The O'Reilly Report

Broncos Update is proud to showcase our newest contributor, Dan O'Reilly, who will break down the Broncos' performance weekly from a fan's perspective, throughout the 2004 season. Check out this week's installment of "The O'Reilly Report"

Denver Broncos 20, Carolina Panthers 17

This was an interesting game for a couple of reasons, not the least of which that it may have ignited something of a "running back controversy". It's also another demonstration that the Broncos have, I think, finally figured out how to win the close games that they've lost with great regularity the last few years.

Offense: B-
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Yet again, red zone problems.

The Broncos should have put the Panthers away by halftime, but they had to settle for field goals instead of touchdown's inside the red zone. That is going to be a problem somewhere down the line (against, for example, teams like Indy). The team did great moving the ball between the 20's, however.

Also, there's Jake Plummer's inexplicable move back towards the stupid, off-balance throw that gets the team into trouble. It seems like it's 2 steps forward, 1 step back, and THAT has to stop someplace down the road, and soon. To his credit, it does appear that his memory is short for stuff like that, as demonstrated by his willingness to throw that great ball to Ashley Lelie for the touchdown. And here's a vote saying Lelie is stepping up his game the way he's needed to; he's becoming a game-maker.

Now for the really great: Rueben Droughns. I'm not sure (and here's where a little touch of heresay may enter) that he's the 2nd coming of Terrell Davis; it could just as easily be the 2nd coming of Q-ball. Remember the KC game this year - everybody was ready to annoint Quentin Griffin as the RB of the future, but what happened in subsequent games?

Droughns had a GREAT game Sunday, and I REALLY, REALLY want him to keep doing it. But one great game doesn't make a pattern. There's no way the Broncos can keep him out of the lineup next week, he's earned his way onto the field. But by the same token, look at the yardage Griffin put up against Tampa Bay the week before in the fourth quarter. Now THAT would be a nice dilemma: two guys, one a speed burner and one a bruiser, who can run the ball all over the field!

By the way, how much do we know about Kyle Johnson? He was a surprise to me Sunday. And from the sound of it, he played a fair amount of fullback behind Droughns. Two things about Sunday's running game - it showed we had a fullback blocking well, and it showed the offensive line was run-blocking well.

Could it be Johnson may be the real fullback we're looking for? Could that be the missing ingredient that would free up both Griffin and Droughns?

Defense: A
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To hold last year's NFC Super Bowl team to 227 yards is playing some monster D, even though they were down to using the ball-boy as a running back. This defense just keeps getting better and better and better. The nice thing about this D is that it keeps the team in games, and it gives the O enough time to be able to pull them out. I can't help but look back at the D from the last couple of years that was missing that certain "something". Well, I think yes, it was missing something, and now it's missing something that's also making it better.

What it was missing was John Lynch and Champ Bailey, and what it's missing now that's making it better is Deltha O'Neal. This defense is playing like a group of players who have chemistry.

I get the impression that the locker room cancers have been eradicated. And just think: these guys could just get better, they're still all learning how to play together, and they're doing it without Trevor Pryce. Heck, a starting LB from last year (Sykes) has been inactive the last 2 or 3 games!

I don't think it would be right to call it "Orange Crush II" (even in our predominantly orange uniforms), but maybe it's time to start thinking up a new name for this unit (the "Purple People Eaters" from Minnesota keeps coming to mind for this group).

Special Teams: A
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For once, there wasn't a 50-yard runback. Elam hit a great plateau (300 FG's), and once again, no flags!

Coaching: B
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Would have been an A, but for some reason the Broncos didn't run Droughns for a while in the middle of the game. As for the much-maligned fourth down attempts, I've been amused at the people who give Plummer a free pass for the 101 yard pick ("after all, Shanahan shouldn't have called it"). Well, The pick was Plummer's fault - period. Shanahan MUST have the confidence in his players to be able to make that play, and he MUST show it by taking the chance.

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