Broncos at Cardinals Preview

Every game feels like a must win when you’re on a slide, you’re desperate, you yearn for the euphoric lift of a victory.

Everything is easier when you’re winning: Wins are the fuel that powers a fanbase, that motivates a team, that inspire greatness.

In Denver, we are sorely needing a win. Now on a four-game skid, the Broncos head into Arizona to face a Cardinals team with as many question marks as the Broncos and more defeats from the first six weeks of the 2018 season.

Like the Broncos, the roster contains stars Patrick Peterson, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Deone Bucannon. Equally like the Broncos, these players represent a top-heavy roster and not all these players are performing to the best of the ability.

Peterson is having another All-Pro season but the rest of the group is not living up to expectations whether due to poor coaching, decline or flat out not being used at all.

Cardinals offense versus Broncos defense: Moveable object v stoppable force

A Cardinals offence led on the play calling side by former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who was sacked midway through last season, has led many Cardinals fans, beat reporters and national analysts scratching their head. We hear you and we know your pain.

Milk cartons have been distributed throughout the greater Phoneix area carrying images of Johnson and Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald is one of the greatest receivers in NFL history — fourth in all-time receiving yards and a lock for the Hall of Fame. He’s infamous for having the best hands in the game, his finesse route running and clutch playmaking ability but in 2018 he’s all but vanished from the offense.

Carson Palmer’s departure at the end of the 2017 season left question marks at quarterback for the Cardinals but this alone does not account for Fitzgerald’s lack of production, he doesn’t look healthy and continues to struggle, averaging under four receptions and under 40 yards per game

Johnson is arguably the most dynamic running back in football, but this season he’s averaging just 3.2 yards per run from his 92 carries and has 17 catches on 27 targets for 135 yards.

Contrast this to his 2016 breakout season and the difference is stark. Johnson is running hard, so what’s with the drop in performance? Enter Mike McCoy.

Johnson will look to get healthy against a Broncos defense that enters the game dead last in rushing defence after giving up over two hundred yards to both Issiah Crowell and Todd Gurley in back to back weeks.

Broncos offense ready to break out?

Nevermind games, just a few plays can change the entire outlook of a season what if Case Keenum hit Demaryius Thomas for a touchdown against KC, what if call X had gone our way.

Regardless, you make your own luck and despite flashes on the ground and through the air, the Broncos offense has been torrid through six games.

Turnovers continue to stifle drives and put the defense in bad positions and while the offense seems to get hot in the fourth quarter it’s often too little too late. So is this down to play calling or offensive play? In short, both.

As fans, we’re are a vocal bunch; we often think we know better. Sometimes we’re right: a perfect example of this phenomenon is the Seattle Seahawks, a team predicated on defense, running the ball, and play action passes.

Through four weeks they looked like one of the worst offensive teams in the league, so what changed? They started to run the ball, they started to use play action.

In 2017, Case Keenum was one of the most successful quarterbacks in the league on play action passes but, despite this, it hasn’t been a mainstay of the 2018 Broncos offense.

In fact, it’s been a rarity. For Denver to turn it around this season the coaching staff needs to focus on the team’s strengths and make the necessary adjustments rather than playing to an idealistic vision that continues to fail.

While I don’t think this will be a vintage performance, I believe the Broncos can and will grind out a result on TNF.

Final Prediction

Broncos 26-20 Cardinals

Follow the game with us on Twitter @BroncosEUR. And for all the worst takes follow me @hatwearer2034

For even more build up to the game watch Brandon Perna preview it here.

You can watch the Broncos on NFL Game Pass Europe and Sky Sports Action from 01:20 BST (02:20 CEST) Friday morning.

The Button Benjamin of a Curious Case

Yeah, even old man-baby Brad Pitt thinks that’s a stupid headline but you can’t pass up a backward intro about a cinematic backward life with an awesome pun about a quarterback having a backward season.

Keep in mind I didn’t say a backward QB, I said a backward season, and I want that to be very clear before we delve into what could be as confusing an article as the movie mentioned above.

Case Keenum was brought to Denver on a two-season contract for what could be $18 million a year and was lauded as a guy who would at the very least be a step up from the 2017 disaster of Trevor Siemien, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler.

The six-year veteran journeyman was coming off a career year in Minnesota where he passed for 3,547 yards, 22 touchdowns, seven interceptions, had the second-best QBR in all of football at 72.8, and led the Vikings to an NFC Championship. Sadly, that success has not transferred over to the 2018 Broncos.

The question is, why? And, most importantly, is he likely to get better?

Let’s discuss the five possible reasons for the struggles through the first six games where Case has looked more like a bad backup risk taker than a veteran playmaker who makes few mistakes as he was in Minnesota:

  1. Last season was an aberration and he is not a good QB; 
  2. The Broncos coaches have not put him in the position to succeed;
  3. He doesn’t trust his offensive line and is scared in the pocket; 
  4. His knee is more injured than we think and it is affecting his play;
  5. He is mentally weak and can’t handle being “the guy”.

A few of these options can only be speculated on and we can and likely never will know the full truth.

Let’s start with #5 because it’s a backward type of day.

Case Keenum is mentally weak and can’t handle being “the guy”

It’s no secret that there is less pressure on a player, especially at QB, when there are little to no expectations of him succeeding. Everywhere he went until 2018 he was not the guy but rather the backup who could ball a bit. It was a role he thrived on and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The big question is if the spotlight or being a QB to follow in the footsteps of Trevor Siemien, Brock Osweiler and John Elway is too much for him. Sorry, I felt like we were getting too serious here.

Is he a man, a player, a quarterback who can succeed when he is the face of a franchise? So far, the proof says that the answer is no. The pressure, the spotlight, and the tough Denver fans have proven to be too much for many an athlete and Keenum would not be the first.

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His knee is more injured than we think and it is affecting his play

This is a point that has been rarely brought up by the Denver media but it’s something that should absolutely be considered before the fan mob throws him under the bus.

The leg was apparently injured in the week two victory over the Raiders and Keenum himself said he needs to be smarter about sliding and not bouncing off tacklers.

Since he played the next four games it’s been assumed that the injury was nothing major and people quickly moved on. Except, the Broncos haven’t won a game since this presumed injury.

Now, Keenum wasn’t lighting the world on fire in the first two games anyway with an average of 275 yards per game, three touchdowns, and four interceptions but if you watch the tape he did then seem to be more fluid with his footwork.

When you watch him “sprint” for a first down in the last few games he has seemed to be a reincarnation of the glory years of Peyton Manning when number 18 was just flying by linebackers /sarcasm.

If you check out his footwork you will see a problem with not stepping up in the pocket and many passes are thrown while his weight is on his back foot. That’s a major issue and it has gotten plenty of guys booted from the NFL — unless your name is Nathan Peterman.

The problem with being seemingly reluctant to step up in the pocket fits in well with #3 on our list.

He doesn’t trust his offensive line and is scared in the pocket

The words “eye test” mean that many hours have been spent pouring over film and watching in perfect detail every single play of each game.

When you watch this line pass block you don’t need a subscription to Pro Football Focus to see that the line is not very good.

There is seemingly always a push up the middle. Garett Bolles is the laughing stock of the NFL in pass protection at left tackle and Billy Turner at right tackle is just okay. We are not discussing their run blocking because they are quite good at that.

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Often when Keenum steps back after the snap you see his eyes leave his receivers downfield and a panicked look come into them as he runs for his life. On other plays, he stands in the pocket and gets hammered because he didn’t have the pocket awareness to feel the pressure coming.

These different issues go hand in hand and it points to the simple answer that he is not comfortable in the pocket.

One reason for that would be something that Keenum was very successful doing in Minnesota last season and has been barely seen this year: the play action pass, which Denver has run on only 16 per cent of pass plays.

This glaring mistake in play calling brings us to our #2 possibility for why the Denver QB has struggled this season.

Case Keenum isn’t getting the chance to play to his strengths in Denver. Credit: Pro Football Focus

The Broncos coaches have not put him in the position to succeed

The lack of play action is just one example of how the coaches have not played to Keenum’s strengths and have struggled mightily in finding an offensive identity.

Other stats that stick out:

  • Keenum an average of 39 pass attempts per game in 2018. In 2017 he averaged 32.
  • The Broncos have averaged 23 running plays in 2018. The 2017 Vikings averaged 31.

As we can’t ever really say a player quit or what goes on in their heads, we also can’t really guess what coaches have planned for their offensive or defensive scheme.

These are smart football people and they clearly spend many hours working together to try and put their players in the best position to win.

Sometimes it just doesn’t work. If it is because the players aren’t good enough or because the coaches aren’t smart enough we can’t always say.

Still, when you have a QB who passed for 3,500 yards with only seven picks and 22 TDs, you have to go to that 2017 tape and see what worked. It seems like the Broncos staff has refused to do that and it has cost them dearly.

Keenum, like Benjamin Button, seems to have gone from a wise old man to a naive little boy in only one season. Is that the coaching, or:

2017 was an aberration and he is not a good QB

Trent Dilfer has more Super Bowl victories than Dan Marino.

  • Marino — 147 wins 93 losses, 61,361 yards, 420 TD, 252 Int
  • Dilfer — 58 wins 55 losses, 20,518 yards, 113 TD, 129 Int

Dilfer, the ex-journeyman quarterback, is the perfect example of a team winning it all with not-so-good talent under center when the backup QB — seen as a game manager QB supported by a dominant defense — halted a sluggish offensive start to the 2000 season to lead the Baltimore Ravens on a 7-1 rip down the stretch to finish 12-4.

From there, the Ravens went all the way to Super Bowl XXXV, where they defeated the New York Giants 34-7. The world champions didn’t resign Dilfer, who wound up in Seattle, Cleveland and San Francisco in the final seven years of his career.

Unlike Dilfer and his uninspiring numbers, Keenum is a bit different in that he had a good statistical year and made some nice plays in the regular season and in the playoffs.

That’s when the good old eye test comes in handy. If you have 30 minutes of your valuable time to spare, go watch this YouTube video of 2017 Keenum highlights and you won’t be too surprised by what you see.

Case Keenum celebrates against Washington in 2017. Credit: Keith Allison

You’ll see some very good passes on occasion, a ton of play action but — most importantly — you’ll see Keenum getting the ball to his playmakers with easy passes.

So many of the highlights are on screens or slants where the receivers did most of the work. The offensive line gave him time in the pocket and Keenum used his legs when necessary to make a big play outside of the pocket.

To wrap up, when you watch the games this season and look at tape from 2017, you’ll now see a guy who looks stressed and has a lot to prove, is lacking his previous mobility likely due to a bum knee, is short on confidence while in the pocket because of a below average pass-blocking O-line, a gameplan that doesn’t work with his or the team’s strengths, and  a QB who is good enough to be part of a great team but not good enough to lead one.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however, and there are plenty of ways that Keenum can improve this season and next.

The knee can heal, his coaches can put him, and his O-line in a good spot by feeding the run game and giving the ball to playmakers, his confidence and ability to be the face of the Denver Broncos could come with time, and if he and the team catch a few breaks they could be headed quickly in the right direction instead of backward like our poor dear Mr. Button.

What do you think the reason is for Case Keenum ongoing struggles in 2018?

If you like this article give my Broncos and Bratwurst podcast a listen!

Da geht noch was!


Moin!

Die Broncos machen es uns aber nun wirklich nicht einfach. Letzte Woche die deutliche Niederlage, bei einem Team dessen Potential eigentlich unter dem eigenen liegen sollte. Diese Woche dann, zumindest am Ende, ein Spiel auf Augenhöhe mit einer 6:0-Mannschaft. Wie paßt das zusammen? Welche Schlüsse kann man daraus ziehen?

Hier mein Versuch das Spiel einzuordnen.

Zuerst viel mir ein ungewohntes und zugleich beängstigendes Detail auf. Das Stadion war während des kompletten Spiels nicht gefüllt. Klar, zu Beginn sind noch nicht alle an ihren Plätzen und das Wetter war auch nicht optimal – Minus 5 Grad und leichter Schnee. Auch haben die Rams sicher nicht so eine breite, reiselustige Fanbase. Doch ist es offensichtlich, daß der Zuspruch der eigenen Fans derzeit auf einem absoluten Tiefpunkt ist. Mit Buh-Rufen fängt es an und irgendwann schwindet auch die Unterstützung. Wirklich traurige Aussichten, die es zu verhindern gilt.

Weiter zum Spiel. Der zuletzt bekannte (manchmal furiose) Auftakt blieb dieses Mal aus. Die Rams dominierten und die Broncos Offense begann äußerst schwach mit einem 3-and-out gefolgt vom zweiten Drive in dem lediglich ein Firstdown durch Phillip Lindsay gelang. Case Keenum wirkte deutlich verunsichert. Ein Fumble im ersten Drive, der zum Glück gesichert wurde und beinahe eine Interception danach, sollten das ausreichend belegen.

Ganz anders sein Gegenüber. Jared Goff, einer der derzeitigen Kandidaten, wenn es um den MVP geht, legte gleich mal los. Seine zweiter Pass auf Woods brachte 44 Yards Raumgewinn und nur dank eines starken Einsatzes von Will Parks in der Endzone, konnte der Touchdown verhindert werden – Field Goal von Cairo Santos – 3:0.

Die Defense knüpfte dann allerdings insbesondere gegen den Lauf an das Spiel von letzter Woche an. Todd Gurley, der an diesem Tag seine persönliche Bestleistung mit 208 Rushing Yards und 2 Touchdowns aufstellen sollte, ging durch die Broncos Defense wie das sprichwörtliche warme Messer durch die Butter. Generell fehlte in der ersten Halbzeit der Defense jeglicher Biss. Im zweiter Drive der Rams, war es dann an Chris Harris Jr. den entscheidenen Pass zu verhindern und so wieder nur ein Field Goal zulassen zu müssen – 6:0.

Alle guten Dinge sind ja bekanntlich drei und so begann auch dieser dritte Drive der Broncos mit einem Screen Pass auf Emmanuel Sanders zum First Down. Selbst unter Druck beim dritten Versuch, klappte es plötzlich. Keenum wird den Ball rechtzeitig los und Phillip Lindsay schaffte die fehlenden Yards zum ersehnten First Down. Was dann kam ließ mich kurzzeitig vom Sofa aufspringen. Doch kommen außergewöhnliche Offensivaktionen der Broncos in dieser Saison nur zu selten ohne diese gelben Flaggen daher. Über die folgende Entscheidung läßt sich meiner Meinung nach aber nun wirklich mal intensiv diskutieren. 

Was war passiert? Case Keenum macht von seiner nicht zu unterschätzender Wurfstärke Gebrauch und zimmert den Ball über 44 Yards auf Emmanuel Sanders. Der Ball fällt unserem besten Receiver kurz vor der Endzone punktgenau in den Schoß. Die Nummer 10 geht zu Boden und kommt in der Endzone wieder hoch – Touchdown! Und was für einer! Sanders steht auf und zeigt mit dem Finger auf seinen Gegenspieler und man erkennt, daß auch Worte gewechselt werden. Der Ref, der direkt daneben steht, wirft die Flagge und man sieht in Broncos Country mal wieder sämtliche Felle davonschwimmen. Mit meinen plastischen Beispielen und Phrasen hab ich es aber wirklich heute. Erstmal wird eine Strafe von 15 Yards gegen Emmanuel Sanders wegen Verspottung des Gegners (taunting) verhängt. Diese wird wie der Ref es sagt, so verhängt, daß der Kickoff um die entsprechenden Yards nach hinten versetzt wird. Aber es folgt die Werbepause, denn die Szene ist natürlich „under review“. 

Das Ergebnis steht für mich da schon fest – alles, nur kein Touchdown! Es lautet dann auch, daß der Ball auf die 1-Yard-Linie gelegt wird, da das Knie von Sanders dort den Boden berührt hat. Kein Touchdown. Ist vielleicht gerade noch vertretbar als Broncos-Fan. Bei anderen Teams würde man jetzt Verschwörungstheorien rausholen, aber wir sind das ja gewöhnt. Doch kommt dann noch die verhängte Strafe ins Spiel, die den Ball dann von der 1-Yard-Linie auf die 16-Yard-Linie versetzt. Machen wir es kurz, den Broncos gelingt natürlich kein (weiterer) Sechser, sondern nur ein Field Goal zum 6:3 Anschluß.

Nach dem Spiel erklärte ein sehr deprimierter Emmanuel Sanders, daß er die Strafe nicht versteht. Er würde schon jahrelang auf seine Gegenspieler zeigen und ihnen nach solchen Szenen so ungefähr sagen: „Da habe ich es dir dieses Mal aber gezeigt!“ Keine wirkliche Beleidigung, aber die Regeln sind da halt hart und die Auslegung in diesem speziellen Fall wohl eher sehr hart und ohne jegliches Fingerspitzengefühl. Wäre das Spiel mit einem Broncos-Touchdowm am Ende des ersten Quarters anders verlaufen? Hätten wir die „verlorenen“ 4 Punkte auch am Ende des Spiels noch gehabt? Niemand weiß es, doch stehe ich in dieser Angelegenheit sehr auf Seiten unseres Spielers und sehe in der Auslegung der Regel schon etwas zu viel Ungerechtigkeit.

Todd Gurley wurde in der Folge dann wieder zum bereits beschriebenen Messer. Sein Touchdown im zweiten Quarter brachte die Rams mit 13:3 weiter nach vorne. Sogar bei 4th-and-inches und ohne Druck ließen sie ihn erfolgreich laufen. 

Dann sind es wieder Penalties der O-Line die sämtliche Offensivbemühungen zunichte machen. Keenum‘s Pässe sind auch noch zu ungenau. Zu hoch, zu lang, wir kennen es bereits. Sekunden vor der Pause gehen wir dann auch mal bei 4th-and-3 doch bis auf einen Sack an unserem Signal Caller kommt nichts dabei heraus. Was Sacks angeht, kam dann noch mehr. Dieses Mal aber auch von unserer Seite. Bradley Chubb schlug in einem Drive gleich zweimal zu und brachte Jared Goff zu Boden. Die Dominanz der Kalifornier schwand zusehends. 

Für den größten Jubel der ersten Halbzeit sorgte dann aber ein ganz anderer. Für den letzten Snap kam völlig überraschend Chad Kelly aufs Spielfeld und die Menge rastete förmlich aus. Mit einer erhobenen Faust und fast schon schüchtern bedankte sich der einstige Mr. Irrelevant bei seinen Fans und kniete lediglich den Ball ab – Halbzeit 13:3. Die Auflösung für die spontane Einwechslung lautete wie folgt. Case Keenum wurde bezüglich einer möglichen Gehirnerschütterung untersucht. Diese war negativ und er kam zur zweiten Halbzeit wieder zurück. Doch die Reaktion der Fans hat irgendwie einen ziemlich starken Eindruck hinterlassen.

Die zweite Halbzeit brachte dann eine unerwartete Wende. Hatte die Rams Offense bereits etwas gewackelt, so zeigte sie nun deutliche Schwächen auf und das lag maßgeblich an der erstarkten Broncos Defense. Es fand wieder Pass Rush statt. Zwei Sacks von Rookie Bradley Chubb hatte wir ja schon gesehen und er sollte noch einen folgen lassen. Auch Von Miller stand aus der Versenkung auf und kam zu einem Sack, dem ersten seit Spiel 2.

Nicht nur die Defense zeigte plötzlich ihr wahres Potential, nein, auch die Offense. Aus einer extrem schlechten Ausgangsposition quasi aus der eigenen Endzone feuerte Case eine weitere Kanone ab und die ging tief. Demaryius Thomas fing seinen ersten Ball des Spiels und das gleich für 45 Yards an der linken Außenlinie. Da klappten schon einige Kinnladen runter. Doch das Gute liegt nicht weit vom Schlechten und so wurden keine Punkte aus diesem Drive mitgenommen. Die Rams ihrerseits schafften mit minimalem Aufwand ihren zweiten Touchdown – 20:3.

Keenum brachte seine Leute wieder zurück, denn ein Ereignis fehlte heute ja und zwar eins, daß es nur bei den Broncos in dieser Saison gibt. Der Quarterback muß noch eine Interception werfen. Case Keenum hat es bisher als Einziger geschafft, in jedem Spiel mindestens eine Interception zu werfen. Ein rühmlicher Rekord… 

Los Angeles allerdings konnte aus dem Turnover kein Kapital schlagen. Nur zwei Snaps später wirft Jared Goff ebenfalls eine Interception. Der Ball trifft seinen Wide Receiver direkt auf den Helm. Von dort aus prallt der Ball nach vorne ab und mit einer starken Reaktion fängt Darian Stewart den Ball und packt ihn der Offense an die Redzone. Keenum findet schnell den völlig freien Emmanuel Sanders, der den Ball mit viel Einsatz über die Linie drückt während er zwei Gegenspieler abwehrt – 20:10. 

Der nächste Rams Drive endet mit einem verfehlten Field Goal und plötzlich sieht man doch nochmal Licht am Ende des Tunnels. Courtland Sutton fängt einen weiteren Deep Pass für 41 Yards Raumgewinn und Mr. 100 Prozent Brandon McManus verwandelt das Field Goal – 20:13. Ein Touchdown und wir sind dran. Doch Los Angeles Kicker Santos schafft auch noch einen Dreier – 23:13. Nun wird die Zeit knapp, alle Time Outs sind raus, doch in einem wirklich starken Comeback schaffen die Broncos tatsächlich noch einen zweiten Touchdown durch Demaryius Thomas – 23:20. Allerdings mißlingt der anschließende Onside Kick und das Spiel ist aus. Vierte Niederlage in Folge, trotz einer starken Aufholjagd in der zweiten Halbzeit.

Vergleichbar ist das Spiel wohl mit dem gegen die Chiefs. Auf Niveau mit einem Spitzenteam, doch ohne den Game-Winning-Drive. Eine Steigerung zur Vorwoche gegen die Jets war es alle Mal. Auch wenn die Probleme der Defense gegen den Lauf nicht besser wurden, allerdings hatte man mit Todd Gurley einen weitaus stärkeren RB vor der Nase als in New Jersey. Die Offense hat auch noch nicht ihren Rhythmus gefunden, wenngleich die Aufholjagd in der zweiten Hälfte nicht schlecht war. Dennoch gab es wie schon gegen die Jets ein Übermaß an Pässen, das Laufspiel, eigentlich eine unserer Stärken, wurde wieder vernachlässigt. Es gab nur 16 Rushings für insgesamt 60 Yards und dagegen 41 Passversuche. Die Rams kamen auf 39 Rushings für insgesamt 270 Yards und nur 28 Passversuche. Das schlägt sich dann auch in den Statistiken der Quarterbacks nieder, wobei Case Keenum auf dem Papier wieder der bessere QB war.

Seine Zahlen:

25 von 41 Pässen (61 %) für 322 Yards bei 2 TDs und 1 INT – 2 Sacks – QB Rating 91.7 

Jared Goff dagegen:

14 von 28 Pässen (50 %) für 208 Yards kein TD und 1 INT – 5 Sacks – QB Rating 58.8

Es war Goff’s mit Abstand schlechtestes Spiel in dieser Saison. Mit solchen Statistiken ist die Wahrscheinlichkeit extrem hoch, daß das Spiel verlorengeht, aber dank des überragenden Laufspiels reichte es zum glücklichen Sieg.

Keenum steht trotz seines dritten Spiels diese Saison mit mehr als 300 Passing Yards weiterhin in der Kritik. Seine Statistiken mögen in den letzten Spielen besser geworden sein, doch was fehlt sind Siege und eben die (spiel)entscheidenen Bälle, die er nicht an den Mann bekommt. Die Turnover-Rate ist ebenfalls zu hoch – Schlußlicht in der Liga. Daher muß er sich der ständigen Kritik stellen und endlich zurückschlagen. Es ist kein gutes Zeichen, wenn Vance Joseph nach dem Spiel klarstellen muß, daß er auch am Donnerstag in Arizona von Anfang an spielt. Er hat seine Position vom unumstrittenen Starter zu Beginn der Saison verspielt. Viele Fans fordern Chad Kelly. Das ist ein ungeheurer Druck auf den gebürtigen Texaner. Die Verletzung von Left Guard Ron Leary, der mit einem Achillessehnenriss für den Rest der Saison ausfällt, ist da alles andere als hilfreich. Konstanz in der O-Line ist eh Mangelware und wenn man auf die Defenses der kommenden Gegner schaut, insbesondere im November (Houston, Chargers, Steelers), dann ist noch weitaus höherer Druck auf den QB vorprogrammiert. Ein absoluter Härtetest, den er überstehen und vor allem meistern muß. Ansonsten bekommt er schneller als gedacht das Label „Gescheitert“. 

Einen ähnlichen Druck spürt auch Vance Joseph. Er hat es selbst erkannt, daß auch er um seinen Job bangen muß. John Elway hatte am Montag in einem Interview gesagt, er hofft, daß das Team die immer wiederkehrenden Fehler endlich abstellt und besseren Football spielt. Das Potential ist da, es gibt Spieler die gut spielen, aber als Team spielen wir schlecht. Er hoffe das Team würde am Donnerstag eine Mentalität an den Tag legt, in der es zeigt, daß es um sein Leben kämpft. Die Broncos werden sich aus dieser Situation herausgraben, aber es gibt dafür keinen magischen Schalter. Ich entnehmen diesen Aussagen, daß das kommende Spiel gegen die Arizona Cardinals ein absolutes Entscheidungsspiel sein könnte. Sollte die Verteidigung gegen den Lauf (die schlechteste der Liga) nicht besser werden, es erneut zu kostspieligen Penalties kommen, dann wäre es keine Überraschung, wenn es vor dem übernächsten Spiel in Kansas City personelle Veränderungen geben sollte.

Schauen wir also nach vorn. Wir haben es selbst in der Hand. Das wichtigste ist das Potential ist definitiv da. Wir haben ein starkes Laufspiel, das wir nur nutzen müssen. Wir haben starke Receiver die Bälle fangen können und verbissen um jedes Yard kämpfen. Wir haben eine Defense, die deutlich besser spielen kann, als das was wir über weiten Strecken der Saison gesehen haben. Und wir haben einen Quarterback der werfen kann. 

Mein Appell: Besinnt euch auf eure Stärken und spielt diszipliniert. So hätte jedes der verlorenen Spiele gewonnen werden können. Ich lasse mich von keiner Verlierermentalität gefangennehmen!

Seid bereit!

Mile High Salute,

Gordon

Twitter: @nenntmichGordon

Broncos need to run, run, run to defeat Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams come into Mile High on Sunday night as not only the best team in the NFC but maybe the best team in the NFL through five weeks.

In sharp contrast, the Denver Broncos look like one of the worst teams in the league both on and off the field losing three on the bounce despite a 2-0 start, and already looks to be a candidate to draft another quarterback high in the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville.

However, the problems the team faces go much deeper than just the quarterback position and wholesale changes may have to be made to right the ship.

So how can the Broncos possibly think of beating the 5-0 Rams on Sunday night? Run the freakin’ football. Then keep running, and run it some more. 

Have you ever heard the saying “overcome coaching”? That’s just what the rookie tandem of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman have done so far this year.

Despite an apparent adversity to run the ball on the play calling side, Lindsay and Freeman have been effective when given opportunity. Both backs are averaging over five yards a carry and have combined for 578 yards on the ground.

As a team, Denver is second only to Cleveland in total rushing yards and all of this in spite of ranking 17th in rushing attempts with 123. That’s a full 34 carries fewer than the league leader Cleveland.

It bears repeating that the best way to slow down a high powered offense is to keep them off the field. It’s a formula that was working against Kansas City — a game in which the Broncos rushed for 159 yards before abandoning the run, ultimately giving the ball back to the Chiefs one too many times with too much time remaining on the clock.

It’s a problem so obvious that surely the coaches can see the light and make adjustments for the remainder of the season, right? Reports out of Dove Valley this week say otherwise.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the weather. Going into Sunday night we’re looking at a possible blizzard hitting Denver. I don’t want to get into too many cliches: A warm-weather Californian team heading into the Colorado snow? They’re soft sunshine lads, they don’t want it.

However it’d be dishonest to state that the weather wouldn’t change the dynamic of the game, it has the potential to slow down a potent Rams passing attack and make the game one dimensional, although with Todd Gurley in the backfield that’s not necessarily a good thing.

If I’m a Bronco I want the snow, I want to show who the more physical team is.

The game will be much closer than the football cognoscenti give it credit but ultimately I still see the Broncos falling to 2-4. I hope I’m wrong.

Final Prediction:

Rams 27-23 Broncos

Follow the game with us on Twitter @BroncosEUR. And for all the worst takes follow me @hatwearer2034

For even more build-up to the game watch, Brandon Perna preview it here

You can watch the Broncos on NFL Game Pass Europe from 21:05 BST on Sunday night.

Four changes the Broncos could make for LA Rams showdown

Vance Joseph said changes are coming to the Broncos this week as they prepare for the LA Rams, but he won’t disclose what those changes are.

That leaves us no choice but to speculate, so here are some of the changes we might see on Sunday.

Broncos head coach Vance Joseph calling the shots at training camp. Credit: Ryan Koenigsberg/BSN Denver

Vance Joseph calling shots on defense

Thursday morning on 104.3FM “The Fan”, a local Denver sports radio station, news reporter and The Fan’s “Bronco Insider” Troy Renck talked about the possibility of seeing Joseph have a larger influence on the defensive play calling this week against the Rams.

As we all witnessed last week, the Broncos consistently seemed out of place most of the day and just lost overall. It has become evident that the game is still too fast for defensive coordinator Joe Woods as he constantly struggles to make in-game adjustments.

Renck mentioned on the morning show that he heard Joseph had played a large role in the defensive scheme against the Kansas City Chiefs, which has one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses that the Broncos kept in check for the majority of the game, and will look to do the same again this week.

If it makes a big difference this week, it could be a permanent change until Woods can catch up.

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Tramaine Brock takes Bradley Roby’s starting spot

When the Broncos traded Aqib Talib during the offseason, they did so with the belief that former first-round pick Bradley Roby would be able to fill those shoes or at least perform well enough to avoid a significant drop-off.

Unfortunately, it seems each week Roby is either caught out of position or just straight-up burned. Last week we saw Roby get torched multiple times for touchdowns and completely whiff on a tackle on the Jets running back that led to another touchdown. That’s 21 points for the Jets that Roby contributed to in some way.

To be fair to Roby, he contested the second touchdown pass probably as best as he could without being called for pass interference, it was just a great throw by Sam Darnold, and nobody on the Broncos defense could tackle that day so he wasn’t the only problem.

But the Broncos may put Roby back in the position he was in when Talib was here and move Brock into Roby’s spot to see if that might help the woeful secondary.

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More touches for Freeman and Lindsay

Before last Sunday’s game against the Jets, Joseph said that Royce Freeman needed to get more carries. Then Freeman finished the game with a whopping five carries. Even with just 5five carries he still gained 31 yards on the ground — a 6.2 YPC average.

Both Freeman and Lindsay are the obvious strength to this offense and the fact that they aren’t more involved during the game is a maddening sight for Broncos fans everywhere.

If offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is the one creating the game plan and making the calls on Sunday, then this ineptitude falls squarely on his shoulders.

Case Keenum needs as much help as he can get, and the run game is the best option to keep the offense on the field and give the defense a rest.

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More play-action calls for Keenum

According to Pro Football Focus, Keenum has one of the largest quarterback rating discrepancies between non-play-action passes and play-action passes over the past three years.

When Keenum throws on a non-play-action pass, he has a quarterback rating of 88.2 — 23rd in the NFL, but when he throws on a play-action pass his quarterback rating jumps up a league-leading 29.7 points to 117.9, which is good enough to be tied for fifth best in the NFL. 

Unfortunately, according to PFF Bill Musgrave called the seventh-fewest play-action attempts in his last year as Oakland’s OC and Keenum’s current quarterback rating is a lousy 78.1. Coincidence?

Just like with the running game, the Broncos need to learn to play to their strengths. If Keenum is so efficient with the play-action, why not use it regularly throughout a game?

The Broncos have the run game to make the defense play with caution and draw the linebackers or safeties in; they just need to utilize these tools more than they have been.

War’s das etwa schon?

Moin!

Vorab entschuldige ich mich für die unfreiwillige Pause letzte Woche. Ich hatte mir alles für den Artikel zurechtgelegt, doch habe ich es bis Freitag nicht geschafft zu schreiben. Dann war es einfach zu spät, noch einen Artikel nachzuschießen.

Diese Montagsspiele finde ich eh sehr bescheiden. Mein Artikel letzte Woche wäre sicher wohlwollender ausgefallen als der heutige. Das Spiel gegen die Chiefs hat mich fast schon begeistert.

Wir konnten eigentlich bis zum Schluß mit dem derzeit wohl besten Team der Liga mithalten und haben dann unglücklich verloren. Der letzte Pass hatte gefehlt.

Den „no call“ für Spielverzögerung gegen Mahomes lassen wir mal weg. Aber das war doch wirklich ein gutes und spannendes Spiel. Unsere Defense war stark, nur der Game-Winning-Drive hat gefehlt.

Ganz anders dann das Spiel im MetLife Stadium am vergangenen Sonntagabend. Mein Notizzettel ist nur halb so voll wie der vom letzten Montag.

Zur zweiten Halbzeit habe ich gerade zwei Stichpunkte gemacht. Muß aber gestehen, daß ich da auch nicht mehr so aufmerksam war.

Der Frust hatte gesiegt und ich habe mir den Shitstorm bei Twitter gegeben. Kleiner Tipp, zur Frustbewältigung trägt das nicht bei. Ganz im Gegenteil.

Fangen wir trotzdem mit den wenigen Stichpunkten auf meinem Notizblock an. Zuerst steht da das Turnover der Defense, ja davon gab es sogar zwei. Adam Gotsis hatte dem Jets-RB Bilal Powell den Ball abgenommen.

Der Offense-Drive von der 20-Yard-Linie der Jets wurde dann ziemlich spektakulär mit einem 8-Yard-Touchdownpass in die Endzone zu Rookie Courtland Sutton abgeschlossen.

Keenum war aus der Pocket gegangen und beschenkte den langen Receiver mit einem mustergültigen Pass, zu seinem ersten NFL-Touchdown. Super Auftakt – Turnover der Defense – und diesen gleich in einen Touchdown umgewandelt. Besser geht es nicht.

Doch haben wir auch schon letzte Saison solche Spiele gesehen. Meist hielt das Glück nicht lange an. So sollte es dann auch kommen.

Im nächsten Drive der Jets, angeführt vom Erstrundenpick QB Sam Darnold, wurde ein Problem gleich überdeutlich – die Verteidigung gegen den Lauf klappte so gar nicht. Der Pass Rush kam im Laufe des Spiels fast gänzlich zum Erliegen. Doch die Broncos hatte dennoch viel Glück in diesem Drive.

Darian Stewart hätte für sein ungeschicktes Eingreifen in der Endzone eine Pass Interference verdient gehabt. Diese blieb aber überraschenderweise aus.

So kamen die Jets lediglich zu einem Field-Goal-Versuch, den der Kicker Myers aus relativ kurzer Distanz kläglich vergab. Weiterhin also eine 7:0 Führung bis dahin.

Die Offense kam dann zum Zug, doch habe ich auf meinem Zettel bis zu den Schlußminuten keine nennenswerten Aktionen mehr notiert. Nur im zweiten Quarter gab es noch einen sehenswerten Drive mit zwei Receptions durch Demaryius Thomas über 42 Yards und einen schönen Pass durch die Mitte auf Rookie-WR DaSean Hamilton.

In der Redzone ging dann aber alles schief, abschließend der viel zu hohe Pass auf Courtland Sutton, der allerdings in bester Odell-Beckham-Manier extrem hochstieg und den Ball sogar noch berührte, ihn jedoch mit der Rückhand nicht unter Kontrolle bringen konnte. Das Field Goal folgte und brachte die Broncos zu diesem Zeitpunkt erstmal wieder mit 10:14 an den Gegner heran.

Zuvor war ja Folgendes passiert. Ein 77-Yard-Lauf von Isaiah Crowell brachte den Ausgleich und im nächsten Drive der Jets brachte Sam Darnold einen Pass an die linke Seite punktgenau in die Arme von Robbie Anderson an den Mann. Dieser Touchdown-Lauf ging über 76 Yards – 7:14 stand es dann.

Die Antwort darauf war ein mieser Drive, der beim ersten Snap fast in einer Interception enden sollte. Beim 3rd Down gab es einen Sack und dann war das 3-and-out perfekt. Eine Konstellation, die wir so noch dreimal sehen durften.

Kurz vor dem Pausentee als man eigentlich mit keiner großen Aktion mehr rechnete, überraschte uns der Rookie-QB der Jets erneut mit einem Pass auf Robbie Anderson, der meterweit hinter Bradley Roby den Ball in die Arme schloß und ungestört wie einst Forrest Gump aus dem Stadion zu laufen schien – 10:21 zur Halbzeit.

Ich muß sagen, daß neben Roby auch Chris Harris Jr. ein ziemlich schwaches Spiel zeigte. Seine bekannte Verbissenheit fehlte vollkommen. Von Miller, in den ersten zwei Spielen noch dominant in der Defense, bekam (wie auch schon in den letzten beiden Spielen) nichts auf die Reihe. Kaum Pressures und bis zu Darnold durch kam er nicht einmal.

Einen Sack konnte die Defense verbuchen, gegen einen Rookie-QB und eine bisher nicht gerade überzeugende O-Line. Kurzum die Defense hatte einen rabenschwarzen Tag. Schlecht gegen den Lauf und schlecht gegen den Pass.

Da kann man fast von Totalausfall oder gar Arbeitsverweigerung sprechen.

Ich hatte das Gefühl, daß die Defense den Spieß mal umdrehen wollte. So Offense, jetzt seht ihr mal wie das aussieht, wenn wir nicht performen. Das kann es doch nun wirklich nicht sein!

Die zweite Halbzeit erspare ich euch jetzt fast komplett. Ich habe noch einen Lauf von Courtland Sutton bei dem er mehr als 40 Yards erlief, aber leider die Hände zu sehr gegen den Jets-DB einsetzte und die Refs den großen Raumgewinn dann mit einer Pass-Interference-Strafe zunichte machten.

Ein wirklich guter Drive im letzten Quarter mit dem einzig guten Lauf von Royce Freeman endete allerdings ohne Punkte, weil man alles auf eine Karte setzte, statt ein Field Goal zu kicken und den Ballbesitz abgab.

Ein weiterer Drive folgte dann im Abschluß mit einem Touchdownpass auf Demaryius Thomas, nur war der Drops da schon gelutscht und man merkte die fehlende Ernsthaftigkeit in der Jets-Defense zu diesem Zeitpunkt, als das Stadion sich bereits fast komplett geleert hatte.

Was bleibt nach dieser schallenden 34:16 Niederlage? Ein Scherbenhaufen? Aufbruchsstimmung? Licht am Ende des Tunnels?

Wie schon vor zwei Wochen fühle ich mich wieder wie in 2017 zurückversetzt. Da gab es solche Spiele zu Hauf. Kommt das jetzt wieder? Sind wir erst am Beginn einer Niederlagenserie wie letztes Jahr?

Die nächsten Gegner sind die Rams, Cardinals und Chiefs… Egal, wir haben gegen schwache Jets unsere höchste Saisonniederlage kassiert.

Die Unzufriedenheit in der Fanszene macht für den erneuten Misserfolg fast ausschließlich den Headcoach verantwortlich. #FireVJ liest man nun wieder unter diversen Tweets. Ist das wirklich die Lösung?

Man hat nach dem gestrigen Spiel schon den Eindruck, daß da etwas in der Mannschaft nicht stimmt. Schlechtes Coaching haben wir dieses Jahr auch schon mehrfach gesehen. Unsere Rookies sind top. Das Potential die Playoffs zu erreichen, ist in der Truppe – keine Frage.

Doch es wird nicht (oder nicht immer) abgerufen. Ich führe das schon auf eine schlechte Stimmung im Team zurück, welches als solches nicht mehr funktioniert.

Die Kontrolle spreche ich dem Coaching Team derzeit eher ab. Es läuft weder in der Offense, die vor der Saison noch so hochgelobt wurde. Das Playcalling gegen die Jets war eine Katastrophe.

Da haben wir mal ein Laufspiel mit zwei Top-RBs der Liga, Lindsay und Freeman, und dann wirft Keenum im letzten Spiel über 50 Pässe. Wie paßt das zusammen?

Gerade wenn es schon in Halbzeit eins nicht mehr läuft? Adjustments nach der Halbzeitpause – Fehlanzeige! Der gleiche Stiefel wurde durchgezogen.

Sorry, aber das sind derzeit einfach zu viele Fragen die man in Richtung der Coaches aufwerfen muß. Warum besinnt man sich nicht erstmal auf seine Stärken?

Kritik muß sich nun mehrfach auch Case Keenum anhören. Ich war in den ersten Spielen noch sehr nachsichtig mit ihm. Hab ihn lediglich in Spiel eins wegen seiner riskanten Spielweise kritisiert. Nur hat es da wenigstens noch zum Sieg gereicht.

Gegen die Jets war er auf dem Papier deutlich besser als sein Gegenüber, nur hat sich das nicht auf dem Scoreboard gezeigt. Seine Reads waren mehrfach schlecht. Seine Pässe oft zu hoch. Wie die Statistiken zeigen ist er bisher nicht wirklich besser als Trevor Siemian letzte Saison.

Siemian hatte in den ersten fünf Spielen letztes Jahr:

61,8 % Pass completions – für 1.264 Yards bei 8 TDs und 6 INTs – 3 Siege – 2 Niederlagen

Keenum kommt in diesem Jahr auf:

63,5 % Pass completions – für 1.365 Yards bei 5 TDs und 7 INTs – 2 Siege – 3 Niederlagen

Fakt ist, es muß etwas passieren.

Wir bleiben treu!

Mile High Salute
Gordon

Twitter: @nenntmichGordon

Broncos 2018 first quarter review

We are already four weeks into the 2018 NFL Season! Can you believe it?

A quarter of the way through the season and it feels like Broncos Country has mixed emotions about the state of the team, which is fair because the Broncos have offered a bag of mixed performances.

Without going into too much detail, let’s break down the good and the bad from this season so far, and make some comparisons to where the Broncos were at this point last season.

The Good

By far, the best thing the Broncos have going for them is their running game, led by rookies Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. They have been a dynamic duo slashing through defenses and breaking tackles.

Freeman is listed as the starter but these two have split carries almost evenly thus far — Freeman with 44 carries and Lindsay with 45. Freeman is averaging just under 5 yards per carry at 4.98, while Lindsay is averaging an amazing 5.93 yards per carry — the only team averaging more YPC than Denver (5.6) is the Dallas Cowboys (5.8).

Veteran Devontae Booker has become almost irrelevant, only seeing the field in mostly a pass blocking role.

Their production is a combination of their own abilities and a vastly improved offensive line when it comes to run blocking. The line — made up of Garret Bolles, Ron Leary, Matt Paradis, Connor McGovern, and Jared Veldheer (and recently Billy Turner) — has been able to create great lanes for the runnings backs to fly through.

Guys like McGovern are able to push their defender back from the line of scrimmage and even make plays downfield as they continue to block into the second level.

The other pleasant surprise has been the overall contribution of this year’s rookie class. Including Freeman and Lindsay, we’ve seen consistent field time from players like Courtland Sutton, Josey Jewell, and Bradley Chubb, with other rookies like DaeSean Hamilton and Isaac Yiadom seeing some playing time as well.

They may not be making the same impact as Freeman and Lindsay, but being on the field consistently will bode well for these rookies as they gain experience and will look to take on more prominent roles as the year progresses and into next season.

The Bad

Let’s start with the obvious: Case Keenum. The Broncos desperately needed a quarterback that could just manage the game, not turn the ball over, and make plays when it mattered. So far, Keenum has been an overall disappointment.

Although he was able to lead his team to come-from-behind wins in the first two games of the season, he hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since week one and has thrown a total of six interceptions and lost a fumble.

John Elway brought him in because of his accuracy, decision making, and ability to throw outside of the pocket. He’s currently averaging a 61.7 completion percentage, consistently throws into double coverage, and seems to stay in the pocket too long as it collapses around him.

To be fair, Bolles seems to have regressed from last year and is constantly getting beat around the edge, giving Keenum very little time to get the ball out of his hands.

Also, the two Broncos losses have come against two very good teams that will probably be in the playoffs this year and it’s encouraging that even with Keenum’s struggles, they have been in a position to win.

The other critical area in which the Broncos are struggling is the secondary: the No Fly Zone just isn’t what it used to be. It is most likely a combination of missing a shutdown corner opposite Chris Harris Jr, a lack of decent secondary depth, and subpar coaching.

As much of a headache former Bronco Aqib Talib was at times, there is no doubt his talent is sorely missed on this team right now.

Bradley Roby is an admirable replacement but isn’t on the same level as Talib as a starting corner in the NFL.

Injuries have also really hurt the secondary, especially when it comes to covering tight ends and running backs.

Su’a Cravens was brought in via trade during the offseason to improve this area and he showed promise in his short preseason performance but he is currently on injured reserve and won’t return to the field until week nine at the earliest.

Don’t be surprised though if the Broncos elect to hold him out until after their week 10 bye.

Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods hasn’t been all that impressive either, as he continued to play soft zone coverage when the Broncos were clearly better playing man-to-man.

He seems to be making good adjustments only to go back to what wasn’t working. In last week’s loss to the Chiefs, the Broncos defense shut down All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce by putting a cornerback on him in the first half. Then in the second half when they went back to using a linebacker or safety, Kelce had no trouble finding open space.

The coaching overall has been frustrating. Play calling on both offense and defense is inconsistent and clock management has had some head-scratching moments.

Head coach Vance Joseph has been saying a lot of the right things this season but the proof says he’s probably still a little in over his head.

Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave was promoted from quarterbacks coach and has implemented a playbook that, when it works, has had the Broncos offense moving up and down the field with ease until they get to the red zone.

The Broncos have only scored a touchdown on 54 per cent of their trips to the red zone, with an unacceptable 33 per cent on the road.

They are in the bottom half of the league in red zone scoring attempts per game (2.8), red zone touchdowns per game (1.5), and red zone scoring percentage. Only one of Keenum’s three touchdowns has come in the red zone this year.

Comparison to 2017

We all want to forget last season and pretend it never happened because this was the time of year where everything fell apart for the Broncos. They had a promising start, winning their first two games at home, then went on the road and lost to the Buffalo Bills.

They were able to come back home and beat the Oakland Raiders in a low scoring affair before going into their week four bye. Then the wheels came off as the Broncos ended up going on an eight-game losing streak.

So how does this year’s team compare?

At this point last year, starting quarterback Trevor Siemian had thrown for seven touchdowns and only four interceptions. He was nothing special but he was getting the job done.

As of right now, Keenum has three touchdowns and six interceptions. Far from special and could potentially have cost the Broncos a win or two.

There’s reason to be optimistic though. In 2017, Keenum, then playing for the Minnesota Vikings, took some time to find his groove and get his team on track. In his first four games, he only had four touchdown passes — three of which came in one game. Then he went on to throw at least one touchdown in 10 out of the next 11 games, with multiple touchdowns in six of those.

Keenum also had one of the NFL’s best defenses and a good running game to lean on. The Broncos already have one of the better running games in the league even with Keenum performing poorly, so if they can plug up some holes on defense it could provide enough support to help Keenum feel more comfortable.

Keenum also has a great rapport with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and can rely on him in tight spots. Courtland Sutton is proving that his size and strength will allow him to either catch most balls thrown his way or force the defender into a pass interference call.

The running game is also vastly improved from last year. Through the first four games of 2017 the Broncos leading rusher, CJ Anderson, had a total of 294 yards rushing and one touchdown.

The team as a whole had 572 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns (one from Siemian). This year, the Broncos have 593 yards rushing and six touchdowns on the ground.

Remember, this is with a very limited passing game right now, something that wasn’t as big of an issue at this point in time last season.

Lastly, the Broncos have young players that are already contributing this year, which wasn’t the case at all last year. Bolles was the only rookie starting consistently in 2017, while this year the Broncos have at least five rookies contributing on a consistent basis.

Conclusion

Overall, being at 2-2 right now isn’t as bad as it might seem. The Broncos could easily be 3-1 if a few plays would have gone their way. They could also easily be 0-4 if they didn’t have the resilience to fight their way back in the first two games.

That kind of stuff will come as the season progresses, as long as the Broncos find a way to plug the leaks now before it’s too late.

A win against the New York Jets on Sunday will be a good indicator that this team can rebound, which it needs to show it can do after a physically and emotionally exhausting game Monday night.

Keenum has pulled off bigger miracles than this in college at Houston and last season in Minnesota, so Broncos Country should let off of the panic button for now.

Where do the Broncos go from Chiefs defeat?

On Monday Night Football, the Denver Broncos showed the world they could slow down the NFL’s offensive juggernaut until they couldn’t.

For the first three quarters of the game, the Broncos dialed up a game plan that was good enough to stifle the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense and make their defense look just as bad as everyone knew it was with Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay pounding their way to more than 100-yards rushing.

They held Patrick “Showtime” Mahomes to a measly 65 passing yards in the first half and shut out All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce. Broncos running backs Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay were finding open space and taking advantage of the Chiefs’ terrible tackling.

Then the fourth quarter happened.

Patrick Mahomes went off on the Broncos secondary for 153 yards in the final quarter alone, leading the Chiefs on two touchdown drives to wipe out the Broncos 10-point lead for a 27-23 win.

With 304 yards, Mahomes ended the Broncos’ 36-game streak of holding opposing quarterbacks to fewer than 300 yards.

It seemed that the Broncos abandoned what was working in the first three quarters of football thinking they should just protect the lead. With a little over six minutes to go in the fourth, the Broncos had the chance to answer the first Chiefs touchdown and put the game out of reach.

Instead, they went three-and-out and used up just over a minute of game clock. Punter Marquette King then proceeded to infuriate fans even more by sending a punt out of bounds for just 35 yards when he needed to pin the Chiefs far back in their own territory.

This set the Chiefs up at their own 40-yard line against a Broncos defense that had just spent over six minutes of game-clock time on the field with only a few minutes of rest.

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When the Broncos covered Kelce with a corner, he was non-existent. But when defensive coordinator Joe Woods changed his approach and put a linebacker on Kelce he couldn’t be stopped. After being shut out in the first half, Kelce ended the game with seven catches for 78 yards (11.1 yd avg) and a touchdown.

Yes, the referees missed an obvious delay of game penalty against the Chiefs that could have potentially stalled their drive and may have cost the Broncos the game. But even after all of that, the Broncos still had a chance to come back and win the game. They had the ball at their 25 with just under two minutes and were only down by four points.

Case Keenum was sacked for 10-yard loss on first down, but on fourth and 11 he found Emmanuel Sanders near the sideline for a 12-yard gain and the Broncos’ wide receiver fell out of bounds to stop the clock. On the next play, Keenum hit tight end Jeff Heuerman deep down the middle for 36 yards,  putting the Broncos on the Chiefs 28-yard line with still about a half a minute left on the clock.

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Then Keenum missed on three throws, including one to Demaryius Thomas that probably would have resulted in a game-winning touchdown.

Both Keenum and Thomas were at fault as it seemed Thomas wasn’t going full-speed until he realized the ball was in the air, which is a big deal because timing is such a key element between quarterback and wide receiver that Keenum likely assumed Thomas would be closer to where he placed the ball, but Keenum also needs to recognize where his receivers are and adjust his throws accordingly.

The last play of the game for the Broncos was a desperation catch and pitch that resulted in a fumble recovered by the Chiefs but was ultimately ruled an incomplete pass, thus quashing any hope of a miracle comeback in a game the Broncos had control of until it mattered at the end.

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There is plenty of blame to go around: From poor officiating to poor play calling to poor performance — on both sides of the ball and special teams — when it mattered most.

Reporters and fans alike noticed the frustration of players towards the officials and their own coaches on the sidelines and in the locker room. This is not a good sign for a team that really needs to turn things around before they get worse.

Predictably, some fans are calling for general manager John Elway to fire Joseph and Woods, replace Keenum with backup Chad Kelly, and find more defensive help. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that.

Just as there aren’t really good players just sitting around on their couches waiting for a team to call them four weeks into the season, there probably aren’t many options for coaching replacements either. If the Broncos continue the trend of where they are now, Joseph won’t last the season, but it’s hard to imagine what better options are out there at this moment in the season.

On paper, the Broncos have what should be a more manageable opponent next week against the Sam Darnold-led New York Jets, albeit at MetLife Stadium with what would be an 11:00 kickoff in Denver, before facing the Los Angeles Rams, the best team in the NFC, and the only team other than the Chiefs to remain unbeaten through the opening four weeks. Oh, and let’s not forget Wade Phillips is their defensive coordinator.

These next two weeks could be very telling for this frustrated Broncos team.

WIN a copy of Case Keenum’s book (expired)

Please note this competition has now ended. The winner will be announced soon.

To celebrate Case Keenum’s fourth start with the Denver Broncos, we’re delighted to announce that we’re giving away a copy of his book.

Titled Playing for More: Trust Beyond What You Can See — and written with Andrew Perloff from The Dan Patrick Show, with a foreword from Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dungy — the book came out in early September and takes a look back at the Texan’s life and career so far.

Keenum writes about his journey to the pros, starting out as a ball boy for his father’s college team to his prolific, record-setting college career with the Houston Cougars, and his nomadic NFL career that saw him join the Broncos in 2018 after leading Minnesota to the NFC Championship game last season.

But as much as he takes us inside of his football life, the central theme of the book is Keenum’s spirituality and how it makes him the person and football player he is today.

Even for those who are not religious, or not Christians, there is plenty to enjoy as you learn about the incredible journey the Broncos quarterback is on, as well as a first-hand account of the many ups and downs he has endured along the way so far.

To be in with a chance of winning the book, you must be a member of the Broncos Europe Facebook group and like the competition post.

The competition will close at the end of the Kansas City-Denver game on October 1, and the winner publicized on our social media channels on Tuesday, October 2.

Terms and Conditions:

This competition is operated and promoted by Broncos Europe Ltd and is independent of Case Keenum, the Denver Broncos, the National Football League, and the publisher B&H Books.

Only one entry per Facebook account. You must be a member and like the competition post to be eligible to win. The competition is open to entrants anywhere in the world, as long as you’re a Denver Broncos fan.

No cash or alternate prizes are available. The winner will receive one hardback copy of the book. The book will be shipped fully-tracked and insured to an address specified by the winner. The tracking number will be provided to the winner. Any change in delivery address after the prize has been shipped will be at the discretion of the courier and must be arranged with them prior to delivery.

If the winner does not provide an address to send the prize within seven days, we reserve the right to redraw the competition.

By accepting the prize, the winner permits Broncos Europe Ltd to use your name — and/or social media handles — on our website and social media channels for the purposes of promotion and transparency. If the winner wants to send us a photo of them with the prize to feel good (or gloat) about winning, that’s cool but isn’t a requirement.

The winner’s name and address will be held on file for 12 months for insurance reasons and will not be shared with any person or company, other than our courier partner and insurance company, without permission because we’re not dicks and care about your privacy.

If you didn’t win and would still like a copy of the book, you can find it on Amazon. 

For those of you in the UK, if you buy the book through our Amazon affiliate link, we will receive a small commission, which helps us to do what we do. Your support is very much appreciated.