Against the Minnesota Vikings, the Denver Broncos offense had some high points and some low points. There were constant ups and downs and downs. They really lacked consistency. However, a couple of the weak spots from the first three games looked better against the Vikings, who came in boasting the fifth ranked defense.
The offensive line, while not great, easily had their best game of the year and against a tough and underrated Vikings defensive front. They looked much improved, but still showed some kinks in their armor.
The other weakness was the run game.The O-line and the run game really go hand in hand. Like with the offensive line, the run game still had some very questionable moments, particularly with a certain running back and certain play calls.
With that said, it is nearly time to get into the player grades. Before I do, there is a slight change made to these articles. Players with less than 10 snaps are no longer getting graded, depending on certain circumstances, which will be reveailed in the defensive player grades. These players will get analyzed at the very end of the article, but no grade handed out.
As always, I will start with the starting quarterback and go through the rest of the starters, before going through the players who subbed in.
Peyton Manning, QB
Snaps: 61. Stats: 17-of-27 for 213 yards and 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 3 passes dropped.
For the most part, Manning played a solid game. His two interceptions were atrocious plays by him. On interception number one he stared down his receiver, and the Vikings defender just makes the play. Interception number two was a bad throw, leading his receiver too much and too high. He also got lucky a third interception was dropped by the Vikings defense.
C.J. Anderson, RB
Snaps: 32. Stats: 11 rushes for 43 yards, 1 target, 1 catch for 27 yards.
Outside of a couple runs, Anderson had a solid game. Only one of those bad runs was really on him. He had a huge hole, and just had no burst or speed hitting the hole. By the time he got there, a defender disengaged and was able to make the play. He started off the game with a big catch, and looked great. Had a better ball been thrown, he probably could’ve taken it to the house. He is dealing with an injury, so that could be why he isn’t showing much burst when he runs.
Demaryius Thomas, WR
Snaps: 46. Stats: 12 targets, 9 catches for 93 yards.
Thomas made some great plays against the Vikings, but the best thing was he played a more physical game. His run blocking, which has never been a strong area, looked great. What he was doing after the catch was his usual self, but not something we have seen a lot of the past couple weeks.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR
Snaps: 57. Stats: 6 targets, 3 catches for 68 yards, 1 dropped pass.
Sanders was the big playmaker the first three weeks, but that was not the case vs. the Vikings. He did make one huge play, but other than that it was a rough game. He looked quick, fast and agile, as usual, but the Vikings just defended him well enough to take him out of the play most of the time.
Jordan Norwood, WR
Snaps: 22. Stats: N/A.
Norwood didn’t make a play, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was bad. He did struggle to get separation in the passing game, which is why he never got a ball thrown his way. He did everything at a high level, but the Vikings just stuck with him.
Owen Daniels, TE
Snaps: 50. Stats: 4 targets, 2 catches for 9 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 passes dropped.
Another game and I still wonder why Daniels is the starter. He did catch a touchdown pass, but was wide open thanks to the play design and Vikings biting on a play-action. Outside of that, it wasn’t pretty. His blocking is atrocious and a detriment to the run game. However, he did have one beautiful block to help spring the running back for a long touchdown run.
Ryan Harris, LT
Snaps: 61. Stats: 2 hurries allowed.
Stepping in for the injured Ty Sambrailo, Harris played a solid game at left tackle. He faced a tough matchup of Everson Griffen, and it went back and forth. His run blocking was near excellent and consistently took Griffen out of the play. He wasn’t great by any means, but put together a solid game and a better game than Sambrailo ever put together in the first three games.
Evan Mathis, LG
Snaps: 61. Stats: 1 hurry allowed.
Mathis also played a great game, and showed just why the Broncos picked him up. He played the run at a great level, though he did has some mistakes. His pass protection was really strong as well. He, like the rest of the offensive line, still has work to do, but it was a huge step forward.
Matt Paradis, C
Snaps: 61. Stats: 1 hurry allowed.
The biggest issue with Paradis is his lack of experience. The Vikings exploited that a few times with double A-gap blitzes, which are like kryptonite for young/inexperience centers. It helps if the quarterback is able to read it and call out the right blocking assignments, which didn’t happen with Paradis. He is tough, athletic and jhas great technique. With more experience, he could develop into a fine center for years to come with Denver.
Louis Vasquez, RG
Snaps: 61. Stats: N/A.
Vasquez didn’t allow any pressures, but was actually the worst offensive linemen out there for the Broncos. He just looked slow to react a lot of the time, and wasn’t generating great push on the right side in the run game. His pass protection was where he really seemed to struggle and he would get pushed back, and would have allowed multiple pressures, if not for a quick release.
Snaps: 61. Stats: 1 sack, 1 hurry allowed.
I have been hard on Schofield, but he played a great game. His run blocking was near excellent, and he did a lot of the small things perfectly. In pass protection, he was really good. His sack came from experience by the defender and not a mistake by Schofield. The defender just cut inside, past Vasquez who was engaged with a defender and gave Schofield no chance to re-engage. Not only was I pleasantly surprised, I was shocked at how great he played.
That wraps up the starters. Time to get into the players who subbed into the game.
Ronnie Hillman, RB
Snaps: 26. Stats: 11 rushes for 103 yards and 1 touchdown, 1 target, 1 catch for 5 yards.
Hillman easily had the best offensive play of the game when he busted off a 72-yard run for a touchdown. He followed some excellent blocking, and used his speed and burst to score. There were a few cases during the game where he was able to use the blocking up front, plus his speed and burst to pick up solid chunks of yardage. He played a great game and should be the starter moving forward.
Andre Caldwell, WR
Snaps: 17. Stats: 1 target, zero catches.
Caldwell saw the field 11 times as a run blocker, and looked great. However, when he ran routes he didn’t look so great. He struggled to get separation and the time he did, it ended with an interception. It wasn't on Caldwell. It isn’t like he gave up a contested catch, or ran the wrong route, he was just stared down by Manning and had the ball jumped on.
Bennie Fowler, WR
Snaps: 11. Stats: 1 target, 1 catch for 11 yards.
Again Fowler came up with a big play, after having four in game three. He is tough and physical after the catch, which helps him pick up extra yards, or the first down. In fact, every single one of Fowler’s catches have gone for a first down. His routes are great, and he knows how to get separation in a variety of ways. While Caldwell has blocked in the run game better than Fowler, Fowler should be seeing more time than Caldwell.
Virgil Green, TE
Snaps: 32. Stats: N/A.
Green has shown he is a capable receiver, but still doesn’t get utilized as such. He only had 7 snaps as a receiver, and got good separation to pick up a few yards a couple times, but never got the ball thrown his way. As for his blocking, he bounced back against the Vikings, and put together a great blocking game. He still wasn’t quite his usual self, but it was the closest he has been all season.
That wraps it up for the players who subbed in and saw more than 10 snaps. Cody Latimer, Max Garcia, James Casey and James Ferentz all saw snaps, but no more than 10. Casey saw the most, with six snaps, four of which were as a blocker.
He looked solid, but nothing special. The rest all saw two. Garcia and Ferentz saw them in jumbo packages on the goal line, and were unable to get the ball in the endzone on the ground. Latimer had a big holding penalty on one of his two snaps.
To get instant Broncos notifications, download the NEW Scout mobile app for iOS HERE!
Be sure to check out the ever-growing benefit package of being a Mile High Huddle Insider! Check it out HERE.