It didn’t matter what the Denver Broncos were doing on defense — they struggled facing the Indianapolis Colts in every phase. They lacked discipline, both in the form of performance and penalties. In the run game, players were losing lane discipline and opening holes for the Colts ball carriers to run through.
When defending the pass, the rushers didn’t stay in their lane, allowing openings for Andrew Luck to escape through. If that wasn’t the case, then the secondary lost discipline and allowed their assignments to break free. Some instances, both happened. Finally, there were the penalties. Denver is aggressive on defense, and with it come penalties, but they have gotten far out of hand.
Not much can be said without getting into individual play, so let us jump into the player grades.
Derek Wolfe, DE
Snaps: 55. Stats: 2 QB hits, 2 hurries, 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 2 stops.
Even though Wolfe was one of the few to play a good game, he had some issues throughout. His run defense was strong, but nowhere near as strong as is was against the Green Bay Packers. He just bit on a juke a couple of times, instead of staying disciplined and in his lane. He also had a good impact as a pass rusher. He was pushing the pocket and showed an actual pass rusher skill-set at times during the game.
Snaps: 49. Stats: 1 tackle, 2 assisted tackles, 1 stop.
Williams was missing in action against the Colts. He was taken out of the game when defending the run, and it didn’t matter if it was a double team or not. He also got little-to-no push as a pass rusher.
Malik Jackson, DE
Snaps: 63. Stats: 2 QB hits, 2 hurries, 2 batted passes, 4 tackles, 2 stops.
One thing that separates Jackson from many other defensive linemen around the NFL is the fact he gets his hands up to bat down passes. That is always great to see from pass rushers. If you can’t get to the quarterback, get your hands up. Jackson also got good pressure on the Colts quarterback. The issue in Jackson's game comes against the run. Multiple times Jackson just lost lane discipline and opened up a running lane. He needed to trust the linebackers to do their job and just do his job. Trying to do too much, or not doing your job, ends up doing more harm than good.
Von Miller, OLB
Snaps: 65. Stats: 4 QB hits, 3 hurries.
Even though Miller didn’t get any sacks, he was doing a great job as a pass rusher. He was taking on a quarterback who is hard to sack, but he still managed to get 7 total pressures, which is the most on the Broncos defense. Where Miller was a detriment to the defense was in defending the run. Again a player lost discipline and did more harm than good to the team. He was either too quick to collapse inside, or failed to set the edge.
It didn’t matter where they ran, Miller just didn’t do what he was supposed to do. There have also been some complaining about a knee to a Colts player throat from Miller. However, after watching over it, hard to think it was intentional. The Colts player has a grasp of Miller’s leg, and isn’t letting go even though Miller is trying to walk away. Then a teammate comes up and pulls on Miller, which caused him to trip up and then a knee to the throat.
Brandon Marshall, ILB
Snaps: 69. Stats: 1 hurry, 7 tackles, 1 assisted tackle, 5 stops, targeted twice, allowing 2 catches for 23 yards.
It was a solid game from Marshall in all phases of the game. He made mistakes as a run defender and in coverage, but he also had some really nice plays. As it was for the whole defense, his issues came from lack of discipline. He took some plays in coverage off, or just lightly, and it ended up doing a lot of harm.
He was only targeted twice, but there could have been many others. As for the run, he just wasn’t plugging the right holes, and was attacking a lane that already had a teammate in it. They weren’t all on Marshall, as the teammates sometimes were in the wrong lane, but some of them were on Marshall.
Danny Trevathan, ILB
Snaps: 73. Stats: 13 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 1 missed tackle, 9 stops, targeted 4 times, allowing 2 catches for 27 yards and 1 pass deflected.
Trevathan played an excellent game against the run, and a solid one in coverage. He was reading the runs and found himself hitting the right spot, and often covering for a teammate's mistake. In the process, he blew up a few offensive linemen to disrupt the flow of the play. As for his coverage, it wasn't all pretty. He managed to stick near his man a lot, but still allowed just a step of separation. Thankfully, it only was taken advantage of twice and not more often.
DeMarcus Ware, OLB
Snaps: 31. Stats: 1 sack, 2 hurries, 1 stop.
Before he got hurt, Ware wasn’t playing a very good game. He managed a few pressures, including a sack, but mostly he was shut down as a rusher. A lot of why he was shut down were quick passes from the Colts offense, which negated the pass rush. It was defending the run where he was really bad. Continuously, he was taken out of the play.
Aqib Talib, CB
Snaps: 76. Stats: targeted 4 times, allowing zero catches and 1 pass deflected.
Just by performance, Talib played an excellent game. His coverage was perfect, and he completely shut down his matchup. His run defense was great as well, although he never made a tackle against the run. He still was coming up and putting himself in a position to make a play if needed. However, he probably made the stupidest decision I have ever seen in football.
A shoving match started up between a Colts player and Von Miller. Talib came over and decided to poke the Colts player in the eye. This is the NFL, not pop warner. Losing your cool is understandable, but you have to remember you are a professional, and not a 8-year-old kid. Eye-gouging is completely unacceptable. If not for the eye gouge, his grade would have been 98.9, just to show how unacceptable, childish, and unprofessional what Talib did, was.
T.J. Ward, SS
Snaps: 73. Stats: 1 hurry, 12 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 3 stops, targeted 4 times, allowing 3 catches for 19 yards and 1 pass deflected.
When a defensive back has the second most tackles in a game, in my experience, that equals a loss. It tends to happen because the defensive back is coming up and making the play where someone else failed to do so. That was the case with Ward. His play against the run was outstanding. Multiple times he came up to make the play when others failed to do so.
On one play in particular, Ward cut low and through an offensive lineman's legs to make the stop. His coverage was good, but not great. Normally, Ward is a liability in coverage, but he really did a good job of not being that guy. Unfortunately, he put a big hit on a receiver, drew a penalty, and sent a teammate to the sideline for a short while.
Darian Stewart, FS
Snaps: 69. Stats: 3 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 2 stops, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 3 yards and a touchdown.
After having a quick start to the season, Stewart has slowed down a lot. He isn’t as quick to come up and help against the run as he was. Also, he seems to be slower in his reading and reacting to the play, which hits the dominio of not being as quick to come up and help. As for his coverage, it is just solid, but he is showing he is limited in what he can do.
Chris Harris, Jr., CB
Snaps: 70. Stats: 2 tackles, 1 missed tackle, targeted 5 times, allowing 5 catches for 91 yards.
For one of the best corners in the NFL, Harris sure didn’t look like it. Instead, he looked like a late round rookie playing his first game. There was no discipline from Harris in coverage, and he got taken out of a play by a legal pick. It was a horrible game from Harris, and the only thing that could have made it worse was a touchdown, or penalties.
That wraps up the starters. Time to jump into the players who subbed into the game.
Vance Walker, DL
Snaps: 38. Stats: 3 tackles, 3 stops.
Rushing the passer, Walker was a complete non-factor. He did show up and play the run very well. There were no discipline issues, as he stayed in his lane. The issues just came from him being out-played and physically taken out of the play.
Antonio Smith, DE
Snaps: 24. Stats: 2 hurries, 1 missed tackle.
It was a horrendous game from Smith. As a run defender, he did absolutely nothing. He had a hard time right from the snap, and often found himself getting pushed back. He also was missing as a pass rusher, and was unable to generate pressure on his own. His two hurries were thanks to having help from a teammate to break him free.
Todd Davis, ILB
Snaps: 12. Stats: 1 assisted tackle, targeted once, allowing zero catches.
When Marshall got banged up and left the game, Davis stepped in. The good news is, the defense didn’t get any worse. Bad news is, it didn’t get better and was bad to begin with. Davis had a limited chance to show something to potentially get more reps and failed to do so. He had one solid play in coverage, and that was it from Davis.
Shaquil Barrett, OLB
Snaps: 41. Stats: 1 QB hit, 3 tackles, 2 assisted tackles, 3 stops, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 15 yards.
It was a decent game from Barrett, but nowhere near the level he played when he got the start a couple of games ago. When Ware got hurt and left the game, Barrett stepped into a bigger role. He improved the run defense, and was getting better pressure than Ware was. There was an issue in coverage that saw Barrett beaten for a sizable gain. He needs to be attacking the offensive line and not dropping into coverage, especially in coverage of more than 5-10 yards.
Lerentee McCray, OLB
Snaps: 25. Stats: 3 tackles, 2 stops, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 38 yards.
McCray played well against the run, but where I want to focus is his play in coverage. He allowed a deep catch to a receiver. Now, I hope that there was a miscommunication here, and this wasn’t by design. If it was by design, it was a big failure by the coaches to have a linebacker on a receiver. If it was a miscommunication, it's still really bad but doesn’t stem from the top. For having to cover a receiver, McCray did as well as expected. He was clearly outmatched, especially in the speed department and the Colts took advantage of that.
Bradley Roby, CB
Snaps: 32. Stats: 3 tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 stop, targeted 5 times, allowing 4 catches for 23 yards.
It was actually a pretty sound game from Roby. His coverage was good, but not great. He found himself beaten by the throw, instead of by the receiver. He also was more than willing to come up and make the play. With Talib suspended for a game, it provides a chance to see what Roby can do in more reps.
David Bruton, S
Snaps: 21. Stats: 1 missed tackle, targeted once, allowing 1 catch for 8 yards and a touchdown.
Awful game from Bruton, to put it bluntly. He just looked lost on almost every play. On one play, he completely forgot to come up and take his assignment allowing the touchdown catch.
That wraps it up for the most part. All that are left are the three players who subbed into the game, but had less than ten snaps. Kayvon Webster saw the most, with three total snaps. He was targeted once, and allowed the catch for five yards. He will see an increased role as the third corner, with Talib suspended for a game.
Omar Bolden saw one snap on defense, but special teams is where he made his big impact. He laid out the Colts returner, and had a punt return for a touchdown right before the half to steal some momentum. Finally, there was Corey Nelson, who saw one snap. It was a run play, and he completely looked lost and went to plug the wrong lane, leaving a sizable hole for the Colts runner.
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