The O'Reilly Report

Broncos Update contributor Dan O'Reilly grades the Denver Broncos' 34-13 win over the New Orleans Saints.

I confess to being a bit worried going into this game, after what happened the last time the Broncos were supposed to run over an opponent at Cincinnati. However, the Broncos game out strong, took a quarter off, then played the second half with pretty good ball control and style.

I think it's a bit worrisome that the Broncos were only four of 12 on third down conversions, and the running game was pretty well shut down after the first quarter. Against the worst defense in the league, that's not a good sign. Finally, the poorly-timed and REALLY stupid penalties (three personal fouls and one LINING UP IN THE NEUTRAL ZONE??????). Some were a bit iffy, but most were both stupid and deserved.

On the other hand, I think it's tough to argue against the Bailey/Portis trade. The Broncos got the best of this one by far, from all appearances.

Offense: B

Against the worst defense in the league, the offense managed only seven points in the final three quarters of the game. Granted, they staked themselves to a big first-quarter lead, but they let the Saints hang around WAY too long in a game where a missed call here, a missed INT there, and the Saints could have caused big trouble for the Broncos. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the Broncos locker room at the half, because I suspect Shanahan burned more than a few people (on both sides of the ball), and deservedly so.

On the plus side, Lelie really shone again. The fourth quarter offensive pass interference call was bogus; he really should have had better stats. But he's turned into the big play receiver - all six of his TD's this season have come on plays longer than 30 yards! Putzier was a bull (save for his dropped pass) who's looking like the answer at TE more and more every game. Plummer did a good job on some VERY nice touch passes. The other big guy on offense was Kyle Johnson at FB, somebody who I think is really coming into his own. He may not be the next Howard Griffith, but I think he's the fullback the team has been looking for. Last, but hardly least, is, of course, Droughns. Another 166 yards today, putting him over 800 for his first 6 starts.

On the down side, I was paying a lot of attention to third down after they started so poorly, and I have to confess, I think a lot of it is Plummer. There were at least 4 times where he smoked a pass to a receiver who was only 5 yards or so downfield and in position to make a first down. I think it's another manifestation of him getting spooked when he's under pressure like that under a blitz, so he lets fly. Two other major disappointments: a) Watts has pretty much disappeared, and b) yet again, Hamilton was a problem on the OL with three holding penalties, two of which wiped out some big gains. We really need to address LG in the offseason.

Defense: A-

When they had to hold, they held. But they gave up way too many yards (411) to the Saints. Bailey: what can you say? The guy only had 13 tackles plus that INCREDIBLE interception in the end zone in the 4th quarter (Clinton Who?). The D-line did a pretty darned good job putting pressure on Brooks, and while they didn't have a whole lot of sacks, Brooks was running for his life a good part of the day. It was good to see Walls in there, and that one LONG pass play he broke up showed how much of an advantage height can be for a defensive back. Lynch and Kennedy rang some bells today, too, glad to seek Lynch was playing. And to hold a back like McAllister to only 42 yards rushing ain't bad, either.

A couple more thoughts - can we hope the INT drought is over...? And is there a spot on the USA Olympic 4x100 relay team in '08 for Hayward...?

Special Teams: A

Good kick coverage, adequate kickoffs, and of course, Mr Automatic in the form of #1, Jason Elam. I was REALLY glad to see Knorr get back on the field after going down the way he did, and after the game Shanahan noted that there didn't seem to be anything wrong with Knorr's leg.

Coaching: A

Great game plan going in. They obviously spotted the weaknesses in the NO defense and exploited them early, and they also had a good defensive plan against a pretty good NO offense (with good second half adjustments).

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