After what was a tremendously promising start to the season, the Denver Broncos’ season has gone down the tubes.
The team no longer believes in the coaching staff, and as long as that’s the case and staff remains as is, that is what Broncos Country should, unfortunately, come to expect.
With that said reality has been dour enough as of late, so hopefully, you’ll enjoy this article that attempts to dwell on the bright spots, before acknowledging the elephant of negativity that lingers in the room.
As of late, none of the Broncos’ defenders have been performing at a high level. There were some symptoms of that changing Thursday Night against the Browns, and one of the spots in which that was most apparent was with Shelby Harris.
Now, let’s get out in front of this and clarify, Harris had a fairly rocky night and at times was bullied by Cleveland’s offensive line. He was, of course, a member of the defensive line that the Browns ran all over.
However, he did have one of his best games of the season and likely made the best play of the night for Denver.
Against the Browns, Harris pressured the quarterback multiple times and recorded his second sack of the season. He also got his mit up in the air to block a field goal, something he’s done relatively regularly in orange and blue. Another thing he’s made a habit of doing for the Broncos, relative to other defensive linemen is breaking up passes, and although he did it with a hit as opposed to the standard deflection, he assisted in a pass breakup.
Now, much like Shelby Harris, Denver’s pass defense didn’t light the world on fire, but it was much improved from where it had been in recent weeks.
Over the past three weeks, the Broncos’ pass defense ranked last in the league in expected points allowed per dropback and second-to-last in explosive-passing-play rate. That’s unacceptable given how much talent is on that back end, and how much money the Broncos have invested in it.
It started to turn around Thursday night.
After Keenum opened the game by completing eight of his first nine passes for 75 yards, the Broncos’ defense stepped up and put the clamps on.
The rest of the night saw Keenum go 13-for-24 for 124 yards and a touchdown. That’s far from a masterful performance, especially against Case Keenum, but it’s also far from being the worst pass defense in the league. Considering that’s what the Broncos had been the last three weeks, this is a step in the right direction.
Patrick Surtain II
One of the few bright spots on this roster has been Patrick Surtain II, who has begun to emerge as one of the Broncos’ best cornerbacks, if not their very best.
He has impressed with just how consistent and reliable he has been, especially for a rookie. As the Broncos have plummetted to being one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses in recent weeks, Surtain hasn’t been a reason for the slippage.
Against the Browns, he had a solid day, the highlight of which might have been a deep pass breakup that he played beautifully.
However, it’s worth highlighting Surtain here because he’s been a consistent positive for the Broncos when little to nothing else has been. If he continues to play like this, the Broncos might have a legitimate lockdown corner who can be a focal point of their defense for the next decade or more.
That’s nice to have at a premium position.
As the rest of the team collapsed in on itself, the one aspect of the team that remained passable — though even that is debatable, considering the Steelers game — was their run defense.
Tonight that was not the case, as a Browns attack that was hobbled both at running back and along the offensive line, had no problems running roughshod all over the Broncos.
On the Browns’ first four carries of the game, they gained 46 yards, and that number would likely be even higher if one of them wasn’t limited in distance by the endzone.
Although Denver’s run defense wasn’t that bad all night long, that opening set a tone that the Broncos were unable to recover from.
Ultimately, the Browns would finish with 182 rushing yards on 33 attempts, and every single one of their running backs averaged at least 6.5 yards per carry.
The worst moment of the night though came as the Broncos were unable to stop the Browns from running the clock out on their final drive of the game.
The Coaching Staff
The Denver Broncos will not get any better until they overhaul the coaching staff, as this crew has completely lost it.
Vic Fangio’s defense wasn’t as embarrassing tonight and did a good job limiting the Browns to points, but the way they opened the game was unacceptable, as was allowing Cleveland to immediately answer Denver’s first touchdown drive with a touchdown drive of their own, and allowed the Browns to run out the clock following the second scoring drive.
Also, although they were improved tonight, they still didn’t look like the elite defense Denver was promised, and they still aren’t living up to their level of talent.
Pat Shurmur’s gameplan was uninspired and limited the offense. Who’s heard that one before?
It felt comedic that the Broncos opening drive literally went; run for little-to-no gain, run for little-to-no gain, pass short of the sticks to make it fourth-and-short.
Shurmur doesn’t know how to captain a productive offense in the modern NFL, and he’s got to go.
As we mentioned at the top of this analysis, things are dour enough in Broncos Country, so let us leave you with this one positive morsel. When all 53 players on the roster are underperforming and playing poorly, it’s safe to wonder if the problem is really the coaching staff, especially when so many of the players have sterling track records.
Replacing a coaching staff is much easier than rebuilding an entire roster, so hopefully, the Broncos’ problems are just that simple.