The Denver Broncos offense started off strong vs the Kansas City Chiefs, but as the game went on they began to falter. They kept their running game grinding at a high level for the entire game, however.
It was the passing game that faltered and there are a few reasons behind that. They managed to move the ball well, until they got to the redzone, where they would stutter, come to a stop and kick a field goal.
While field goals do put points on the board, they should not be relied upon moving forward. The Broncos had issues punching it into the endzone and that has to change. Some teams can be defeated by kicking field goals, other teams cannot.
When the playoff tournament starts, the Broncos will be facing some of those teams who can’t be beaten by field goals. The issue of not getting into the endzone should not be a major worry; it was the first time all season they were consistently unable to punch it in, while in the redzone.
The play-calling should be under scrutiny. They ran the same play multiple times in the same situation, with no success. They went away from the run game completely in the redzone, as well. The coaching became questionable, not just for the calls, but for the personnel they had out on the field, as well. The issues in the redzone are not as much on the players, as it is the coaches.
Now, onto the player grades. As always we start off at the quarterback position, and each player starts off with a C grade. A positive impact on a play raises their grade, while a negative impact on a play hurts it.
Snaps: 83. Stats: 17-of-34 for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns. 2 passes dropped.
Manning did not play a great game. He made questionable decisions on where to go with the ball multiple times. On top of that, his accuracy was questionable as the game went on. Manning often tried to force throws into bad coverage, instead of throwing it away. He was risking an interception and if not for his receivers, he would have thrown three. However, Broncos fans should be happy that their team can win without Manning having his best game. His grade: F.
Snaps: 71. Stats: 32 rushes for 168 yards, forcing 13 missed tackles. Targeted 3 times, catching 2 passes for 17 yards and 1 touchdown.
Anderson has brought stability to the Broncos running game. He has a combination of speed and power that teams want in a running back. He is able to burst to the outside, or through the hole, for solid gains. Then he can turn around, run it right up the middle and use his power to plow through defenders. His biggest weakness was in the passing game, as a receiver, but that has seemingly disappeared. He has been excellent as a runner and a receiver. His grade: A+.
Snaps: 12. Stats: 10 rushes for 39 yards.
Thompson was an excellent complimentary back to Anderson. His power gave the Chiefs defense fits in trying to stop him. It took multiple defenders to bring Thompson down each time he touched the ball. His grade: B+.
Snaps: 81. Stats: Targeted 11 times, catching 6 passes for 63 yards and 1 touchdown. Dropped 1 pass.
Thomas had a bad game. He looked off on just about every snap he took. His best showing came as a blocker, which he is really good at (for a receiver). As a receiver, he looked slow in his route running and not as decisive when he had the ball. On top of that, he failed to come down with some catches that are normally routine for him. But, if this is an off game for Thomas, then the Broncos will be just fine. His grade: C-.
Snaps: 82. Stats: Targeted 11 times, catching 6 passes for 73 yards.
Sanders played a good game as a receiver. He was quick with his cuts and route running in general. He was hard for the Chiefs to cover. The incompletions thrown his way came from overthrows by the quarterback. As a blocker, however, Sanders has issues.
He struggles to maintain his block long enough, which for a player of his size, is no surprise. He has been playing great all season and put in yet another great game. He also bailed out Manning twice by breaking up what would have been easy interceptions. His grade: B.
WR Wes Welker
Snaps: 57. Stats: Targeted 2 times, catching 1 pass for 12 yards.
Welker’s role in the offense is barely existent. When called upon, he makes the needed play though. The two times he was targeted played a big part in the offense. The catch he made was for a first down, which kept the Broncos drive moving. The target he did not catch, would have been an interception but Welker broke it up. His grade: B-.
Snaps: 1. Stats: Targeted 1 time, catching no passes.
Caldwell came in for one snap on offense. He was targeted but unable to come away with the catch. His grade: C.
WR Cody Latimer
Snaps: 1. Stats: Targeted 1 time, catching no passes.
Like Caldwell, Latimer stepped on the field for one snap. He was targeted on a deep go-route. The pass was just over him and he was unable to come down with it. His grade: C.
TE Virgil Green
Snaps: 62. Stats: 1 QB hurry allowed. Targeted 1 time, catching 1 pass for 10 yards.
Green has consistently been the bet blocking tight end for the Broncos. He has rarely been used in the passing game, however, having seen a total of 46 snaps as a receiver, 12 of which came against the Chiefs.
On the season, he has been targeted three times, catching all of them for 28 yards. He has flashed as a receiver, but is not used there. When the Broncos got into the redzone, they often pulled Green out. They went away from the run game and didn’t use him as a weapon. With Julius Thomas out, they should’ve kept Green in as a part of the offense in the redzone. At the very least, would have made it harder for the Chiefs to figure out if the play was a run or a pass. His grade: A.
TE Jacob Tamme
Snaps: 25. Stats: Targeted 2 times, catching 1 pass for 4 yards. Dropped 1 pass.
Tamme has seen an increased role in the Broncos offense with Thomas sidelined. He has not been successful in the increased role, however. He is mainly used as a receiver, because his blocking is not good. As a receiver, he struggles to get any kind of separation and does little after the catch. Moving forward, he should not be used as the primary receiving tight end if Thomas is still unable to go. His grade: D+.
LT Ryan Clady
Snaps: 83. Stats: 1 QB hit allowed, 1 QB hurry allowed.
Clady played a solid game in pass protection. In the run game, he was inconsistent, at best. He would get great push, opening a big hole, but then would turn around and get beat on the next play. With that said, he has taken steps in the right direction to improve his run blocking and it shows. He is on the rise and the bad plays are becoming few and far between. His grade: C+.
Snaps: 83. Stats: None.
Franklin played a really good game. His pulling is a thing of beauty. The mistakes he was making, earlier in the season, were cut down to the point of near non-existence. The biggest issues in Franklin’s game come in pass protection. He plays the left guard position like a right tackle and it leads to mistakes along the offensive line. His grade: B.
Snaps: 83. Stats: 1 QB hurry allowed.
Montgomery was tasked with facing off against Dontari Poe. He struggled most of the game in that match-up, mainly in run blocking. His pass protection was near excellent, however, and the QB hurry he allowed came from facing two defenders by himself. In the running game, there was a lot of back and forth between Poe and Montgomery. In the end, it was a close battle that Montgomery barely lost. His grade: C+.
Snaps: 83. Stats: 1 QB hit allowed.
Ramirez struggled in pass protection and run blocking. In pass protection, he was going backwards too often to be comfortable. In the running game, Ramirez was maneuvered out of position by the stronger Chiefs defender. When that wasn't the case, Ramirez found himself on the ground. His grade: D+.
Snaps: 82. Stats: 1 QB sack allowed, 1 QB hurry allowed.
Vasquez faced his toughest matchup on the season with Justin Houston. Houston is hard for any right tackle to defend, so having a natural guard face off against him was in Houston’s favor. It showed on the game film. Vasquez won at times, but it was Houston who controlled the matchup. On the sack Vasquez allowed, it was clear that using a natural guard at tackle is a bad thing. Vasquez played like a guard and Houston took advantage of it. He got the leverage and beat Vasquez. His grade: D.
Snaps: 24. Stats: None.
Cornick has found his niche as the sixth offensive linemen in the Broncos jumbo formations. However, he struggled against the Chiefs. He made questionable decisions multiple times. Most of his mistakes came from playing off of Clady. When he played off of Vasquez, he looked really good, despite facing off against Houston in most of those matchups. His grade: C.
The Broncos played a good. but not great game. They came out firing on all cylinders, only to stutter in the second half. While one side of the ball put together a complete game (defense), the offense did not. Again, the biggest issue was play-calling.
Too often the Broncos become predictable in their play-calls and easy to defend against. Moving forward, they need to not only maintain their run/pass balance, but become unpredictable in the passing game. Throw out the routes that are not working, that they use 10+ times a game, and use the ones that work but are only used a couple of times on the season.
Next up, the Broncos head back home to take on the Buffalo Bills, in yet another AFC West-East matchup. So far, the Broncos are 2-1 when facing off against the AFC East. To stay in the race for the No. 1 AFC seed, they have to move on to 3-1 against the AFC East, but even that may not be enough.
The Broncos need help, and that help can come from division foe San Diego Chargers, by beating the New England Patriots. However, the Broncos and Chargers would remain tied at the top of the AFC West, with one more game between the two teams on the horizon (week 15). The playoff race is alive and well and the Broncos are in the middle of it.