The O'Reilly Report

Broncos Update contributor Dan O'Reilly grades Denver's 23-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Check out the complete story.

Well, Broncos Nation, I'm sorry to say, things don't look good. This is the first time in a LONG time that the Broncos have lost three straight, let alone three straight at home. It was yet another time where the Broncos played well enough to win (especially considering it was the baptism by fire of Jay Cutler), then snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. A loss next week to San Diego is not only possible, but realistically probable, and that will pretty much wind up the season with very little chance of a playoff berth.

I think it's safe to say that nobody was expecting the second incarnation of John Elway, and they didn't get it. Cutler made his mistakes. And yet again, lack of a pass rush and poor special teams play cost the team. But to be honest, it was an overall sloppy effort - five turnovers between special teams and the offense, and ill-timed penalties on defense to go with no pass rush.

Offense: D

Jay Cutler played the way pretty much everybody expected him to (and yes, it's WAY too early to call for Jake Plummer's return!). The first INT he had was poor judgement, plain and simple, and it's a mistake he won't make very often (if ever) again - and he had his chances to, on a few other occasions in the game. His passing early in the game was erratic, but you can't blame the kid for being amped up for his first start in a big game. He did settle down nicely, and I expect by the end of the season he's going to win more games. And, frankly, he played no worse than Plummer had been playing lately. But the facts are the facts - the offense was ineffective, particularly in the second half.

The big bright spot was running back Tatum Bell who had 113 yards in the first half, 133 overall, but it looks like he's down again with an injury. Mike Bell did little to further his cause, but Cecil Sapp had a couple of nice runs.

Defense: C-

Let's see: 6 Seattle possessions in the 4th quarter - punt, TD, FG, FG, FG, end-of-game.

Heard that someplace before? Same old song. Play well, stop the other team, stuff their running game, blanket the receivers pretty well. Then, give up a 3-play, 61 yard drive for the go-ahead TD. And for good measure, give up pass play after pass play to put the Seahawks in place for the game-winning field goal. Again, as we've seen in game after game lately, the Broncos have no consistent pass rush. They had a QB in Dan Hasselbeck that was the very antithesis of mobile, but they put him down *ONE* time. A four-man rush does nothing. Neither does a 5-man or 6-man rush. It doesn't matter how immobile a QB is, if he has no fear of the pass rush, he'll pick you apart - and that's exactly what happened.

On a somber note, the injury to Al Wilson was sobering. I couldn't help drawing a parallel to the way linebacker John Mobley was injured, that ended his career. Obviously, it's WAY too soon to pass any kind of judgement like that, but it sobering just the same. Get well, Al, you're the heart and soul of the defense!

Special Teams: F

Yet again, special teams embarrassed the whole team. They turned the ball over in a fumble, and kick returner Darrent Williams was extremely lucky to not do it a second time. The kick coverage was questionable. The kicking game was barely adequate. The return game had decent stats, but the average was WAY padded by one or two longer returns. Of 8 punts, only 2 were returned - for 6 yards. And if kicker Jason Elam's hammy injury is bad (and they can linger for weeks), it would mean Paul Ernster doing the placekicking (shudder).

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: special teams coach Ronnie Bradford needs to go. Nice guy, good career with the team as a player, but his special teams have been anything BUT special.

Coaching: C

For most of the game, they let the kid play. Then they inexplicably turn conservative and take away the chances to make something happen in the 3rd quarter. And just as inexplicably, they go from a pretty smothering defense to the soft zone again, and with Denver's nearly-nonexistent pass rush, that's a recipe for a loss.

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