The O'Reilly Report

Dan O'Reilly writes that the Denver Broncos set a beautiful example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in their 35-27 loss to the Chargers. Read Dan O'Reilly's report on how the team graded in Sunday's game.

This was as beautiful an example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as I've ever seen in all the years I've watched the Denver Broncos (and that goes back to 1968). The Broncos played exactly *ONE* quarter of football tonight. They started with something around 10 yards of total offense for the 1st quarter, finally got the offense and defense both going REALLY well for the second quarter. But in the entire second half they let a 24-7 lead turn to an absolute butt-kicking defeat, scoring a total of six offensive points and one defensive touchdown along the way.

This team has been exposed for what it is - a porous defense when they face a good offensive team and an offense that hasn't found a consistent rhythm and has underperformed all year long.

San Diego now has a big leg up on Denver for the division. The Broncos have to go into San Diego in a couple of weeks in a must-win situation. It's now put Denver in a must-win situation on Thursday for the Kansas City game - which, unfortunately, is in KC where Denver seldom wins.

Denver is currently playing for the wildcard position and that's far from a given at this point.

Offense: D
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Three-and-out. WAY too many of those. Poor passing by quarterback Jake Plummer (12 completions for 168 yards - about 30 of which came on a meaningless desperation final drive). OK, OK, it was really 13 completions - too bad one went to the other team. Plummer was absolutely inefficient. He was off-target all day. And he cost the team any chance of a win with his spectacularly accurate interception to end the last gasp on the fourth-down play in the fourth quarter.

At this point of the season, with a 7-3 record, it's REALLY hard to say "put Cutler in, I've had enough of Jake Plummer". After all, the record is what it is. But it's clear, at least to me, that this team isn't going anywhere very far in the playoffs (assuming they get to them) with Jake Plummer. So at what point do they realize that and give Cutler the seasoning he'll need to really step up and play as a starter? I don't know, I just don't know.

I *DO* know I'm about 90% fed up with Plummer, once and for all. Yes, it's great the he knows how to win regular season games, but last I heard, you don't get rings for that.

If there was a bright spot for the offense, it was the running game, with Damien Nash and Mike Bell running for some good yards. Bell seemed to have responded very well to being benched last week. The pretty decent running yards are a result of some great line blocking by the offensive line. Tackle Erik Pears has done an exceptional job filling in for the injured Matt Lepsis, and if I were George Foster, I would worry about having a job next season, assuming Lepsis comes back 100% from his ACL injury.

Defense: F
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This was deja vu all over again, only instead of the Colts, it was the Chargers. Aside from the interception on their opening drive of the second half, the Chargers scored touchdowns on four consecutive drives in the second half. The Broncos were in no danger of stopping them at any time.

It was a textbook example, written by the Colts and executed to perfection by the Chargers, of how to totally dominate/humiliate the Broncos.

The essence of the problem - no pass rush. Zero. Zip. One lousy sack all night, and very seldom was Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers under any real pressure to deliver the ball, save for one decent spell in the second quarter when the defense decided to come out and play football.

The other problem - a very soft zone that the Charger receivers had little trouble defeating. When the Broncos play that zone, bad things happen. Yet they continue to use it, as poorly as it is that they do.

Special Teams: C
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Overall, punter Paul Ernster was no better than OK today. I hope the Broncos have Todd Sauerbrun's phone number on speed-dial, because I have a feeling they may use it in a couple of weeks. The punting cost field possession again today. I also thought it interesting that yet another returner was used in the person of Cecil Sapp (that's three or four in the last few games, by my count).

Coaching: D
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Pretty good offensive game plan had the offense actually executed it. But yet again, the Broncos defense didn't/couldn't adjust after halftime to what the Chargers did on offense.

And here's one final thing, with respect to the Plummer situation - coach Mike Shanahan has said over and over again, and has demonstrated over and over again, that he'll bench players who don't perform up to their capabilities and/or expectation. Clearly, that's Jake Plummer. But I get the distinct feeling that Shanhan has painted himself into a corner, with his repeated proclamations that "Jake is my man for the season". Translated, that means "it doesn't matter how badly he plays, he's judged differently than all the other players on the team." I'm a Shanahan guy through and through, but at times he gets blinders on, and that's all she wrote.



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