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. 


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