Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Broncos Defense, Home Field too Much for Shanahan, Redskins

Broncos D and Second Half Derail 'Skins

Denver, CO - Broncos improve to 7-1 with 38 straight unanswered points with a 45-21 final.

The Denver Broncos contingency welcomed "Shanny," (Mike Shanahan) back with much warmth and gratitude but by the time the coach of the Washington Redskins left, he was dismissed & sent back to Washington DC unfamiliar with the losing feeling he had just endured at his former home, Mile High. Shanahan filled the stadium and the millions of Broncos fans (Cr3w) with a lot of great memories; which included Super Bowl wins, MVP seasons for players, Coach of the Year awards, and many other historic accomplishments. He is considered by many, the Broncos greatest head coach in their franchise history. It would be hard to dispute such acclaim considering his track record with. The Redskins appeared to have played their best offense of the year the week prior against the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos defense had been spoken about in most manners, negatively, regarding their performances.Specifically, when defending the pass along with the amount of points they had allowed thus far this season.

Welker scoring 6 yd TD
AP (DenverBroncos.com)
The Broncos started the game as if it were going play by play on their game plan script. Redskins, chose to receive the ball, and the Broncos defense forced a three and out right out of the gate. Peyton Manning and his offensive teammates took their first drive methodically, swiftly, and efficiently down the field capped off by a 6 yard TD pass to +Wes Welker over 9 plays and 3:40 off the clock to take the lead, 7-0. Manning was 5-5 on the drive looking sharp right out of the gates. An unusual start for the Broncos despite a record setting offense through eight games this year, they have consistently been a second half team with Peyton Manning, including last year. This stayed true, though, because it turned out to be the only score the Broncos had in the first half. 

After the Welker TD, both offenses did very little. Both sides punted 3 times apiece. The silver lining came in the fashion of the Broncos defense playing very well. The Broncos moved the ball but stalled out near field goal range for Matt Prater. The discouraging aspect was that one of the drives ended on third and short when they failed to convert on that type of situation in week 7 at Indianapolis several times. A few drives were backed up on 3rd by a penalty or loss of yards on 2nd down. The Broncos were getting first downs but unable to continue with a few in succession. With 7:33 left in the 2nd quarter, the +Washington Redskins controlled the clock and had many small chunks of yards that involved one costly penalty on the Broncos, and scored a TD. The drive started on the Redskins own 5 yard line and took 16 plays over 7:03. The penalty was 12 men on the field on the Broncos on a 3rd and 5 on their 12 yard line to give the Redskins a first down by just enough. On first and goal from the 7, +Robert Griffin III threw a TD to Leonard Hankerson making it 7-7 going into the half. A low scoring affair that was expected to be the opposite for many expecting around 60 to 70 points between the two teams.

The second half was a different story. Turnovers for both sides, the Broncos defense, for the first time, looked like the top five ranked defense they were last year. They created a lot of problems, sacks, pressure, and turnovers with few penalties. That is not to say that after the first 3 minutes and 34 seconds of the half the Broncos were looking unlike the usual second half team they are accustomed to. Digging themselves into a hole after two quick turnovers that the Redskins turned into 2 TDs to go up 21 - 7. One from a pick 6 off of Manning that DeAngelo Hall took back 26 yards after giving Beybey (Demaryius) Thomas a tug, from which Thomas fell to the ground on a slant route that was not flagged. The other was caused by a sack strip by Ryan Kerrigan and recovered by Brian Orakpo on the DEN 19 yard line. Three +Alfred Morris runs straight included a TD on the third run. It was now gut check time for the Broncos coming off of a loss and playing poorly at home, down 14 pts right out of the second half gate.

Montee Ball first career TD, 4 yard run
(AP - Denver Broncos)
The following possession, the Broncos took over at their own 25 and ran 11 plays over 3:37 that was capped off by a Montee Ball 4 yard run that moved the pile and carry both lines of the Broncos and Redskins the whole 4 yards, finding his way into the endzone. This play was the turning point of the game in many respects. The home crowd, who had been silent for much of 2 quarters, ignited by this tough, filled with heart, and physical running by Ball. A key play in the drive was the Broncos 4th down conversion with a Knowshon Moreno 5 yard run on the WAS 20 that heightened and increased the momentum for Ball's TD run.

Broncos came out and allowed 29 yards on 4 plays, but one was 11 yard pass with 15 yards tacked on by an unnecessary roughness penalty on Kevin Vickerson (60 yards by 4 penalties in weeks 7 & 8 by Vickerson). Despite that first play, the Broncos defense allowed 3 yards on 3 plays after and got the ball right back to their offense with 5:03 left in the 3rd quarter on their own 17. The Broncos drove the length of the field to the Redskins 1 yard line. They failed to score on 3rd and goal at which point, the 3rd quarter expired. During the break in between the 3rd and 4th quarters, the Broncos elected to go for the TD on 4th down. In a wonderfully called scheme, Broncos came out in a 3 TE formation (heavy formation) that had a triple shift out of a goal-line formation to bunch TE off of the right tackle. The shift led to outmatching the "heavy" Redskins defense and a +Joel Dreesen TD grab that made it 21-21. At this point the "MO" (momentum) was fully throttled in the the Broncos favor and the home crowd was very alive and enthusiastic.

The aspects of the 2nd half up to the 21 pts apiece score of note were the early 14 points the Redskins got, the Broncos defense came out and got the ball back to their offense quickly back to back, and the biggest plays to that point were the two big time 4th down conversions the Broncos got that led to both TDs they earned in the half.

Only 20 seconds later, the Redskins were punting on their 4th play after 3 RGIII incompletions. A shanked punt by Sav Rocca, landed the Broncos offense on the WAS 35. The first play after, cemented the momentum and control of the game on a screen pass to Moreno for a TD with great blocking, reading those blocks, and a key block by 'do it all' WR Welker to spring the last 5 yards for Moreno. Broncos took the lead 28-21, which included 21 unanswered. 

RGIII losing ball after Von Miller (pulling RGIII Down) Sack
and Derek Wolfe recovery (AP - Denver Broncos)
The next possession is probably the drive that let all of the air out of the Redskins when Von Miller, the All-Pro LB/DE of the Broncos, got his first sack of the season (his 2nd game back) while stripping the ball from behind RGIII, a FF, that Derek Wolfe pounced on the WAS 34. It was the 2nd play on offense for the Redskins after the Broncos took the lead. Those 4 defensive outings (led to 24 unanaswered pts by the offense) seemed to be all wrapped up in one considering how quickly they occurred and the vast change in the game itself.

This led to a Matt Prater FG that put the Broncos up ten points, 31-21. At this point the Redskins had completely abandoned the run even though the Broncos last 17 points had only taken less than 3:46 in all and 11+ minutes still remaining. Another 3 downs and out forced by the defense where the Broncos committed their 3rd turnover on the WAS 18 with a pass intended for a double covered Welker. Two plays after, the exceptional cover DB, Chris Harris Jr intercepted RGIII on the WAS 25. 

Peyton took advantage with a 35 yard pass (because of a holding call putting them 10 yards back) to Beybey Thomas for a TD that truly sealed it up, with a 38-21 score. 31 unanswered points by the Broncos at this point. 
Beybey Thomas 35 yd TD (AP - Denver Broncos)
Leon Hall described the change in score, "It was like a blur," Hall said. "Someone asked me, 'What went wrong, what happened?' To be brutally honest, I don't remember. I looked up one point, 21-7, felt good, everybody smiling. Turned around and it ... was 38-21." 

In the last 6+ minutes, the Broncos added a TD, another 3 interceptions by Rahim Moore, Shaun Phillips, and 1 being returned for a 75 yard TD by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for a pick six, putting the final score at 45-21.

Broncos coach called it,"Without a doubt...," the best defensive outing of the season in the post-game press conference and reemphasized that on Monday. Despite 4 turnovers by the Broncos, all by Manning (1 of which was on him, the interception intended for Welker), the Broncos defense forced 5, giving the Broncos a +1 in turnover margin for the game. The fumble was caused as he was throwing, and Kerrigan got just enough of his arm reaching out for it. DeAngelo Hall twice intercepted him by some savvy pro bowl caliber play on one and the other he slickly pulled Beybey down as mentioned before. The other, Hall got one hand on a ball while Beybey Thomas was bringing it in for a catch and Hall managed to pull it within his grip while airborne, parallel to the ground, with one hand. A play that is described as 'tip your cap to' for making. "That stuff happens in football," Manning said. "We haven't had a ton of that, but the fact we were able to overcome it was critical," in reference to the turnovers committed. An issue that still need to be rectified and minimized if they plan on bigger things this season.

One has to question the Broncos throwing the ball as they had that led to the 2 late INT's. They were not running the ball with big gashes of yards but the Redskins team, and especially their defense appeared to be wearing down and the yards were starting to increase per rush. It was a balanced overall pas/run ratio when you consider the passing offense is setting records for TD passes and yards for 8 games into an NFL season. I would still preferred to see a little focus on what football calls, "The 4 min. offense," when up 17 and only half of the 4th quarter left. 

Broncos wk8 RB Trio: Moreno (27), Ball (28), and
C.J. Anderson (22) - (AP - Denver Broncos)
The Broncos defense earned the nickname, "Orange Crush" from their performance, forcing five turnovers as mentioned, all in the 4th. Also creating two additional FF that they did not recover. CJ Anderson saw some meaningful playing time in his first active career game. The player to pay the price was the fumble ridden RB, Ronnie Hillman. The headlines and writers will mostly talk about Von Miller returning, but the brutal span for the Broncos defense is not coincidentally aligned with Hammer Woodyard missing the playing time he did. Woodyard returned to the lineup and also got some rest because of the late lead and got through the game not aggravating his injury any further. A big positive coming into a bye. 

Regarding the bye coming up in week 9, Manning said, "It could not have come at a better time. A lot of players are quite beat up and could use the rest." John Fox said that Peyton will not see many reps this week in practice. Mannings ankle did not get aggravated either, but Fox recognizes the rest true value, to get their MVP caliber QB much needed rest for his body. They will practice Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday receiving the rest of the week off until Monday after the league finishes week 9. Resuming their week 10 as usual on Monday in preparation for a trip to San Diego.

Terrance Knighton should be noted as well. The guy is getting in the back field disrupting running plays, but also inside pressure on the QB consistently. Something every QB will point out as the most disruptive aspect to the passing game if they cannot step up the middle of the pocket because it is getting collapsed from the front. Despite the 4 turnovers by the Broncos, the defense came out and bailed them out after 2 of them with turnovers of their own and causing all 5 in the 4th quarter. Consistent pressure on RGIII and a very active secondary with linebackers lead the way to this Broncos victory. Former head coach, Shanahana summed it up, "You can't give Peyton that many opportunities because he's going to take advantage of it," coaching in Denver for the first time since the Broncos fired him in 2008.

Julius Thomas and Duke Ihenacho both left the game with ankle injuries and did not return. Julius Thomas had an MRI on Monday, October 28th that turned out negative for a high ankle sprain. Good news for the Broncos and their offense implying he should not miss anytime or much especially with a bye week to treat his ankle with the training staff. No official word for "Nacho."

Orlando Franklin, Joel Dreesen, and 'Hammer' Woodyard all played through questionable injuries and appeared to come out of it no worse. Now the Broncos are heading into a much needed mid-season bye to rest a relatively beat up bunch in Denver.

Notes:
Passing:
Manning finished 30-44 and 354 yards 4 TD 3 INT (1 FL)

RGIII finished 15 of 30 for 132 yards 1 TD 2 INT

Rushing:
Montee Ball 11 carries for 37 yards 1 TD
Moreno 14 for 44 Yards 6 rec 89 yards 1TD
CJ Anderson debuted with 4 for 22 yards

Alfred Morris 17 attempts for 93 yards TD

Receiving:
Welker 6 catches 81 yards 1 TD (9 TD catches ties career high and leads the NFL through week 8)
Beybey Thomas 7 for 75 1 TD
Decker 4 for 42

Jordan Reed 8 for 90
Garcon 7 for 46