Grading The Denver Broncos Offensive Performances In The Divisional Round Of The Playoffs

The Broncos took on the Steelers, who came into Denver looking for an upset. Fortunately, the Broncos pulled out the win to advance to the AFC Championship game. The offense was, well, they weren’t all that good all-around, but made key plays when needed. Just how well did they do on an individual level? MHH Analyst Erick Trickel examines.

The Denver Broncos offense started off with great field position on their first two drives, but were only able to come away with six total points. They struggled to consistently move the ball, especially on the ground, and just couldn’t punch it into the endzone.

Well, that was until the defense forced a fumble and recovered it, giving the Broncos good field position. They busted off a couple of big gains, before punching it into the endzone on the ground. After that, they went for the two-point conversion and made it. It was from from a great game by the offense, but it was enough to pull out the win, in an uncomfortable fashion.

Before jumping into the grades, there is one bit that needs to be talked about — drops. Many are crediting the receivers with nine drops, which is incorrect, though I can see why they say nine. However, two of those “drops” were passed that were broken up by the defense.

Those are not drops — those go down as passes defensed. Drops are balls the player, well, drops and doesn’t have smacked out of their hands. Another two of these “drops” were at the fingertips of the receivers, and just slightly out of their reach.

Peyton Manning, QB

Snaps: 74. Stats: 21-of-37 for 222 yards.

True Accuracy: 16-of-20 for 159 yards. Responsible for 1 QB hit.

Now, I am not one to blindly support a player because of his name, so if you want that, then skip past this. The reality for Manning is he played a very mediocre game, but it was good enough. Some of his passes were not well-placed, and were saved by the receivers making a play.

On three of the five credited drops, the passes were wrongly placed (although the players are pros and still could have come down with them). There were times he was trying to force passes, and almost got picked off on three separate occasions. The hit he is responsible for came on a defensive back blitz, which was quite obviously a blitz, that Manning just never adjusted for. The rust was noticeable, but he still made some really good throws and decisions when needed. When they needed Manning, he was solid, which is good enough with the defense the team has.

Grade: 67.1

Ronnie Hillman, RB

Snaps: 33. Stats: 16 rushes for 38 yards. 4 QB hurries and 1 stop allowed. 1 target, 1 drop.

It was a very poor game for Hillman, but some of it has to do with what happened up front. Some of it is on him, because he just wasn’t quick with his decisions, or cuts. There was one run he looked really good, despite it going for only four yards. He was tough, physical and pushing for extra yards, which is something that is rarely seen from Hillman.

Pass protection was atrocious from Hillman, and he did very little to slow down rushers to whom he was assigned to block. To top it all off, he saw one ball thrown his way — hit him right in the hands, but he was didn’t look the catch in and dropped it.

Grade: 21.8

Emmanuel Sanders, WR

Snaps: 66. Stats: 5 catches on 8 targets for 85 yards, with 1 drop.

It was a really good game from Sanders, and he took some really big hits during the game going after some not-so-well-placed passes. There were no fundamental issues with Sanders, like there were in the game before this. He just looked really good, with little to no flaws in his game all-around.

Grade: 88.0

Demaryius Thomas, WR

Snaps: 62. Stats: 4 catches on 8 targets for 40 yards, with 1 drop.

Considering it was the first game that his mother attended in person, it wasn’t a very pretty game for Thomas. It could have been from the emotion of his mother being there and it being such a big game, or something else, but he just didn’t look fully focused on the game. He did come up with probably the biggest catch of the game, and the catch doesn’t even count, but it was on a two-point conversion.

Grade: 41.8

Jordan Norwood, WR

Snaps: 30. Stats: 1 catch on 4 targets for 10 yards.

The slot receiver has been seeing a lot of action, and has looked really good — for the most part. Well, that was before this last Sunday. Norwood just had a rough game, especially with his route running. Not all of the passes thrown his way were catchable, but a few were that he was unable to reign in.

Grade: 57.3

Owen Daniels, TE

Snaps: 52. Stats: 2 catches on 3 targets for 10 yards. 1 QB hurry allowed.

It was quietly a decent game for the veteran tight end, though it wasn’t without flaws. He nearly had three catches, but had the third one broken up by the defender. Even though he isn’t the best blocker, he was used as a blocker often and looked decent. There were some running plays that he really failed on, but not many of them.

Grade: 71.3

Ryan Harris, LT

Snaps: 74. Stats: 1 QB hit and 4 QB hurries allowed

The starting left tackle had a very rough game. He was part of an offensive line that underperformed when run blocking. He, personally, was a big reason for the underperforming. On top of that, Harris really struggled somewhat consistently with his pass protection.

Grade: 39.8

Evan Mathis, LG

Snaps: 74. Stats: 3 QB hurries allowed.

Mathis played very well being back as the starting left guard. He was benched for a few reasons, one of them being to get healthy for the playoffs, and that paid off. Mathis still showed his struggles in pass protection, but did really well, for the most part, as a run blocker. On one big run, he made a huge block to open up a big running lane for the running back.

Grade: 71.8

Matt Paradis, C

Snaps: 74. Stats: 1 QB hurry and 1 stop allowed

Paradis has easily been the best offensive linemen for the Broncos this season and by a wide margin. Each week he continues to show his growth as a player, and keeps getting better. On Sunday, in the biggest game of his career so far, he answered the bell and played an outstanding game. Not saying there were no flaws, just that they were very few and masked by excellent play otherwise.

Grade: 97.8

Louis Vasquez,RG

Snaps: 65. Stats: N/A.

Vasquez started at right guard and looked decent. He was clearly more comfortable in pass protection than run blocking, and did very well as a pass blocker. However, his run blocking left a lot to be desired, which isn’t a good thing, as he is known for excelling as a run blocker. Not many positives, but not many negatives, either. Just was a very mediocre game from the right guard.

Grade: 55.6

Michael Schofield, RT

Snaps: 74. Stats: 2 hurries and 1 stop allowed.

For as much heat as Schofield has taken, he actually played a really good game against the Steelers. His pass protection was really sound, including some excellent veteran-type moves to keep pressure off of the quarterback. He did struggle at times as a run blocker, including getting beaten off the snap for a stop, but for the most part he did really well.

Grade: 77.5

That wraps up the starters. Now time for the players who subbed into the game and saw ten or more snaps.

C.J. Anderson, RB

Snaps: 37. Stats: 15 rushes for 72 yards and 1 touchdown. 2 catches on 3 targets for 11 yards, with 1 drop. 1 sack allowed.

There were some runs where Anderson got stuffed, and like with Hillman, it wasn’t all on the blocking up front. Anderson just wasn’t quick enough through the hold and got tackled for little-to-no gains. There were some big runs that Anderson busted off largely because of the excellent blocking up front on those plays. His drop came on a pass high and away, which he had to jump and extend for, but wasn’t able to come down with it. As for his sack, he just got plowed over by a Steelers defensive linemen who should have been picked up by an offensive linemen.

Grade: 81.6

Andre Caldwell, WR

Snaps: 27. Stats: 1 catch on 2 targets for negative 1 yard.

Caldwell just kind of floated through the game. His other target ended with him not coming down with the catch, after the defender made a great play to break up the pass. As a blocker, it wasn’t any noticeable difference when Caldwell was out there and when he was. He really just floated through the game.

Grade: 50.0

Bennie Fowler, WR

Snaps: 21. Stats: 2 catches on 4 targets for 35 yards, with 1 drop.

Some may want to credit Fowler for two drops, however, one was on a diving attempt that barely touched his fingertips. That isn’t a drop, it was just a poorly-placed pass. Fowler had plenty of open space in front of him with a good amount of separation. Just had to be slightly led so he could make the catch at speed and turn upfield, but the pass was too far ahead. Later on in the game, Folwer showed just how tough he can be to bring down after he carried a couple defenders for a few yards. Fowler has no quit in him and it shows every time he takes the field, and it doesn't matter if it’s to block or run a route.

Grade: 79.5

Virgil Green, TE

Snaps: 31. Stats: 2 catches on 2 targets for 14 yards. 1 hurry and 1 stop allowed.

Virgil Green is finally getting his fair share of targets, and has looked great. He is so tough and physical before and after the catch, which is needed from the tight end position. As a blocker, he was off all game. He was beaten a few times as a run blocker, and struggled some with his pass protection. The bigger defensive linemen of the Steelers gave him some trouble, and so did veteran OLB James Harrison, who used perfect technique to destroy Green on a run play, which doesn’t happen often.

Grade: 71.4

That wraps up those who saw ten or more snaps. There were four players who saw action. Max Garcia lead the group with nine snaps, and all came at right guard when Vasquez left for a short time due to injury. Receiver Cody Latimer saw six snaps, and actually two targets.

He ended up catching both passes and picked up 18 yards. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus saw four snaps, and all on the goal-line. Finally, tight end Vernon Davis saw one snap and continues to be in the dog house as he has seen a total of 13 snaps in the last three games.

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Erick Trickel in an Analyst for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @Alaskan_Bronco. And be sure to like MileHighHuddle on Facebook

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