It seems the Denver Broncos only got our collective hopes up so they could let us down, as they turned in another stinker against the Philadelphia Eagles.
What players impressed the most, despite the disappointing outcome, and who cost the Broncos the most? Let’s take a look, in this somber edition of the Broncos’ stock report.
While the rest of Denver’s defense looked like they couldn’t even stop the University of Colorado, Dre’Mont Jones made big plays that kept them in it.
His first big play came on a reverse to Jalen Reagor, which he blew up in the backfield for an eight-yard loss. That’s the kind of play that ends a possession, if you have any semblance of coverage, pass rush, or run defense to help you out for the subsequent plays in the series. Unfortunately for Jones, he had none of the above today.
Next time he made a big play, he made sure no one else could screw it up, forcing a massive fumble by Hurts on third down, which felt monumental in the moment, as Denver’s defense was desperately gasping for air.
Denver’s season is over and it’s time to focus on building blocks. Jones is one.
The Eagles do not have a good passing offense, yet they ate the Broncos’ secondary alive all day long on Sunday.
That’s been a consistent theme for this Broncos team all season though, despite their spending spree on the back-end of their defense and the amount of talent acquired, Denver has had little-to-no ability to stop the pass this season.
In recent weeks against Cleveland, Washington and Dallas, it appeared like things were trending in the right direction defensively, but Philadelphia proved that wasn’t the case by blowing the doors off Denver.
In the first half, Jalen Hurts opened the game 13-for-15 for 151 yards and two touchdowns, for a passer rating of 148. That’s the same Jalen Hurts who has been called ‘not an NFL starting quarterback,’ ‘Garbage-time Jalen,’ and ‘a poor man’s Lamar Jackson’ all season long. That stat line could have been even worse if it weren’t for Quez Watkins dropping a wide-open touchdown on Philadelphia’s last play from scrimmage.
Overall, Denver’s coverage and pass rush improved toward the end of the first half and into the second half, but the damage was already done, the hole was already dug, and the Broncos couldn’t find their way out of it.
The Broncos’ ability to defend the run is not much better.
This shortcoming was more acceptable given the Eagles’ strength running the football, but it still helped put the Broncos in their 20-10 halftime hole. At the half, the Eagles were averaging five yards per carry, and that number gets bumped to nearly six yards per carry if you remove Reagor’s blown-up reverse.
That dominance through the ground game paved the way for the Eagles to convert multiple times on short-yardage third downs. In the first half, the Eagles went five-for-eight on third downs, and it should have been six-for-eight. A lot of that was thanks to the Broncos providing managable third downs consistently.
Melvin Gordon had a strong game overall, but he made the most costly mistake of the entire Broncos season by fumbling the ball on fourth down deep in Eagles territory.
This comes just two weeks after Gordon nearly fumbled-away a game against the Washington football team, and having two gaffes like that in three weeks is plainly unacceptable.
If Gordon doesn’t fumble on that fourth down, the Broncos convert and are set up for a golden opportunity to score a game-tying touchdown, while holding all the momentum in the game. Both of the prior Broncos drives in the second half entered scoring position, and both of their defensive possessions ended in either a stop or a turnover.
Either a field goal or a touchdown on that drive would have given the Broncos a terrific opportunity to win this game, placing them right in the midst of the AFC Playoff conversation.
Instead, they fumbled, the Eagles scooped and scored — resulting in a minimum 10-point swing, in a game decided by just 17. However, not even that captures the impact of that play, as the moment it occurred the life left the stadium. From the moment Slay breached the endzone, you could feel the end of the Broncos season all around the stadium, and even in the isolated, soundproofed press box.
Teddy Bridgewater also deserves criticism for his lackluster tackle attempt.