This was the first time the Broncos have gone up against a really good team, and it was exposed as not being very good against that team. For the first time this season, the defense played a poor game, and it cost the team. It cost them the lead in the AFC and it cost the tiebreaker against the Colts.
Quarterback Jake Plumer *FINALLY* had his "breakout game", as did running back Mike Bell. This was as confident a game played by Plummer as he's had since the playoffs last year. He threw accurately and with authority. The only really strange thing he did was on the last possession. He got out of trouble and had a clear field for at least 10 yards, yet he decided to throw the ball short in front of a receiver. That failure to get the first down and settle for a field goal was the end of the game for the Broncos, the way the Colts were moving the ball. That shouldn't take away from the effort he gave (he played a great game and he didn't lose the game for the team), but that play still makes me scratch my head.
The running game finally got going in the second half when Mike Bell took over. For some reason, Tatum Bell just looked a step slow and indecisive today. I don't know that Mike Bell will unseat Tatum, but it's good to know he could step in and run like he did. Kudos also to Cecil Sapp. He really looked good on some of the runs he had.
Finally, the offensive line. It was clear in the first part of the game that they missed injured tackle Matt Lepsis in the running game. But as time went on, replacement Erik Pears seemed to settle in and gave a good accounting of himself. Things are going to be OK there. By and large, the line gave Plummer time to throw the ball and they pretty much negated the speed and strength of the Indianapolis defensive ends.
FG, FG, TD, TD, FG, TD, FG. That's the story of the Broncos' defensive effort today. They stopped quarterback Peyton Manning exactly ONCE, on the first drive of the game. The rest of the time, they combined VERY soft coverage by the corners (Darrent Williams was burnt so many times I think a new nickname for him should be "Crispy Critter") with poor tackling to give the Colts the run of the field and free reign to move the ball as they wanted to. All season long the Broncos played tight man-to-man coverage and it worked for them. Today, they inexplicably decided a soft zone was the right way to play, and they were toasted all day.
The other key: absolutely NO, NADA, ZIP, ZILCH pass rush on a QB who had all day to throw the ball. They never got close to Manning, and that was a fatal flaw in the defensive play.
Special Teams: A
Good kicking game, good coverage by the Broncos.
Against the 31st-ranked team against the run, the Broncos came out throwing, throwing, throwing. The key is keeping the ball out of Manning's hands, and they didn't do that to start the game. It didn't hurt them, but it was puzzling. However, defensive coordinator Larry Coyer & Co lost the battle in the second half when they didn't do anything to counter the adjustments that Indy made at the half.
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