If there's been a worse start to a regular season in the 34+ years I've been watching Broncos football, I can't tell you what it is. Fundamentally, this team was beaten in every phase of the game and in every sense of the word. To me, they had the look of a team who believed all they would have to do is to show up and they would flatten the Dolphins (after all, that's what all the papers and talking heads said, right?). Frankly, I don't see how much changed from last year.
An inauspicious startup to the season and it bodes ill for the next two weeks against San Diego and KC.
This is a team that's built to use the run to establish the pass. Jake Plummer needs that help, he's as good a quarterback in his ninth season as he's ever going to be. No run game leads to a lousy pass game, and that's what we saw today. It started with the play calling (for a while it looked like the Second Coming of Dan Reeves - run, run, desperation pass) and it goes downhill from there. The offensive line didn't do well at run blocking or pass blocking.
When Plummer had time to throw, he either overthrew the receiver or the receiver dropped the ball. And, carrying on the tradition of his career, he's 1 and 2 for TD/INT. Ashley Lelie had a horrible game (I think that's a guy who's developing a confidence problem - but at least Plummer kept coming back to him). Rod Smith did all he could to take the team on his shoulders, but one aging veteran isn't enough. Adams had a couple of good catches, but the other wide receivers were pretty much silent. The tight ends - supposedly a great strength of the team - were nearly silent as well. The bright spot was Kyle Johnson - that fullback pass into the flat that worked so well with Howard Griffith may just work well with Johnson, too.
The run game gained *70* net yards - and 35 of that came on one Tatum Bell run. It didn't help that Mike Anderson got hurt and Ron Dayne was inactive, by the way. There were times when the Broncos needed some beef running the ball and they just didn't have it.
Finally, the red zone offense was abysmal. Not that they had all that many shots at running it, but that first debacle near the goal line spoke volumes. Why in the world couldn't they pop the ball in, or failing that, just kick a field goal? That was 3 sure points they left on the field.
In the first half especially, the Miami offense themselves, and their penalties, was a big reason they didn't move the ball well. The defense never mounted a serious pass rush with the blitz, let alone rushing their front 4. Miami quarterback Gus Frerotte, the supposed statue in the backfield, had quite a game dinking and dunking the ball off to a myriad of receivers. When he had to, he threw short. When he had to, he threw medium-range. And, of course, the long ball worked as well.
Granted, it didn't help that cornerback Champ Bailey got hurt, then Lenny Walls and Darrent Williams went down with cramps (and no, I don't fault the training staff - I've listened to lots of pros who say that Miami in September gives just as great a home field advantage as Buffalo in December). Defensive back is turning into another potentially serious problem, depending on how fast Bailey comes back. Willimas is a gamer, but the kid is just that: a kid. He may just get a crash course in Life as an NFL DB in a big hurry this season.
Towards the end of the game, the defense just plain got worn out. They were on the field way too much, thanks to the offense, and the heat and humidity were brutal. They played hard (finally) but just wore out.
Special Teams: C-
Todd Sauerbrun punted OK (mostly), but why in the WORLD did the Broncos keep
Paul Ernster? What a waste of a roster spot! Jason Elam could have kicked just as
well, and maybe we could have kept another player or two. I really don't
understand Shanahan's reasoning behind keeping Ernster on the roster. By
the way, I'm starting my campaign early for drafting Crosby from CU as soon
as he's available!
Nick Saban and company just plain out-coached Mike Shanahan and company. The play calling was suspect and they didn't seem able to adjust well to what Miami was doing.
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