Gut Reactions: Broncos Were Rousey, Chiefs Were Holm

On Saturday night, Ronda Rousey, considered to be the most dominant UFC women’s fighter around, was set to defend her bantamweight title against Holly Holm. If you believed what some said, Holm was a very good fighter who could do some things well, but she had no chance against Rousey, especially if you look at how some of Holm’s earlier fights went.

Today, the Broncos took on the Chiefs at home, and if you asked most people before the game, you’d say that the Chiefs can do some good things, but if you look at how some of their games went earlier this season, you’d say they’d have no chance of beating the Broncos in Mile High.

Well, today, the Broncos were Rousey and the Chiefs were Holm. Or to put it another way, Rousey got her ass kicked by Holm and the Broncos got their asses kicked by the Chiefs.

Yes, I know. The defense kept holding the Chiefs to field goals. But they couldn’t really get the Chiefs out of sync and were sometimes helped by silly KC penalties. And the offense — oh boy, Peyton Manning. Seems like the guy was in no mood to celebrate the passing yardage record, and considering how it all went downhill after that, it was like he knew there wouldn’t be anything to celebrate. And excuse me, Trent Green, you quarterback apologist, the Chiefs’ pressure had nothing to do with Peyton’s mistakes. Sure, the Chiefs pressured Peyton, but his mistakes can’t all be attributed to throwing under pressure.

Let’s review some things we can take from this game, starting with the bad and then looking to see what we can salvage.

1. Most of Peyton’s interceptions would have been interceptions by him at any age, or for that matter, by any quarterback at any age. Peyton’s four picks went like this:

* First one: His feet weren’t set and his release wasn’t good. Any QB who avoids a pick in that situation can count himself lucky.
* Second one: He tried to make a throw he used to make in his prime, but needs plenty of help from the receiver now. And, no, it wasn’t DPI; the ball shouldn’t have been thrown to Emmanuel Sanders when he was dealing with an ankle injury. Sanders did appear to slip as he turned, and if that happens, referees won’t call DPI. Maybe Peyton in his prime makes the throw, or maybe Sanders makes the catch if he doesn’t have a bum wheel, but talking about what might have been is pointless.
* Third one: Here is the hard truth: Peyton made a terrible read and the only way that’s not an interception is if the defender drops the ball. In this case, you certainly cannot blame age, injury, decline, the weather or the alignment of the planets. Pick any QB you want, at any stage of his career, and the only way it’s not a pick is if the defender screws up.
* Fourth one: At first glance, it looked like Peyton was hit as he threw, but further inspection shows he came off his back foot. True, he was under pressure, but any quarterback making a throw like that is going to get picked off.

So it’s no surprise Peyton got benched. Even if he was healthy and his prime, he’d warrant a benching, because his performance was bad. Just remember what Bill Belichick did to Tom Brady last season when he had a dismal outing (coincidentally, that came against the Chiefs, too). Kubes may be saying the right thing that he was worried about Peyton’s health, but in reality, any QB who plays that poorly deserves a benching, hurt or not.

2. The defense needs to stop committing dumb penalties. I don’t blame the defense for today’s loss, but once again, you had a Broncos player lose his cool when he didn’t need to. The officials were correct to flag T.J. Ward for nailing Jeremy Maclin and there’s a real chance Ward won’t play against Chicago. Sure, you can criticize the officials for not flagging the Chiefs when Emmanuel Sanders got hit, but everyone better remember that the Chiefs got flagged when an offensive linemen dropped a forearm on a downed Von Miller for no particular reason. Gene Steratoire’s crew is known for discussing every call and every observation thoroughly, and that happened many times today. (FWIW, I think Steratoire’s crew did very well today.) More importantly, while it’s tough to take one on the chin, you can’t lose your cool. Regardless of what was or wasn’t the defense’s fault today, the Broncos need to be more disciplined.

3. I appreciate Gary Kubiak for his honesty after today’s game. I’m glad he’s willing to take the blame rather than trying to shrug things off. I can’t blame him for saying that Peyton Manning remains the starter as long as he’s healthy (and I will get to where the Broncos go at quarterback later) and I was glad to see him show some fight today. I don’t blame him for taking a chance on challenging the fourth-and-short conversion the Chiefs got, because it’s the difference between getting the ball or not getting it. I don’t blame him for when he went for it on fourth down, and he was right to go for two when the Broncos finally got on the board. And every time he went for an onside kick, he was right to do so. I hope to see more of that as the season continues, because in close games, it will count for a lot.

4. Brock Osweiler showed enough for me to say he should at least be the starter in 2016. I won’t pin him down yet as the long-term guy, though, because his sample remains small. But he showed enough to convince me that the Broncos should keep him around next season. As far as whether or not he should be the starter from this point going forward, here’s the way I see it.

If Kubiak’s intention is to keep this Peyton’s team, and Peyton is hurt, it’s best to rest him until he’s healthy and make it clear that, once he’s healthy, he’s the starter again. Assuming that’s Kubes’ intention, if Peyton is OK to play against Chicago, then play him, but then it becomes a week-to-week ordeal. And if at any point Peyton is benched, it’s for performance and the switch to Osweiler is permanent, with Peyton only returning if Osweiler gets injured.

The reason the Broncos shouldn’t pick and choose when to play Peyton (injuries/guy is hurt the biggest exception; a Week 17 rest is OK, too) is the rest of the team needs to know whose team this really is. Playing QB roulette is going to do more harm than good, particularly with the Broncos on a losing streak.

5. At the very least, we can stop worrying about Cody Latimer. It’s clear he feels more comfortable playing with Osweiler than with Peyton Manning. That’s a good thing, because if Osweiler is going to be the starter in 2016, Latimer should find his place. It’s too bad he got tackled short of the 1-yard line, because the way things were going, we could have used Osweiler hooking up with Latimer for the QB’s first TD pass of the season and the WR’s first TD of his career to give us something to smile about.

6. What is a good sign is the Broncos seemed to get fired up the more Osweiler got into a rhythm. That gives me cause for optimism that, if a QB change does happen this season, the Broncos should remain in position for a deep playoff run.

7. To think I was singing Omar Bolden’s praises last week, and then he has to interfere with a fair catch. In his case, I’ll chalk it up to bad luck and hope it’s out of his system.

8. Don’t look now but the Chicago Bears have improved. In other words, proceed with caution before declaring next week’s game is meaningless or a win is in the bag.

9. More importantly, don’t declare the division in the bag, either. The Chiefs are 1-1 and get two games with the Raiders and the Chargers. And the Raiders are chomping at the bit as now they could have an opening to win the division, just as the Chiefs have one now.

10. Thank you, Chris Harris, for showing some fire when all seemed lost. You deserve more matchups against No. 1 receivers, dude.

11. Thank you, Von Miller, for skipping an elaborate sack celebration and just pumping your fist. I have no problems with a sack dance, but Miller kept himself in all-business mode today. I think he just might become that locker room leader the Broncos will need when DeMarcus Ware parts ways with the team, however that may come.

12. While Broncos fans can’t take anything for granted at this point, just remember this: The Broncos are still 7-2, still are in position for a playoff run and their next three opponents, while not pushovers, are vulnerable. The Bears aren’t exactly dominant defensively, the Patriots are getting banged up and the Chargers may be the most banged up team in the NFL, to the point the bye week might not be enough to get them back to full strength.

So, keep holding your heads high, Broncos fans. There’s still plenty of games to play and plenty of time to get back on track.

Published by

Bob Morris

I'm a sports writer in real life, though I've always focused on smaller communities, but that hasn't stopped me from learning more about some of the ins and outs of the NFL. You can follow me on Twitter @BobMorrisSports if you can put up with updates on the high school sports teams I cover.