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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Denver Broncos Beat the Titans

It is becoming really hard to escape the feeling that the Denver Broncos could be a good team if they could find a running game and return to the kind of offensive line performance that the Broncos were known for during the Shanahan era. Instead, the line was harrassed and bullied for most of the day and I don’t remember the last time the Broncos’ running attack was quite this bad. When you rush for only 20 yards on 19 carries, you don’t exactly deserve the win. If that sounds bad to you (and it should), then consider that the leading rusher for the Broncos was Kyle Orton with his three rushes for 11 yards--more than double the totals of either Laurence Maroney or Correll Buckhalter.

Neither Maroney nor Buckhalter managed to average more than half a yard per carry. The running backs deserve some of the blame for this, but most of it has to go to an offensive line that just isn’t doing its job.

And that failure extends beyond the running game, too. Orton was harried by an aggressive Titans team most of the day. Sacked six times, rushed on almost every drop, he still managed to throw for 341 yards and a couple touchdowns. His interception--the Broncos’ lone turnover of the day--was a bad decision. Still, when the running game is so completely useless, the Broncos have needed to take some chances in passing downfield to move the sticks.

What had to be most hopeful for Broncos fans, though, was the way the team played in most of the other phases of the game. Orton threw well and racked up yards, continuing to prove that not only is he a better QB than most people expected, but that this receiving corps is tremendously talented. In fact, a few dropped, very catchable balls would have padded those stats significantly.

On defense, the Broncos are playing far better than I expected. Martindale’s unit only gave up a few big plays, but held Chris Johnson to just 53 yards, less than three yards per carry, and no plays longer than eight yards. They also managed to keep Vince Young to just 173 yards, although his numbers would have looked significantly better if it weren’t for a handful of drops toward the end of the game. When he most needed help, his receivers left him hanging.

The special teams were mostly solid with good kickoffs, punts, and placekicking, but return coverage remains a concern. Marc Mariani’s 98 yard return was beautiful, and, boy, does that kid have some speed in those legs; but the coverage team was beat big by the blockers on the return. They can and should do better.

Still, there are reasons to feel some hope for this team. There is a deep pool of talent at some of the skill positions and the defense is showing some toughness. Kyle Orton is earning his contract extension and the passing attack is tremendous. Unless they can figure out the running game and start getting a better performance from the offensive line, they don’t have much of a shot at a return to the playoffs.

Brave prediction of the day: the Peyton Hillis trade will haunt McD for a long time. Not only has Hillis been playing really well, but his 322 yards rushing is more than the Broncos have as a team on the year. In a week where Maroney dropped a few catchable balls, at least one of which should have gone for a huge, drive-extending game, it’s also worth noting that Hillis has sixteen catches for 94 yards on the season. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Call Me a Skeptic: Top Reasons to Worry About the Broncos

The Broncos bullied the Seahawks today. They came up with big plays, had a gaudy third down conversion rate, and made the faithful forget that Brandon Marshall fellow. It was a good and well-earned win.

But I’m worried. They also showed some seriously negative tendencies that will get them beat by the likes of Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, and the truth is that the San Diego Chargers are still a good team and the Chiefs got a lot healthier in the offseason. If the Broncos want to make the playoffs this year, it won’t be an easy road.

Here are the top five things the Broncos need to fix:

  1. The Running Game. Knowshon Moreno’s best touches came when he caught the ball. Despite a few good running plays, Moreno averaged only 2.1 yards per carry and had far too many carries for negative yards. There is no consistency in his game and too little of the shifty explosiveness that might make up for the short runs. So far this year, Moreno is averaging fewer yards per game and fewer yards per carry. The 2009 draft is not looking like a great year for running backs (although Beanie Wells could make me eat those words).

    Buckhalter did even worse. Averaging only 1.7 yards per carry, he racked up a cool 19 yards on his 11 rushes. This just isn’t getting the job done.
  2. The Offensive Line. The o-line used to be the strength of this team. The zone blocking scheme helped the Broncos have a ridiculous string of 1,000 yard rushers, gave quarterbacks excellent protection, and truly helped win games. Josh McDaniel abandoned that zone blocking scheme, changed personnel, and the line is worse by far than it was a few seasons ago. Chalk some of this up to injuries and youth--which would be fair--but the old scheme simply seemed to work better.
  3. Punt Coverage Team. The punt coverage team is giving up huge yards. There were only three punt returns today for a total of about 82 yards. On return was for no yards, one was for 19 yards, and the other was for 63 yards. On both of the returns for yards, there were Broncos in position to make plays--indeed, Broncos who got hands on Tate (the Seahawks player)--and they failed to make the tackles. In a close game, those are the kinds of plays that can give the game away. The kick coverage team struggled last week, too, giving up a big return for 53 yards.
  4. Third Downs. No, not on the offensive side of the ball where the Broncos were amazing today, but on the other side where they saw the Seahawks go 7 for 11 on third down. Quite a number of those came on third-and-long plays where the defense had played well. If they hadn’t managed to come up with the three defensive takeaways, the score would have been quite different. The Hawks racked up 339 yards to the Broncos 369 which doesn’t usually indicate such a lopsided score.
  5. Tackling. The Broncos missed a lot of tackles today when players simply didn’t work hard enough to wrap up ball carriers. This wasn’t just the young players (although there were some moments of bad coverage and bad tackling that I’ll be willing to chalk up to youth), but even Dawkins forgot to wrap-up on one play where the carrier ended up with big yards after he first hit them for what should have been a modest game.

Don’t get me wrong: there were a lot of good things in the game, too.

Kyle Orton is playing well and the wide receivers played well. In fact, Demaryius Thomas showed everyone why McDaniels thought he was worth the draft pick, Eddie Royal played a really good game, and both Lloyed and Gaffney came up with big catches. While I’m missing a rough, strong back like Peyton Hillis right now, I’m not at all missing Brandon Marshall. That could change as the year goes on, of course, but the early look at this group of receivers is kind of exciting.

And as i said, Moreno’s best moment came when he caught the ball--which he did four times for 67 yards. The longest, a run of 45 yards, was a lot of fun to watch. He ran hard, he showed some speed, and reminded people that he has some talent. It’s just a shame that he can’t find that same elusiveness in the running game.

The Broncos have a lot of potential and this game extended their home opener win streak to the last 11 seasons. If they want to take that potential and make something of it, though, they need to be a good bit better in a few areas

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Is it Just Me? (The Brett Favre Edition)

Is it just me or did it look like Favre really needed a little more training camp before the season started?

Just sayin’. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Few Late Night Observations

  1. GI Joe is even worse than I expected. The special effects are uneven (with some just being ridiculously bad), the story is laughably dumb, the acting is exactly what you would expect from a summertime explodapalooza, and the script is horrible. I’m glad I didn’t pay to see this thing in the theaters. Maybe I could have forgiven some of those sins if the movie looked good, but it doesn’t.
  2. But Netflix streaming over wifi gives me a better picture on the giant screen TV than I get with my cable. Much better resolution, color, everything. This is the kind of thing that makes me think that I might be happy if I killed my cable and got an Apple TV. Then I remember that I really like to watch sports. If it weren’t for that, I would probably get the Apple TV, subscribe to the handful of TV shows I actually enjoy watching, and call it a good day.
  3. Speaking of Apple, how about Apple’s new line-up of products?
  4. Apple TV still isn’t what I really want it to be, but at just $99 I might pick it up anyway. If I kill off the Blockbuster monthly membership, I would probably realize a savings by renting videos through Apple--and do so with a tremendous measure of convenience. It would also be the third product hooked to my TV that could stream video from my Netflix account--which, that just seems like overkill.
  5. The new iPod Shuffle is a step (back) in the right direction. As a reward for sitting through a sales pitch from a company that wanted to sell me marketing services, I was given a free, last generation iPod Shuffle. It’s an amazingly small bit of kit, but it is one of the worst Apple products I’ve ever owned. It’s a pain to control and it has absolutely none of the user-friendliness that I’ve come to expect from the company. If I had bought it, I would have been pretty cranky. The new Shuffle gives it back a normal set of controls at the expense of a little bit of its compact size. That seems like a good idea to me.
  6. The new iPod Nano is a different story, though. I think the last gen version is the one that I would want if I were in the market. While the new Nano has a nifty touch screen, a nifty OS, and looks like quite a nice little media player, it would have made more sense as a iPod Shuffle HD. To change the form, the Nano ditched the video, uses a smaller screen, and loses video playback. Yes, it gained a bit, but I actually liked the idea of using the Nano as an easy replacement for a Flip-class video player. I’m left a little cold by it.
  7. The iPod Touch is a great little beast, though. I have zero need for it in my life, of course, but if I didn’t have the iPhone, I would consider getting a Touch.
  8. Ping is the really confusing product for me, though. I’m not sure if the world really needs another social media site and, if it did, I’m not sure it needs that site to be built into iTunes. I have no idea if it will be successful, but, if it is, then it will probably be the final, welcome death of MySpace. MySpace already feels like a relic from another era (dog years have nothing on Internet years) and it’s just waiting for the final push to send it to the grave.
  9. None of which changes the fact that Britney Spears’ former body guard’s lawsuit sounds like so much bunk to me. The situations he describes as offensive and disgusting--well, let’s just say that I don’t buy his story.
  10. None of which makes me feel better about the fact that I don’t have nearly enough incandescent lights in the pantry. Not sure where to pick them up anymore, either--the stores around us only seem to stock the fluorescent bulbs now. Now, I don’t have a huge issue with the CFL lights except these little issues: I haven’t seen anywhere near the three to five year lifespan I was told that they would give me, they don’t work on dimmer switches, they often take too long to warm up, I’m still iffy on what I’m supposed to do to the pile of dead bulbs that I have in a bag in the closet, and I hate the fact that my choice has been slowly legislated away. Which is precisely why you should read what Lileks has to say on the subject.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

So. Denver Broncos.

Lendale White signed with the Broncos, which doesn’t sit entirely well considering his personal issues and the fact that he can’t even play the first quarter of the season.

Doom is injured and the Broncos don’t seem to be talking about it. Which makes me nervous since it give the impression that this might be something serious.

It would appear that the football gods are still cranky with the Broncos. Which is surprising since you would think that Tim Tebow’s mere presence would ensure the favor of the football gods.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

So, Josh…

One find’s oneself wondering if Coach McDaniels finds himself missing one Mr. Hillis right about now...

Just sayin’...

Kidding aside, here’s hoping that Buckhalter and Moreno heal up well (and soon). And Tim Tebow watchers might want to take a look at that second link, too.

Football. I love football.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Denver Broncos Give Us Some First Round Fireworks

Was there a team more active in trading draft picks than the Broncos? Not a chance. Up, down, this year, next year--the Broncos were a little manic whirlwind of activity.

If I weren’t so happy with the picks, I’d probably suggest that someone take the meth bowl from McDaniels.

But I do like the picks. I like them a lot.

First, at 22 overall, Georgia Tech WR Demaryius Thomas has similar size to Brandon Marshall, he has a lot of potential if he can learn to use that size the way that Marshall does, and he doesn’t seem to have the same behavioral issues. I hope that Marshall really has straightened up and that the trade will be good for him, but Thomas looks like the kind of guy who will make Broncos fans feel a little less pain at the loss.

Second, and most notably, is one of the most talked about picks of the day. Quarterback Tim Tebow is Denver bound. I love his character, I love his winning, and I love his attitude--whether he’ll end up being worthy of his first round status is an entirely different question. Personally, I’m betting the answer is yes and that the debate over his throwing motion is really overdone.

Consider: Phillip Rivers doesn’t have the best mechanics, but he’s one of the best young QBs in the league; Brett Favre has some of the most inconsistent mechanics in the game, but he also has more regular season wins than any other quarterback; even the Broncos’ beloved Elway had some strange tics in his throwing motion (like the double tap that he did through a good chunk of his career while looking for his receivers).

Of course, JaMarcus Russell has bad mechanics, too, but that comparison would be unfair. Like Russell, Tebow is a natural athlete. They are both big, quick, strong guys (although I think Tebow is a little quicker on his feet), but Tebow has shown leadership, character, a strong work ethic, and a willingness to accept criticism. It’s pretty hard not to like this pick and, if he develops well, it might be seen as one of the biggest bargains of the draft. Russell, by contrast, has to be one of the biggest disappointments in the league.

But it sure does leave the Broncos with a strange mix at quarterback. Orton may not have had the season that Broncos fans hoped for, but he definitely earned the chance to keep his starting job. Brandstader, the Broncos’ QB pick from last year looked pretty good in preseason last year and, as a project, it’s far too early to say that he is or isn’t a good quarterback. Rounding it out, McDaniels wanted Brady Quinn last year when he was dealing Cutler, but ended up with Kyle Orton--and Josh went out and got his man this off season. Who is the odd man out? Is it Brady Quinn, who may not get quite the chance to compete that he originally expected? Or is it Brandstader who will likely either be dropped from the team or who may find himself “groomed” to be the number three guy in Denver.

Kyle Orton, who is one of the league’s ultimate team players, seems like the one with the most job security. Not did he put up decent numbers last year, but he is a good caretaker for the position and a mentor for Tebow. He seems to be unlikely to chafe at competition from the younger player. Quinn, on the other hand, is probably eager to find himself named the starter and not so eager to be in another crowded backfield with an unsettled QB lineup.

Josh McDaniels may be walking into another quarterback controversy, but it’s entirely different from what we saw last year.

I wonder if he’ll manage to make the rest of the draft as interesting as he did in that first round.

Read a little more.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Where Will Brandon Marshall Go? (Updated)

You’d have to think that if Brandon Marshall, one of the league’s better wide receivers, were going to stay with the Broncos, the contract he signed would have been bigger than the $2.521 million tender contract. If the Broncos wanted to keep him (and keep him happy), they would have offered bigger dollars; if he wanted to stay, he would have asked for the kind of contract that would have kept him happy. Instead he signed the lowball tender which wasn’t significantly more than he made last year.

So Marshall is going to go somewhere. The question is where he’ll land and how much the Broncos will get in return.

Similar to the Cutler situation in the last off-season, I can’t help but be a little disappointed with both sides of this personnel equation. Marshall deserved a better contract in the last off-season and the Broncos deserved better than Marshall gave them every off-season. While Marshall played for small money through his first contract, he watched less talented players coming through the team signing bigger contracts and contributing far, far less. On the other hand, Marshall’s constant legal difficulties and his suspensions made it hard for the Broncos to justify the investment.

If Marshall really is leaving town, it will be one more disappointment for fans who have stomached more than their share over the last three years.

Strategically speaking, the Broncos are also showing players that if you don’t want to play in Denver, you don’t have to play in Denver. You can always bully, whine, or cry your way out of town and the Broncos will ultimately accommodate you. Not a good reputation to have when you’re trying to build stability in your team and loyalty in your players.

Update: Brandon Marshall is going to Miami--and he immediately makes them a better team--and the Broncos got fair value for him. A second round pick this year and a second round pick this year makes a pretty compelling case for letting him go; I imagine the Broncos will be looking to draft a new receiver pretty high this year.

Monday, April 12, 2010

It Ain’t All Politics: The Former Broncos Edition

When Chris Simms was pushed into duty last year when Orton was injured, I was a supporter. I thought it was a great opportunity for him to showcase himself to the league and either earn his backup spot outright or let him catch on with another team. Instead he played one of the worst--well, probably the worst--game of his professional career.

While I like Simms, the man, Simms the player looked to be done.

Which is why this is such a surprise:

Free agent quarterback Chris Simms has reached agreement on a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The idea that he might be a safe back-up for any quarterback--the kind of guy you could rely on to step in and save a game at just a moment’s notice--is astonishing. I hope he does well and I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think the man has much game left in him.

Read the rest.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Congratulations, New Orleans

I’m almost as surprised by the Saints’ win today as I was by Shannon Sharpe’s missing the final cut for the Hall of Fame. Happier about the former, though.

As disappointed as I am for Peyton Manning, it is impossible to be truly disappointed in the result.

Boo, on the other hand, to Audi for an ad that made me want to buy a Hummer. Or a Chris “Birdman” Anderson-mobile.




Who?

In reference to the Super Bowl half time show: lovely light show, but a boring performance from a band who hasn’t had a meaningful hit in longer than I can remember. Not that they didn’t play well and do their best to inject energy and excitement into their mini-concert/mash-up of some of their biggest hits. It’s just that the music sounds nothing close to relevant.

Was this really the best choice for keeping the audience in their seats instead of clicking over to the latest Danica Patrick “Too Hot for TV Internet Only” abomination at GoDaddy.com?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Rest in Peace, Tim “Barrel Man” McKernan (Updated)

For longtime Broncos fans like me, today is a sad, sad day. Tim McKernan, probably the best known Broncos fan, passed away. It wasn’t a surprise--he had given interviews about a month ago and it was obvious that he was dying--but he was, by all accounts, a really good guy and a fixture in my Broncos related memories for about three decades.

Tim McKernan, better known to Denver Broncos fans and the nation as the Barrel Man, died of lung failure at his home in suburban Denver. He was 69.

McKernan began wearing a barrel, cowboy hat and little else to Broncos games in 1977 after a bet with his brother. The former United Airlines mechanic made a $10 bet that he could get on TV if he wore a barrel to the game. Guess what? He won the bet.

He quickly became a fan favorite and missed only four games from 1967 until this season. McKernan retired the barrel during 2007 as health issues caught up with him.

I’m hoping that the Broncos organization takes a big step and adds McKernan to the Broncos Ring of Fame not just for McKernan’s sake, but as a great symbol of the passion and dedication of all Broncos fans. I can’t think of anyone else who could possibly fill that role as well as the Barrel Man.

Sympathy goes out to the family and friends of Mr. McKernan, and big thanks for all of the memories. Rest.

Read the story. And more here.

Update: Drew Litton has a nice post for Barrel Man, too.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Funniest Moment of My Day: The Indy v/ Baltimore Edition

"Run, there’s a murderer chasing you!”

The above is a real quote from Darling Girl after Manning had just completed a pass to a receiver who was about to be tackled by Ray Lewis.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Who Gets to Play in the Sandbox?

The NFL does business with all these folks:

  1. Ricky Williams. He’s either a four- or a five-time loser in the NFL banned substances program. I’m a little foggy on the details.
  2. Michael Vick. Which, yeah…
  3. Ray Lewis. While some people might talk about his “tarnished image”, Lewis’ plea deal for obstruction of justice after first being charged with murder didn’t stop him from continuing his career. Payoffs to avoid lawsuits from the families of the murdered men did little to put the shine back on in my eyes, but in the NFL, tarnished = giant paycheck.
  4. Sebastian Janikowski. Who...well, just read it. His history includes the date rape drug, too much drinking, violent confrontations, and a mildly hilarious acquittal for attempting to bribe a police officer.
  5. Pacman Jones. His violent, stupid crimes didn’t lead to his exit from the league; it was marginal play. Jones bugs me more than most because his criminal record paints him as the worst kind of arrogant, useless thug. That’s not the bad part, though: the bad part is that he was allowed to be this guy from college on to the pros because he was talented enough of a player that people kept giving him a pass. Until one year where he wasn’t good enough and the free ride was over. I wonder if he ever really understood the deal he was making or how quickly it would end?
  6. Tom Cable. The Raiders head coach allegedly (and, very believably) viciously attacked one of his own assistant coaches and broke the man’s jaw. Admittedly, the NFL may well kick this guy from the league if and when he is convicted of felony assault; but with the evidence already in place, the severity of the attack, and the NFL’s recent focus on good behavior, I still can’t believe that he hasn’t been suspended pending the outcome of the legal issues and any internal investigation that needs to take place. Hell, it might be to the benefit of the team to be without Cable.

But this one was bullied out of even the possibility:
  1. Rush Limbaugh. Who is a loudmouth conservative with a drug conviction. Which, let’s be honest, one drug conviction seems pedestrian in the world of football. You need to have a few run-ins with the pee police before the NFL considers taking any real action.

That’s only a taste, of course, and I’ve excluded those players who were convicted of things like drunk driving that, honestly, certainly are crimes but don’t deserve the kind of coverage that our media manages to milk out of those wayward players. I only include Ricky Williams because I find his career so darned funny.

And I don’t feel any strong need to carry any water for Rush. I don’t listen to Limbaugh. I tried to read one of his book years ago and got bored with his amazing ability to pat his own back--which doesn’t make him evil, it just means he’s not to my taste. Somehow, I don’t think that this should disqualify him to be minority owner of a football franchise that could use a little help.

But what do I know? I’m just the guy who buys the NFL product week after week, doing my bit to help pay the bloated salaries of the players, coaches, and owners in the league.

Just sayin’.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thigpen to Miami

Just a few weeks ago, someone predicted this. Well, at least half of this.

While Broncos fans are, mostly, pleasantly surprised by the team (and the rational fans are worried about how much tougher the schedule gets), KC Chiefs fans can’t be anything but horribly disappointed in their team. So much movement in the off-season, so many strategic acquisitions, and so little change in results. Rough stuff, Chiefs fans.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Broncos v/ Bengals: Capturing the Moment

Drew Litton has a pair of cartoons that capture the Broncos win rather well. Check them out here and here.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Broncos v/ Bengals: An Ugly Start to the Lost Season (Updated)

The Broncos weren’t as horrible as some of us might have expected, but that doesn’t mean that they were anything like good.

Originally, I was going to note that the Broncos defense looked to be pretty good today right up until it really counted. Nursing a hard-fought 6 point lead near the end of the game, the Broncos defense, which had harassed, sacked, and out-worked a Bengals offense through a good bit of the game, let the Bengals put together a great, touchdown scoring drive. In fact, the defense hardly put up a fight in those last few minutes, never pressured Carson Palmer, and left receivers open in the flat with tons of room to run.

It was one of just a couple of really good scoring opportunities that the Broncos defense gave up all day. It didn’t hurt that through much of the rest, the Bengals were working hard against their own success--whether it was a bobbled snap on a chip-shot field goal or dropped passes by Coles, the Bengals were inconsistent and bumbling, giving the Broncos D the chance to work through their early mistakes and put together some really good plays. Certainly there were too many long third down conversions and some ugly play, especially in the secondary. But it looked better than through most of last year--the sacks, the interception, and some good upfront play by the defensive line kept the game manageable.

Right up until when it counted most. Which is where I thought it would end.

The Broncos offense simply wasn’t good throughout the day. Knowing the Broncos quarterback, Kyle Orton, who isn’t known for his accuracy on the long ball in the best of times, was still nursing an injury, the Bengals defense put pressure on from the beginning. There was very little respect for the long pass and a smart focus on dominating the line. The Broncos running game was mediocre and the passing game was mostly ineffective. Like the Bengals, the Broncos were burdened by their own bad decisions. In particular, dropped passes (Brandon Marshall’s miss on a well-thrown long pass from Orton was particularly galling as Marshall spent much of the game looking completely unprepared for regular season play--and that’s a purely dumb self-inflicted wound from a guy who thinks he’s worth the really big money) and ugly penalties made most of the Broncos drives short and ugly.

So, losing by one point with less than a minute left on the clock, only one time out, and bad field position, it looked like the Broncos day was over and that they would be on the losing end of a truly ugly opening game. That probably should have been the end.

But the Bengals had one really good mistake in reserve. With the Broncos trying to work the sidelines on a long pass, hoping to get Prater (who hit field goals from 48 and 50 today) in position for a last-second kick, Orton aimed at a well-covered Marshall. Three Bengals defenders converged, one of them tipped the ball, and the ball popped up and over to an attentive Brandon Stokely. Stokely, smart player that he is, turned on the burners (okay, that’s probably overstating it--but he got every ounce of speed left in his body moving down the sideline and leaving defenders chasing him and desperately hoping that he would stumble or fumble or something. Which he didn’t. In fact, he smartly turned right at the goal line and burned off seconds while waiting for the defense to catch up.

Let me say this in big, bold letters: BRANDON STOKELY IS ONE SMART PLAYER. Not only does he put himself in position to make a play (in an interview after the game, he said that he was watching carefully so that he could make a block if Marshall had caught the ball or to make a catch if the ball was tipped), but he had the clarity of mind to burn off a little extra time to make it harder on Palmer, who has a big arm and a good receiving corps.

When the Bengals got the ball back, there were only five seconds left on the clock, which proved to be just enough time to throw a very long interception.

It wasn’t pretty, but it’s nice to see the Broncos get their first win under Josh McDaniels. It also showed that the Broncos aren’t working from absolutely nothing; there is some talent on this team and they might well be able to surprise a few people this year. The defense truly does look better and, while quarterback will continue to be a big question for the team, there is enough running, receiving, and blocking talent on the team that they should be able to put together a credible offense.

They have a long way to go to being good, though, and some of the decisions made by McDaniels are confusing. For example, how does Payton Hillis get so few looks in a game like this? Throughout the pre-season, Hillis proved himself to be tenacious, punishing, and efficient in running and catching the ball. On his one catch today, he caught the ball for what looked like very little gain, put a little move on the defender, and then bulled forward for 6 yards. The play ended up looking good, but it had more to do with Hillis than it did with the play call. When your offense is having a tough time putting up the yards, how do you leave this guy on the sideline for so much of the game?

It was better to watch a win than it would have been to watch a loss, but hope and change don’t build winning teams. It takes folks doing their jobs and coaches tapping into their players’ talents, two things that were largely lacking this week for the Broncos.

Update: Amen, brother Combs, amen.

Monday, September 07, 2009

NFL News o’ the Day: Raiders Edition

Surprising news from Raider-land.

Five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Richard Seymour did not report to the Oakland Raiders on Monday, a day after being acquired in a trade with the New England Patriots.

Raiders coach Tom Cable said after practice that Seymour had to resolve some things with the Patriots before the deal for a first-round pick in 2011 could be finalized.

Seymour is probably just afraid that Cable will beat him up.

Which falls under the heading of “rational fear.”

Just sayin’.

Read the rest.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Broncos v/ Cardinals: The Most Misleading Game of the Year

So, a guy named Brandstater outplayed a couple guys named Kurt Warner and Matt Leinart tonight. Which, given that it’s the fourth pre-season game of what will probably be remembered as the Broncos’ Great Lost Season, probably means not too much at all. Still, a 19-0 win keeps the Broncos from having a completely winless pre-season. In years like these, you take what you can get.

The Broncos looked pretty good in the first half (especially the first quarter), but the second half, filled mostly with the extra-scrubbed scrubs, was slow and filled with mistakes.  Not that there was a tremendous amount of name recognition in the first half (Champ Bailey played a grand total of four plays, for example), but we saw a few players who will likely make the final roster, and Brandstater certainly solidified his position as back-up to the back-up. For that matter, another guy named Walker made a reasonable case for being the Broncos’ fifth running back, and Prater reminded the faithful of why we spent half a season thinking that letting Jason Elam escape the team wasn’t a mistake.

Who knows if Prater will manage to keep us in that blissful state through an entire season this time.

Other good--if a little bit illusory--news: the defense looked good in chasing Card’s scrubs around the field for that first half. With a four man rush, they managed to get pressure on almost every play.

But when so many of the players in the game won’t ever see another game as Broncos (and many will never see another pro game again), it doesn’t tell us much about how the team will perform in the regular season. It’s one giant head fake.

You can almost count on someone trying to start a quarterback controversy, though. Someone will try to sell the idea that Brandstater should be the starting quarterback, especially given his longer throws. One of the big knocks on Orton in the pre-season is that every throw has been short- or medium-range. It’s a fair hit, and Brandstater certainly showed a little arm tonight, but Brandstater also made some big rookie mistakes in reads and decisions. He very well may be a starter in the league some day, but throwing him in right now wouldn’t be doing him, Orton, or Broncos fans much of a favor.

The real season starts soon, Broncos fans. I hope that this doesn’t turn out to be the high point of the year.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Short Bits O’ Football

Firstly, no. Just no. Brett, what the hell are you doing?

Secondly, yes, Brandon Marshall deserves better. He’s been playing for a small, mid-draft contract while putting up the numbers of a high, first-round pick. I understand the questions about both his health and his off-field problems, but he’s unlikely to pull the kind of compensation that he’s worth in any kind of a trade and he really can be a big contributor on a team that needs him. There are a number of players on the defensive side of the ball that were rewarded with giant contracts and signing bonuses and who never managed to make any impact at all on the field (I’m talking to you, Moss, and to you, too, Crowder). Marshall, in contrast, contributed big, played out a few years of a highly underpaid contract, and just recently voiced his first bit of disgruntlement. My guess is that he finally realized that NFL players have short careers and that if he wanted to make the kind of money that will take care of him for the rest of his life, he needs to get a good contract before a career-ending injury robs him of the ability to make cuts or push upfield with the same strength that he has now.

While Marshall will make about $2.2 million this years, most of that money comes in the form of incentives. His base salary is closer to half a million while other top wide receivers earn significantly more and Marshall was a top 10 receiver in almost every category last year, easily outpacing TO and Randy Moss, both of whom have much larger contracts. There is little reason to believe he couldn’t hit something like 100 catches and 1300 yards again this season, and that’s the kind of guy who Orton (or Simms) will appreciate down the stretch. That’s no knock against Stokley or Royal, but just an acknowledgement that Marshall’s size, speed, talent, and competitive nature.

Yes, he needs to clean up his private life, but he’s not a lost cause. Give him another chance, give him a better contract, and get one of the most talented young receivers back on the field for the Broncos.

Speaking of second chances, I’m happy as hell that Michael Vick landed with a team and a quarterback who could give him the ultimate second chance. I was a big fan when he came out of college, a bit disappointed the further he got into his career, and mad as hell when he was found to be hip-deep in a dog fighting scandal. But I do believe in second chances and I trust Tony Dungy’s judgement when it comes to players. The man served his time in prison and now has an opportunity to fix the things that he did wrong; how he comports himself from now on will define just how deserving he is of that second chance.

The belief in the potential for redemption--on just about every level of a life--is deeply ingrained in Western, Judeo-Christian culture which is one of the reasons that there most definitely are second acts in American lives. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

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