speed to break away against the faster cover linebackers of the Rams. When he did, he would trip, or misread the ball and fail to come away with the catch. As a blocker, he may actually be worse than Thomas. Time and time again Tamme was beaten by his assignment. His grade: D-.
LT Ryan Clady
Snaps: 71. Stats: 3 QB hits and 1 QB hurry allowed.
Clady had his worst game of the season and one of the worst of his career against the Rams. All season he has been solid, at worst, in pass protection. But, against the Rams he was consistently getting pushed back. In the run game, Clady continued his struggles from the season. He was a weak link and outmatched from the first snap, to the last. His grade: F.
Snaps: 71. Stats: None.
Statistically, Franklin played a good game. However, stats do not always tell the whole truth. The film is the true measure of how one played, and with Franklin it shows he played a horrible game. He struggled just as much as the other offensive linemen. In some ways, he struggled even more. Franklin plays the left guard position like an offensive tackle, which he shouldn’t. The experiment of Franklin at guard has been a complete failure and it’s time to move him back to right tackle in hopes that it improves his play and the offensive line. His grade: F.
Snaps: 1 QB sack and 1 QB hurry allowed.
Montgomery has come in and performed better than expected at center. He did have a rough game against the Rams, but he was not the worst. His pass protection struggled all game. He also displayed the patience to wait, in case there was a delayed blitzer, which helped multiple times. Where he did have a solid showing was in run blocking. While the other offensive linemen struggled to get push consistently, more often than not, Montgomery was getting solid push. His grade: D.
Snaps: 71. Stats: 1 QB sack, 1 QB hit and 1 QB hurry allowed.
Ramirez has been the weakest link on the offensive line nearly all season. He was performing badly at center and was kicked out to right guard, where he has not done any better. He continues to be unable to block anything in the passing game, as he is consistently pushed around. In the run game, he is better, but that is not saying much. He leaves much to be desired and does not have the right attitude for an NFL offensive linemen. He is soft and he shows it. His grade: F.
Snaps: 71. Stats: 1 QB hit and 2 QB hurries allowed.
Moving Vasquez from his natural right guard position, to right tackle, was met with concern by many Broncos fans, and rightfully so. Vasquez is a natural offensive guard, now playing tackle, all while a natural tackle is at guard (Franklin). It is time for the coaches to make the move they should have and put Vasquez back at guard and Franklin to tackle. Vasquez has been inadequate at tackle. Since his move to tackle, he has taken a step back in pass protection and run blocking. His grade: F.
Snaps: 5. Stats: None.
Despite popular opinion, Cornick was doing just fine at right tackle. His pass protection was slightly improved from Chris Clark, but the run blocking is where the real improvement came. After a shoulder injury, the coaching staff benched Corncik. Now he is used as the sixth offensive linemen in big packages. When he saw his snaps against the Rams, 4 run snaps and 1 pass snap, the run game did a great job. He was able to execute his assignment and help open the run game. On the pass snap, Cornick held his own and gave Manning time to make a pass without pressure, which Manning failed to deliver accurately. His grade: C+.
There is a lot for the Broncos to improve. First up is their offensive line. They have to find something that works. Their first step should be putting players back at their natural position.
They can potentially bring in Richie Incognito, whom they worked out last week. If they were to sign him, that would put an offensive line of Clady, Incognito, Montgomery, Vasquez and Franklin. Once the coaching staff figures out the offensive line, then they can go onto to the other issues with the offense, like getting Manning to stop throwing into double coverage. But, this is the Broncos coaching staff, they can’t even manage the game clock properly. (See end of first half.)
The Broncos have teams coming who can easily exploit their weak offensive line. First up are the Miami Dolphins, who have one of the best front sevens in the NFL and an excellent pass rush. The way they run that defense plays to the Broncos weaknesses.
Thankfully for the Broncos, that game is at home. After that, the Broncos have to travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. The Chiefs are another team with the right personnel to beat the Broncos, but the real question with them is, will they play to that weakness? Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dontari Poe are just three of their excellent front seven. They can take control of the game with how bad the offensive line has been.
Broncos fans hope that the coaching staff fixes this offensive line. Without them, Manning struggles and without Manning, the offense struggles.