- Denver no longer has a home-field advantage.
- Denver still has major, major issues on special teams.
- Denver may have changed defensive coordinators, but do they have the right personnel to play that defense?
- Denver's offensive line is becoming porous (tackle Matt Lepsis, especially).
The Broncos moved the ball at times. They really did. Honest. Heck, they had nearly 300 yards of offense and were nearly 50% on third-down conversions. But nobody could hang onto the ball or get open. Time and again, quarterback Jay Cutler was forced to throw short (only about 6.5 yards/throw today, less than half of what the Chargers' Phillip Rivers did). Only two running plays for 72 yards. This is one of those times when I wonder just how much running back Travis Henry's off-field problems were an impact on the game, because he was just plain ineffective (nearly one fourth of his yards came on one 15-yard carry).
The offensive line blocking wasn't good. Lepsis this year has shown a propensity to let pass rushers get through him. Cutler was on the run a lot, and he's just plain not ready yet to put a team on his shoulders and carry them to victory. Remember: HE'S A ROOKIE!
I'm also beginning to have a bad feeling about Brandon Marshall. Yes, he's getting open and making some plays. But what's disturbing me is that when he should be angry about not making plays, he has a grin on his face. I just get a feeling he's going to grow a TO-like attitude. Call it a hunch, but put it in the back of your mind.
If there was a bright spot today, it was the play of Glen Martinez. A call-up from the practice squad, he at least got open and did his best to make plays. I would like to see more from this young man.
This defense is horrible. Absolutely horrible. I've been watching the Broncos since the late 60's, and this is the worst I can remember a Broncos team playing - worse even than those terrible Super Bowl losses. Defensive coordinator Jim Bates may be the guy to put together a good defense, but I really question now that the Broncos have the players to actually play his defense.
Linebacker Ian Gold is a poor tackler, and he's often out of place on plays. D.J. Williams is playing out of position and he's becoming the invisible man. Cornerback Dre Bly hasn't come close to living up to his advance billing. Safety John Lynch has lost a step, and fellow safety Nick Ferguson never had that step. Tackle Sam Adams is too slow to be effective (watching him lumber after Rivers on a rollout was a sad, laughable, joke). And it didn't help that cornerback Champ Bailey missed a fair amount of time with a quad injury.
Special Teams: F
At least kicker Jason Elam will get a good three-week rest, what with the bye week and all. After all, he had only one kick to make today. Looks like it was a good thing that San Diego was kicking them into the end zone today, it makes it harder to cough up the ball, and besides, the Broncos get great field position on the 20 because of it (sarcasm intended) - which seems to be better than they're capable of when actually running back a kick.
The offensive play calling was pretty good. They were able to move the ball and keep San Diego back in the first half. But the defense never found its rhythm and never made any kind of adjustments.
At this point, given the bye week coming up, it's time to shake things up, to send a message. First and foremost - fire the special teams staff. Period. Getting rid of Bates would accomplish nothing and it would be a guarantee of losing nearly 100% of the remaining games in the season. You can't learn a new defensive scheme, assuming you have the staff to even make it work, in just a few days, which is what it would end up being. But special teams could hardly be worse, and there aren't, frankly, many ways to accomplish the job on special teams. A change here after only five games would be brutal send a VERY loud message.
Secondly, send another message by sitting some overpriced and underperforming defensive butts on the bench. Put in players who WANT to get the job done. Move Williams back outside, and maybe put Webster in the middle.
For the Future
This Broncos team is at a decision point, right now. They either want to whip teams or they're ready to give up. The way they're playing, they stand an excellent chance of going 5-11 or 6-10 this year. First and foremost, they need to take back home-field advantage. They need to make teams fear to come into Denver. They need to get their self-respect back. More importantly, they need to earn back the respect of the fans.
Perhaps this season's breakdown couldn't have come at a worse time for the Broncos. They've NEVER, NEVER, been in a position to be held up as a comparison to another pro team in Denver - to wit - the Rockies. The Broncos were supposed to have the talent to win, and the Rockies were supposed to be OK, but be the Colorado version of the Cubbies - wait until next year. I don't think Broncos fans are going to be burning their Predominantly Orange gear in the streets or trading it for the purple and black, but they should take note of how a team (the Rockies) plays with heart, chemistry, everything the Broncos aren't, and how they're taking on the world and making people sit up and take notice.
And maybe that's the problem. The Rockies are 25 guys playing as a team. The Broncos seem to be 45 guys who are on the field once in a while, but that's about it.
This season isn't over. It's only the fifth game, and the Broncos do only have three losses. There is time to turn things around, time to assert themselves, time to redeem themselves to the fans.
But do they have what it takes to do that...?
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