The O'Reilly Report

The Denver Broncos not only exacted revenge for last year's playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game, but they also exorcized the demons that haunted them in their pre-Halloween loss to the Colts last week. Read Dan O'Reilly's report on how the team graded in its 31-20 win over the Steelers.

The Broncos not only exacted revenge for last year's playoff loss in the AFC Championship game, but they also exorcized the demons that haunted them in their pre-Halloween loss to the Colts last week. Admittedly, Pittsburgh isn't the same team they were last year, but to come into Heinz Field and come away with a win is very satisfying and important for the Broncos, who needed to reassert themselves. The big potential downside is the potential cost to the defense: Darrent Williams, John Lynch, Nick Ferguson, Sam Brandon and Ian Gold all had some sort of injury or another.

Offense: A
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Big play, thy name is Javon Walker. As if any confirmation was really needed, Walker again asserted his big play value for the Broncos. If memory serves, at one time around the midpoint of the game against the Steelers, he had fifty percent of the Broncos first downs. Great soft hands, great speed, and great leaping ability have made him the go-to guy on the offense (who's Ashley Lelie, anyway?).

Kudos to quarterback Jake Plummer today. He was accurate when he needed to be, and he made some very nice downfield throws. This was THE game for Plummer, and he capitalized on every opportunity he had, making the big throws when he needed to. The one real mistake he made was luckily discarded by the defensive back bobbling the ball.

Take away the 72 yard run by Walker, and the Broncos only had 43 total yards rushing today. But that wasn't really unexpected, as the Steelers have an excellent rushing defense. Still, it was nice to see running back Cedric Cobbs back on the field after his injury.

Oh, by the way: did Denver dress any tight ends today...?

Defense: C+
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Although the defense burned the Steelers for five turnovers (the sixth was a special teams effort), the same pattern continued that was established last week. In the past two games, the defense has allowed 778 yards passing and 936 yards of total offense. That MUST change.

Along with a soft zone (again) the Broncos had poor tackling (again) and that contributed greatly to big yards-after-catch numbers for the Steelers receivers. Still, the fact that Williams and Ferguson went out, then Brandon went down in replacement of safety Nick Ferguson, didn't exactly help the numbers. It's good to see the depth that allowed the Broncos to still hold the Steeler offense more-or-less in check despite all the injuries.

The defensive line charge was definitely helped by Gerard Warren being back on the field. The front four gave pretty good pressure overall at times, but that pass rush was still inconsistent overall.

Special Teams: B
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Punter Paul Ernster seems to be going through a mid-season mini-slump. His kicking was fairly inconsistent today, both with his kickoffs and punting.

Coaching: B
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A great offensive game plan, but something needs to change on the defensive side. With the injuries to the secondary, I'm not sure how much realistically can change, but it'll be interesting to see how they plan for hot QB's in KC and San Diego in coming weeks.



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