The Denver Broncos offense did a solid job against the Detroit Lions. However, things were far from great. They ended up being good enough at just the right times, which is what is really needed with the defense Denver has.
The offense did make some big plays, but also made too many mistakes. The weak link, the offensive line, had their least-worst game, but still showed that they are a long way off.
Peyton Manning, QB
Snaps 65. Stats: 31-of-42 for 336 yards 2 touchdowns, 1 interception and 2 passes dropped.
Manning may look like he had a great game by his stats, but he wasn’t. He was good enough to move the ball consistently through the use of short, quick passes. He made some beautiful throws that show he still has some arm left, despite the expected decline of the 39-year-old quarterback.
He looked more comfortable playing out of the pistol formation and read the defense pre-snap better than the first two games, which is essential to a quick passing game. It's a shame that Manning’s best throw on the night ended up not counting.
The biggest issue with Manning is him laying down for sacks. Sometimes it is smart, so he doesn’t take a hit, but multiple times this season he had a chance to throw the ball away. He didn’t take the chance, holding onto the ball longer than he should have, looking to make a play, then ends up laying down for the sack.
C.J. Anderson, RB
Snaps: 35. Stats: 8 rushes for 18 yards, 1 target, 1 catch for 9 yards.
The awful run game continues for the Broncos. Switching to the pistol formation didn’t help. Many want to blame the running backs, and Anderson especially, but there has been no blocking for him up front. The only thing Anderson has done well and pretty consistently is receiving out of the backfield.
His pass blocking has also been below his norm, though he had some great blitz pickups vs. the Lions. Health is becoming a serious concern with Anderson, as he has come off the field with some kind of injury in each game he has played in this year, including preseason action. Thankfully, they have all been minor, though one seems to be lingering.
Demaryius Thomas, WR
Snaps: 63. Stats: 13 targets, 9 catches for 104 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 dropped pass, and 1 fumble.
Thomas has always been inconsistent. He would make a big play, then follow it up with a drop or a bad route. He also has never been a very physical player. Thomas had a big catch for a touchdown, and drew a taunting penalty. His big mistake came in reaching out for a first down and fumbling the ball.
He, and the Broncos, are a bit lucky the referee blew the whistle when he did, because it should have been a touchdown returned for a touchdown for the Lions. Still, the fumble led to six points for the Lions. That was a huge mistake by Thomas, and he surely heard a lot about it.
The quick passing game that Denver used, works to Thomas' advantage. He is one of the best after-the-catch players, and is always a risk to take off for the touchdown. However, teams know how to slow Thomas down in a quick-pass offense and that is to just be physical and jam him at the line of scrimmage.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR
Snaps: 63. Stats: 9 targets, 6 catches for 84 yards and 1 dropped pass.
Sanders continued making clutch catches, even his catch that wasn’t a catch was clutch. Like with Thomas, the quick passing game plays to Sanders' strengths.
He is quick off the snap and in and out of cuts, which is deadly when the ball is being thrown right at two seconds. He gets separation immediately and is so hard to defend, even if pressed. Against the Lions, Sanders was open even on passes not thrown his way. He was excellent all game, and so hard to defend.
Jordan Norwood, WR
Snaps: 37. Stats: 3 targets, 3 catches for 27 yards.
Norwood has stepped up big-time into his role on offense. He nearly made a huge play for the Broncos, only to come up just short. It was still a great play. He has been consistent for the offense and provides a solid safety blanket for Manning. Just a year removed from an ACL, he is still getting back to his pre-injury self. The quickness, speed and agility are all coming back to him.
Owen Daniels, TE
Snaps: 60. Stats: 9 targets, 5 catches 28 yards and 1 touchdown.
Daniels had a really bad game, outside of two catches. One went for a touchdown. On the other, he actually showed a willingness to play the game physically. His blocking is bad, and leaves one wondering why he even sees the field, consistently, in blocking situations. He is the top tight end, but his play doesn’t show he deserves to be there.
Ty Sambrailo, LT
Snaps: 65. Stats: 1 QB hit, 3 hurries allowed.
Ty Sambrailo had his hands full with Ezekiel Ansah, and mostly lost the battle. He did have some great moments taking on Ansah, but they were few and far between. He was actually playing a solid game before he came up hurt. After that, he was a mess. He put together his best game, but was still far from great. Hopefully, it was the first of many steps forwards to come.
Evan Mathis, LG
Snaps: 65. Stats: 1 hurry allowed.
Another player taking a step forward is Evan Mathis. He is getting the playbook down and not making near as many mental or technical errors. He still didn’t play a good game, especially with his run blocking, but again, it was his best of the season. His pass blocking was good, outside of a few plays.
Matt Paradis, C
Snaps: 65. Stats: 1 hurry allowed.
Paradis was the best offensive linemen out there, though it was close. He was good in pass protection, and consistent. As a run blocker, he was the only one getting push on a somewhat consistent basis. He did make a few mistakes, but most were because of a lack of experience.
His grade: 51.9
Louis Vasquez, RG
Snaps: 65. Stats: 1 hurry allowed.
Vasquez was the best pass blocker out there for the Broncos, but he wasn’t exactly facing a tough matchup in the pass rushing department. On the other side of things, Vasquez was the worst run blocker on the offensive line. He was consistently pushed out of the play or beaten by the defender to get into the backfield and make a play. While those to his left took a step forward, Vasquez took a big step back as a run blocker.
Ryan Harris, RT
Snaps: 65. Stats: 2 QB hits, 1 hurry allowed.
Harris had a solid game in both pass protection and run blocking. When going over his tape, I was glad to see him put together a solid game. He made mistakes, but bounced back really well. His run blocking was worse than his pass blocking, but he still had a solid showing there.
That wraps up the starters. Time to jump into the players who subbed into the game.
Ronnie Hillman, RB
Snaps: 24. Stats: 7 rushes for 13 yards, 1 touchdownj, 1 target, 1 catch for 3 yards.
Hillman struggled to run the ball behind some bad blocking up front. He managed to find the endzone on a short run. Outside of that, he was less than stellar. He first came into the game because the other two Broncos running backs were taken out of the game with injury. He came in and didn’t play so hot.
Juwan Thompson, RB
Snaps: 5. Stats: 3 rushes for 11 yards.
Thompson looked like he was going to turn the running game around. That was until he lowered his head, met a defender head-on, and left the game with a neck injury. His other two snaps came as a receiver and a pass blocker.
Bennie Fowler, WR
Snaps: 15. Stats: 4 targets, 4 catches for 50 yards.
Fowler was the No. 4 receiver against the Lions and had a huge game. It was his first regular season action on offense and he caught his first pass. He was physical after the catch, picking up 26 yards.. He has had a bigger impact than former second round pick Cody Latimer, who seems to find himself at the bottom of the depth chart.
Andre Caldwell, WR
Snaps: 7. Stats: 1 target, 1 catch for 2 yards.
Caldwell finds himself at the fifth spot for the receivers. It is simply because he hasn’t been playing anything near good football. He also hasn’t been used to his strength, which is taking the top off a defense.
Virgil Green, TE
Snaps: 16. Stats: 1 target, 1 catch for 26 yards.
Green, somewhat, bounced back as a blocker. While his blocking wasn’t at the level is was a year ago, it wasn’t far off. He also made a huge play as a receiver, that showed he can be utilized in that way. He is getting limited reps, even though his play has been better than Daniels. The play of these two dictates that a switch should be made.
Mitchell Henry, TE
Snaps: 1. Stats: N/A.
The young rookie tight end made his first appearance of the season. He played one snap as a blocker. He had no impact, positive or negative, on the play.
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