Still, this is a game that the Broncos would likely have found a way to lose in recent seasons, and that they didn't is a sign of maturity.
I think the real value of this game, other than giving the Boys in Predominately Orange a 4-1 record, is that it should serve to be an eye opener for the next two games against the Patriots and the Giants. I expect the Broncos will come out much stronger and much more focused next week.
Sometimes all you need is a good shock to your system to jolt you to the next level (or, as Dad would say, "a smack upside the head with a 2x4
to get your attention").
Miserable conditions, way too many dropped balls, lousy run blocking, below-average pass blocking, and they still put 21 points on the board, thanks mainly to the breakaway speed that running back Tatum Bell showed.
The Broncos (coaches and players) have been talking for a month about how Bell was on the verge of a breakout game, and I think he had his today. That has to be great for his self-confidence for future games, and could pay big dividends. He definitely showed an ability to switch gears that Ron Dayne (where was he today?) and Mike Anderson simply don't have.
To his credit, this was another good game for Plummer, in that he avoided that silly turnover at the wrong time. On the minus side, he had a tendency to throw behind receivers today. Ashley Lelie may pick up criticism for another non-game, but I also think that aside from the first pass that he dropped, it generally wasn't his fault.
This wasn't the defense that showed up the last three games. Granted, Mark Brunell is a mobile quarterback, but the defense simply couldn't contain him (and their only sack was wiped out by a STUPID penalty).
Wide receiver Santana Moss was open all day, particularly on third down, and running back Clinton Portis was the beneficiary of too many missed tackles. Cornerbacks Domonique Foxworth and Darrent Williams were exposed today as rookies, and there were way too many plays that the defensive backs had to make.
When they're making plays, you know the defensive line isn't getting pressure on the quarterback. For a while to begin the second half they were playing much better, but then they let Brunell get back into a rhythm again, and that nearly cost the Broncos dearly.
The linebackers had, as a group, the best game for the defense. Al Wilson has solidly cemented his position as the leader of this defense: no need for flash and showboating, his play speaks for itself, and with great volume and clarity.
Special Teams: B
Take away the blocked punt and this would have been a higher grade. Their kick coverage was generally pretty good, and punter Todd Sauerbrun did a good job of pinning the 'Skins back when the Broncos really needed it. His kickoffs still concern me: seems to be powering the ball in a line drive rather than really getting any loft into the ball. To be fair, it must have been like kicking a brick out there, but still, this could cost in the long run.
Nothing spectacular, it was a pretty solid game plan overall. I though the halftime adjustments defensive coordinator Larry Coyer made were pretty good. However, I also thought they went just a bit too conservative in the 4th quarter, considering the 'Skins defense was still relatively fresher than that of the Broncos, due to a pretty fair time-of-possession disparity.
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