From The Armchair: Denver Broncos: Week 6
Week 6 looked to be a cakewalk for the Broncos as they came in with a 5-0 record facing the 0-5 Jacksonville Jaguars. Vegas had the Broncos anywhere from 26 to 28 point favorites, and figuring the Broncos were had averaged 45 points a game compared to the Jags’ 10 it didn’t seem too crazy. But this is the NFL and these are professionals getting paid and filled with pride. The Broncos started off well scoring on their first two drives and taking a 14-0 lead in the 1st quarter. But the Jags fought hard with a couple good drives resulting in field goals to trim the lead to 14-6. Then late in the 2nd quarter, Peyton Manning threw his 2nd interception of the season on a combination of a bad read and a poor pass. Linebacker Paul Posluszny made the leaping grab and took it 59 yards to the house. The Jags went for two and the Chad Henne pass was intercepted by Champ Bailey and we went into the half with the Broncos leading just 14-12. Manning lead the Broncos down the field to open up the second half with an 80 yard drive resulting in a Knowshon Moreno TD. The Jags answered back with an 80 yard TD drive of their own to keep pace. The Broncos countered with another 80 yard TD drive, capped again by a Moreno TD run and opened up breathing room again. After a solid defensive 3 and out, the Broncos drove inside the Jags’ 5 yard line but a 2nd Manning fumble gave the ball back to the Jags. Kayvon Webster intercepted a Henne pass 5 plays leader and the Broncos went on to score on another Moreno TD run and take a 35-19 lead which would end up being the final score. The 35 points is the lowest output of the season to date for the Broncos. In the end, it’s best to remember that any win is a good win in this league.
Peyton Manning had by far his most human-like afternoon of the season. He finished the day 28/42 for 295 yards, two touchdowns, an INT and two fumbled snaps which he lost. The two touchdowns give Manning 22 for the season, the most for a QB through 6 games in NFL history. The Broncos had their worst quarter of the season in the 2nd where they went 3 and out, fumbled, 3 and out, interception, and kneeled on 2 downs for the end of the half. The Jags did a good job of getting to Manning even though they didn’t sack him. They played mainly in a 2 deep zone in attempt to keep from giving up big plays and it worked. The Broncos backs and receivers had some drops and they were never able to get in a good rhythm. One curious observation was that there were a lot of formations and routes that we’ve seen work in the last couple weeks that weren’t run in this game.
Knowshon Moreno was able to take advantage of the Jags D and finished with 42 rushing yards, 62 receiving and a career high, 3 touchdowns. Montee Ball had a nice 15 yard run in the game, but had a bad drop coming out of the backfield and didn’t see any action after that. Ronnie Hillman chipped in 20 yards on the ground, but had another fumble that was luckily recovered by Eric Decker. There’s no question Moreno is entrenched as the #1 guy for the foreseeable future. Julius Thomas and Wes Welker caught the Manning TD passes. It was Thomas’ 7th and Welker’s 8th of the year. Demaryius Thomas led all Broncos receivers with 78 yards but only had three catches.
RT Orlando Franklin left the game with a leg injury which needs to be monitored closely this week, since they are already playing without pro bowl left tackle Ryan Clady for the year.
The Broncos welcomed Champ Bailey back into the lineup for the first time this year, but went in missing DE Robert Ayers and MLB Wesley Woodyard. Bailey was obviously rusty, and the Broncos clearly missed the presence of Ayers and Woodyard. As was to be expected, the Broncos held the Jags to under 100 rushing yards and Maurice Jones-Drew had 71 on 21 carries. Drew broke off a couple decent runs, but for the most part was contained pretty well by the interior defense. The problem for the Broncos again was their secondary. Justin Blackmon torched Denver for 180 yards on 14 catches and Henne threw for 303 yards on 27/42 attempts. Blackmon was open all day, no matter who was covering him, and caught a lot of his balls and shallow slants and crosses. This secondary is just incredibly soft in coverage lately and hopefully as Bailey gets back into game shape he can help tighten the reigns a little bit.
Once again, the Broncos could not sustain a pass rush, even against a MASH unit offensive line. Malik Jackson had the only two sacks of the game for the Broncos and they came on the same 3 and out drive late in the 3rd quarter. Shaun Phillips was able to get to Henne on a couple occasions getting his hand on the QB and forcing the two interceptions by Kayvon Webster and Danny Trevathan.
Chris Harris came back after leaving last week due to a concussion to lead the Broncos D with 11 tackles.
Next week’s return of Von Miller couldn’t come at a better time as the Broncos head to Indy to face Andrew Luck and the Colts. They can not be as porous as they’ve been against Luck if they want to remain undefeated.
The two biggest special teams plays of the game came on punts. The Broncos stopped a fake punt attempt on the Jags first possession of the game which gave them the ball at the Jacksonville 27 yard line and led to the first score of the game on the ensuing drive. The 2nd came in the 3rd quarter when the game was still close when David Bruton took the ball on a fake punt and rumbled 35 yards deep into Jacksonville territory and set up another Broncos touchdown. Punter Britton Colquitt did get to see some action as he punted 3 times. Trindon Holliday only had one return attempt, a punt, which he returned 1 yard. Matt Prater did not attempt a field goal and was 5 of 5 on extra points.
You know things have been going at an unprecedented level when the fan base is upset with a 35 point output and 16 point win. The two fumbles and Manning pick 6 helped keep this thing close for a majority of the game and drew the ire of a lot of fans. Next week will bring the toughest test to date for the Broncos as they travel to Indy for Sunday Night Football.