In Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, many of Denver’s long-term issues were present. Case Keenum threw another interception, bringing his total on the season to five with just three passing touchdowns. The Broncos were also once again unable to stop the opponent’s running backs and tight ends.
Let’s see what Broncos saw their stock go up, and which saw their stock plummet after an ugly outing in Maryland.
Philip Lindsay was ejected in the second quarter of Denver’s defeat for throwing punches during a scrum for the ball. The move hurt Denver’s ability to move the ball, but fellow rookie Royce Freeman was able to shoulder most of the load, finishing the day with 13 carries for 53 yards and a score on the Broncos’ first drive, which was set up by a blocked punt.
Demariyus Thomas bounced back from an ugly game against the Raiders last week that saw him gain just 18 yards on 11 targets. Against a depleted Ravens secondary, Thomas was the Broncos’ leading receiver, catching all five of his targets for 63 yards. He also had a 39-yard reception called back because of a flag. Late in the game, Thomas appeared to hurt himself on one of his catches, but after checking out he quickly returned to the game. If Emmanuel Sanders and Thomas can consistently perform at the levels they’ve shown of this season, Denver’s aerial attack could become dangerous.
The real stars for Denver didn’t come on offense or defense, but instead on special teams. Joseph Jones‘ blocked punt on the fourth play from scrimmage was the best Denver had all game. It set the Broncos up, right on the Ravens’ six-yard line, where Royce Freeman instantly pushed it in. The special teams would strike again in the second quarter when Justin Simmons hurdled the Ravens’ offensive line to block a field goal. Chris Harris would scoop the block up and return it for a score before having it called back for an illegal block in the back. If it weren’t for these two plays, Denver would’ve lost by much more than 13 points.
Denver’s offensive line finally seemed to be fixed after the first two weeks of the season. They were even ranked among the top five offensive lines for Week 2 as well as, Week 1 by NFL.com.
They didn’t look like it against a stingy Ravens defense. Multiple big plays were called back by countless holding penalties, including a pair by Garrett Bolles. Keenum was constantly harassed, being hit and having the pocket collapse on him, which killed multiple plays for the Broncos. Keenum isn’t a talented enough quarterback to thrive behind a porous offensive line. If Denver wants to see January, they must make sure their offensive line continues to play at a high level.
Almost as embarrassing as the offensive line was the coaching on display by Vance Joseph. Denver was called for a “too many men” penalty and were forced to call a timeout for being undermanned at another point – both of which came at crucial points late in the second half.
Denver entered the game with cornerback Adam Jones out, and things got even worse when Tramaine Brock went down in the first quarter. The secondary that has already struggled in coverage all season immediately was exposed for a lack of depth. Isaac Yiadom was targeted multiple times and struggled, but more concerning are Bradley Roby‘s continued struggles. The Broncos need Roby to replace Talib’s production, and right now, he’s nowhere near close.
Week 3’s outing will hopefully be a wake-up call for the Broncos. The team clearly has the talent to be competitive late into December, and possibly January, but they won’t sniff that potential if mental errors and turnovers continue to plague them.