The O'Reilly Report

The Denver Broncos post a big 17-7 win over the New England Patriots. Read how Broncos Update contributor Dan O'Reilly grades the performance.

This was a big-time win for a Denver Broncos team that seems to have New England's number (5 of 6 since 2001). This was a tough venue to play in, even if the Patriots have lost a lot of solid players this year. It was a relief to see the Broncos' offense come alive finally. The defense played another very solid game (and of course, the NBC pre-game guys gave very little credit to coach Mike Shanahan and his running attack or the play of the defense overall).

Offense: B

It took a while for the offense to get untracked, but once they did, they did a great job of moving the ball and keeping the Patriots defense on the field. Quarterback Jake Plummer looked shaky at times (he still doesn't look 100% comfortable back there, and tried to force balls too often early in the game), but he had some very good passes today, especially the two touchdown passes to Javon Walker.

On the subject of Walker - it's good to see the Broncos have somebody other than Rod Smith that they can count on in a clutch situation. Walker is getting more and more comfortable in this offense, and it shows in his increasing production each week. This is going to be the steal of the draft/offseason, since the Broncos essentially got him for a 2nd round pick. As for the other receivers, it seemed as if the tight ends were generally MIA, although both tight ends Tony Scheffler and Stephen Alexander had a key catch tonight. Rod Smith was dependable again, and David Kircus looks like a lock on the third wide receiver position. Throw it in the same area code and the ball is his.

It's good to see Tatum Bell step up and answer the challenge Shanahan gave to him in the preseason. It's too early to say if he'll be able to stand up under the pounding of 25+ carries per game, but he did look good pretty consistently throughout the game. It also appeared that Cecil Sapp and Kyle Johnson were used interchangeably in the game (I thought Johnson did a better job blocking).

The offensive line looked much more solid tonight. They generally gave Plummer better protection than he's had the previous two games. This is one area where it just plain takes a while to gel, and gelling they are.

Defense: A

12 quarters, one touchdown. 'Nuff said. Best showing by a defense vis-a-vis touchdowns to start a season since 1942. The defense made some critical stops at critical times tonight, and aside from just plain running out of gas on the Patriot's fourth quarter touchdown drive (why did NBC feel compelled to show Patrick Chukwurah puking on the field?), they were more than solid yet again. The bye week, early as it is this season, is coming at the right time for the defense, since there are several key players (linebacker Al Wilson and cornerback Darrent Williams to name two) who are knicked up and can use some time to heal. There's too much of a dropoff, especially when Karl Paymah (and, to a lesser extent, Domonique Foxworth) take the field to replace Williams.

Special kudos tonight to defensive end Kenard Lang (he was in Pats quarterback Tom Brady's face all game) and linebacker D.J. Williams. Williams especially rattled some teeth on some hits and he showed some really great speed.

Special Teams: C+
Kicker Paul Earstner isn't going to make anybody forget about Todd Saurbrun. The Patriots definitely won the battle for field position in general tonight. Earstner's kickoffs were short and his punts had poor hang time. He seemed to struggle getting long punts off when he really needed them. The return game was VERY shaky (Darrent Williams seemed to revert back to last year's form of running backwards instead of forwards), and Rod Smith doesn't need to be back there fielding punts.

Coaching: A

Shanahan owns Patriots coach Bill Belichek right now.Broncos defensive coordinator Larry Coyer had a great defensive game plan, and the players are more and more comfortable with coordinator Mike Heimerdinger on offense.

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