Broncos End Exactly As They Started
It's been said that it's not how you start, but how you finish that matters. Sadly for the Denver Broncos today, there was no difference between the two because the Broncos ended today's game the same way they started, with a drive-killing fumble inside the Red Zone.
Brady vs. Manning (Part XIII) was expected to be a fast paced and exciting affair. With both the Broncos and the Patriots using the no-huddle offense, today's game was a "warp speed" matchup that would make even Captain James T. Kirk - or Jean Luc Picard for you "Next Generation" fans - proud. And, as is usually the case in such games, it's usually the team that makes the fewest mistakes - i.e. turnovers - that win these matchups in the end. Unfortunately for Broncos fans, it's here where the Broncos lost today.
On the first drive of the game, Manning and Co. marched the ball to midfield without so much as raising a sweat. However, on a third and 5 from their own 47 yard line, Manning hit Demaryius Thomas in stride down the middle for a 42 yard completion. He then fumbled and NE recovered at the 3 yard line and returned it to the 17. The opportunity to score a touchdown on the first drive of the game - for just the second time this season - was ended. Instead of New England starting their first drive of the game down by 3-7 points, they took possession with a zero-zero tie.
The chance for the Broncos to set the tempo was lost.
From there, the game got quickly out of hand, thanks mostly to the inability of the Broncos defense to keep up with New England's no-huddle game. By half time, the Pats were up 17-7. Even though 10 points isn't that much of a gap, it felt like the game was already over. When the Pats went up 31-7 after scoring 14 points in under a minute in the third quarter, it essentially was.
The Broncos made it interesting in the 4th quarter when Manning almost single-handedly got the score to 31-21. Sadly, just as they began, the Broncos ended any chance of a comeback with another fumble inside the Red Zone, this time by Willis McGahee.
But hey, it gets worse. . .
The Broncos defense looked dazed and confused most of the game. They were often out of position when the Pats snapped the ball, which allowed New England to rush for 251 net yards on 54 carries (4.6 ypc). It also allowed Brady to complete 23 of 31 attempts (74%) for 223 yards and two touchdowns (1 rushing).
One particularly troubling defensive statistic this season has been in the area of third downs. The Broncos have been rather porous this season in this vital category and today's game was no exception. The Broncos allowed the Patriots to convert 4 out of 5 third and long situations of 8, 10, 14, and 17 yards. The fifth time was a third and 12 situation where Brady kneeled down to end the game. Overall, the Broncos allowed New England to convert 11 of 17 third downs (64%).
When added to the 3 turnovers committed by the Broncos offense - Manning had a fumble to go with the two already mentioned - there was simply no way for the Broncos to return to Denver victorious.
But that's what happens sometimes when you end the same way you begin.
The good stuff:
1. Peyton Manning - There can be no doubt that he's pretty much got his swagger back. He was 31/44 (70.4%), 345 yards, and three touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 116.19 and was once again leading the team to a near comeback after being down by 24 points in the third period.
2. Demaryius Thomas - 9 catches for 188 yards (20.9 ypc).
3. Von Miller - 7.5 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble.
4. Red Zone and Goal-to-go - The offense was 3 out of 4 in the Red Zone and 3 for 3 when goal-to-go - ALL TOUCHDOWNS!
The not-so-good stuff
1. Defensive unit - While Miller enjoyed some success, the defense as a unit didn't. I don't know if it was the game plan or ineptness by the players, but the defense looked like a deer in the headlights most of the game. Either the coaches didn't properly game plan for New England's no-huddle or the players simply weren't prepared to execute. considering that they practice against it all the time, I find this totally unacceptable.
2. Demaryius Thomas - Yeah, he's in the good stuff category, but he belongs here too. For the second week in a row, he turned the ball over inside the 10 yard line after a big pass play. Fool me once, shame on you - fool me twice, shame on me. To quote the Who, "we don't get fooled again!"
3. Willis McGahee - Not totally sure he belongs here yet, but last season he only had 4 fumbles, losing 3. This year, he's already done both twice with today's fumble particularly costly.
4. Coaching - The defensive coaches had no answers for Brady today and as I mentioned, they looked lost most of the time.
5. Third downs - The Broncos defense simply must find a way to get the other team's offense off of the field, particularly on long yardage situations.
Offensive Player-of-the-Game: Peyton Manning. Besides the stats mentioned above, Manning showed the leadership and level-headedness you expect from a veteran like him. He was pretty much the only thing consistently working today.
Defensive Player-of-the-Game: Von Miller. He was all over the place today and caused the fumble that nearly allowed the Broncos to complete their comeback.
Last edited by Broncos Mtnman; 10-07-2012 at 11:12 PM.
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