The Denver Broncos made a switch at quarterback and saw some of the same issues on offense they've endured all year, like offensive line play and troubles in the redzone.
However, this was their second best game of the season. While the O-line did make mistakes, it wasn’t as consistently bad as it has been throughout the game like it's been for most of the season.
As for the Chicago Bears defense, they are a better unit than so many give them credit for. They entered the game at third in pass defense, 24th in run defense and seventh overall, but the previous few weeks saw them in the top-ten in each of those categories. For a first time starting quarterback, and an offense that has had their issues, it was a tough matchup but they handled it well.
That said, it's time to jump into the player grades.
Brock Osweiler, QB
Snaps: 69. Stats: 20-of-27 for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Not only was it his first start of his career, it was also his 25th birthday. He was the leader of the offense and kept them playing with intensity, even on drives that faltered. There was a lot to like from his first start, including doing so many small things perfectly.
All of the negatives that I noted on his game are due to having a lack of experience. The worst of which is dropping his eyes a bit too fast, and not always feeling pressure. Both of those can be fixed as he plays more and more.
Ronnie Hillman, RB
Snaps: 38. Stats: 21 rushes for 102 yards, 1 catch on 1 target for 2 yards.
It was a good game running for Hillman. There were a few runs that left me questioning his vision. The offensive line did an excellent job on these runs, and opened a running lane, but Hillman just didn’t see them, cut the wrong direction, and into a pile of blockers and defenders.
On one of these plays, Hillman would have had about ten yards before any contact, but ended on a 2-yard rush. He was a no-show as a receiver, but that wasn’t because of him, Osweiler just didn’t rely on the check to the running back. The worst for Hillman came on a pass protection where he went to plug the wrong hole, and the play ended in a sack. Afterwards, he knew it was on him.
Demaryius Thomas, WR
Snaps: 58. Stats: 3 catches on 8 targets for 59 yards.
While he didn’t put up the numbers like he usually has this season, Thomas still played a great game, especially as a blocker. As a receiver, he managed only three catches, despite seeing the ball thrown his way eight times, which in fairness, a few of those were purposely uncatchable. As a blocker, he was really good keeping his assignment occupied. Did he had some miscues? Of course, but even the best blocking receivers have their miscues.
Cody Latimer, WR
Snaps: 36. Stats: 2 catches on 3 targets for 22 yards, 1 rush for 5 yards.
Having chemistry with the quarterback saw Latimer go from barely seeing any offensive reps, to starting in place of an injured Emmanuel Sanders. His blocking is excellent. He is so strong, both in terms of physicality and technique, which is why he does such a great job. When running his routes, you can still see some issues in his cuts, which isn’t a surprise because he isn’t the best route runner. However, the chemistry with the quarterback showed, and you could see Osweiler trusted Latimer.
Owen Daniels, TE
Snaps: 56. Stats: 4 catches on 5 targets for 69 yards.
You can say what you want about Daniels being slow, which he is, but against the Bears, he made up for being slow with his aggressiveness. He wasn’t just aggressive as a blocker, but as a receiver, both before and after the catch. He was a big part of the offense by catching four of the five passes thrown his way for 69 yards. Every catch went for a first down, and a lot is due to his aggressiveness to pick up some extra yards.
Vernon Davis, TE
Snaps: 47. Stats: 6 catches on 6 targets for 68 yards.
It took a few weeks, but Davis finally made an impact on the game. He looked decent as a blocker. He had some great blocks and some bad blocks. As a receiver is where his impact was made. He caught all six passes thrown his way for 68 yards, five of which went for first downs. He caused some mismatch problems with the Bears defense, which saw him or someone else get separation.
Ryan Harris, LT
Snaps: 69. Stats: N/A.
It is way past time for the Broncos to move Harris to the bench. He was controlled in the run game and allowed multiple pressures. For the last few weeks his contributions to the offense have been more harmful than good.
Evan Mathis, LG
Snaps: 64. Stats: N/A.
There were a few plays Mathis was a complete mess, including getting bulldozed over for a sack. He didn’t use any kind of technique, just stayed low and got pushed backwards. All in all, it was a really good game from Mathis, despite the handful of miscues.
Matt Paradis, C
Snaps: 69. Stats: N/A.
Finally the lack of experience issues from Paradis are starting to get cleaned up. He has shown growth as the season has gone on, but he has shown tremendous growth as a player the last couple weeks. His technique is improving, as is his awareness of delayed blitzers.
Louis Vasquez, RG
Snaps: 66. Stats: N/A.
After an abysmal game against the Chiefs, Vasquez bounced back, somewhat, against the Bears. Almost every play, he was giving it his all, which he wasn’t the previous game. However, despite giving his all on just about every play, he still didn’t look great. To be fair, he didn’t look bad, just inconsistent.
Snaps: 67. Stats: N/A.
This was easily the worst full game from Schofield on the season. He had a few plays, but they were few and far between. With how he has played previously, he still deserves to continue to start on the right side, but it is helped by how poorly Ryan Harris has played.
That wraps up the starters. Time for those who subbed into the game.
C.J. Anderson, RB
Snaps: 30. Stats: 12 rushes for 59 yards, 2 catches on 2 targets for 13 yards.
When Anderson entered the game, he did a really sound job running the ball. His best play came on a 3rd-and-12, where he picked up the first down. As for being a receiver, it was the same situation as Hillman. Although Anderson caught both passes thrown his way, he just wasn’t used much by Osweiler as a receiver. The area where Anderson clearly out-shined Hillman was as a blocker.
Andre Caldwell, WR
Snaps: 30. Stats: N/A.
As a receiver, Osweiler never looked Caldwell’s way. A lot of that had to do with his inability to get separation from the Bears defenders. He did look good as a blocker, but that was the only area.
Bennie Fowler, WR
Snaps: 12. Stats: N/A.
With Latimer getting the start, and a lot of use of two or three tight end sets, Fowler really didn’t see a serious amount of action. He was able to get some separation as a receiver, but never got the ball thrown his way. He also looked really good as a blocker, as he has for most of the season.
Jordan Norwood, WR
Snaps: 12. Stats: 1 catch on 1 target for 8 yards.
After missing a few games, Norwood was back in the lineup. He looked really good and quick with his route running. Also, for a change of the status quo, Norwood also looked really good as a blocker, which is unusual.
Virgil Green, TE
Snaps: 24. Stats: 1 catch on 1 target for 9 yards.
Even though he only saw one pass thrown his way, which he caught, he looked really good as a receiver at other times. His big issues came as a blocker, but they were not as many in number as there have been in previous games this season. Hopefully Green can take this game and continue climbing back to his usual self as a blocker, because 'Hulk' hasn't been seen this season.
That wraps up the players who subbed into the game for more than ten snaps. Three players, all on the offensive line, saw less than ten. Max Garcia saw the most with nine, as he subbed in for a few plays for both Evan Mathis and Louis Vasquez.
Tyler Polumbus, who was subbing in at left tackle, saw two snaps and both of them were for Michael Schofield on the right side, who left for a few plays due to getting banged up.
Finally, there was James Ferentz, who saw a snap where he lined up as a fullback on the goal-line to try and help Denver get into the endzone.
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