Did John Elway say something a few months back about how, if the Denver Broncos, they should go down kicking and screaming?
Turns out that attitude not only leaves a good impression on people, it can actually get you a win when all seems lost.
The Broncos never held a lead until Andre Caldwell hauled in Brock Osweiler’s touchdown pass with 1:15 left in the game. It looked like the game might still get away from the Broncos after Tom Brady completed a long pass to Brandon LaFell to lead to Stephen Gostowski’s 47-yard field goal, followed by the Patriots winning the toss.
Then came a three-and-out and C.J. Anderson took over.
Broncos fans will rightly get bragging rights for a couple of days, but the work isn’t done yet. They’ve got to get players healthy, they’ve got to keep winning because the Kansas City Chiefs are suddenly surging, and they’ve got to knock it off with the dumbest of penalties already.
But you know what? This “kicking and screaming” attitude could go a long way to overcoming those weaknesses.
Let’s talk about last night’s game.
1. Brock Osweiler needs to learn that it’s OK to throw the ball away and, once in a while, it’s OK to take a sack and not try to escape the defender (the latter goes back to Osweiler trying to avoid pressure and taking a 13-yard loss on a sack, when he could have just gone down and only lost a couple of yards). But for what he still needs to learn, he makes up for in his willingness to fire up teammates and keep going. It’s still too soon to declare this is Osweiler’s team for the foreseeable future, but he’s taking steps in that direction.
2. You can quibble with whether or not C.J. Anderson should be the top back on the depth chart, but you can’t argue that the back rotation has helped him greatly. He’s healthy and he shows a lot more fire than he did earlier this season. Getting away from the pistol has helped, but it seems using Anderson once the offensive line starts settling in is the best way to maximize his talents. Whether he’s No. 1 or No. 2 on the chart, all that matters is he’s making life rough on opposing defenses.
3. Of course, one could argue that the Patriots losing Donte Hightower allowed the Broncos to have their way against the Patriots defense. Never mind that the Broncos lost T.J. Ward and had to switch things up with their coverages to compensate. Remember, the best teams are the ones who can overcome injuries and find ways to win.
4. Think Osweiler was happy to have Emmanuel Sanders back? Sanders made several tough catches and, while he took a pounding, he just kept going.
5. On the other hand, Demaryius Thomas had arguably the most forgettable game of his career. Thomas has been a Jekyll-and-Hyde player this year, and last night, it was all Hyde, all the time. (Unless you think Jekyll is the real weak link, in which case you can adjust my attempted metaphor.)
6. Owen Daniels before the bye week: 12 catches on 27 targets for 80 yards. Owen Daniels after the bye week: 19 catches on 28 targets for 277 yards. What in the world happened? First of all, Daniels got healthy, and second, Vernon Davis came along to allow the Broncos to run more two tight end sets. Makes you wonder what Daniels could have done if Jeff Heuerman hadn’t torn his ACL, doesn’t it?
7. Max Garcia was Pro Football Focus’ highest rated Broncos offensive lineman (+3.2). It could have been easy for the rookie to fold, given that he first had to take the bulk of snaps with Evan Mathis less than 100 percent, and had to take even more after Louis Vasquez left the game with an ankle injury. Give the dude credit, though; he’s tough in the trenches and looks like he might be the one young lineman who can be a part of the long-term picture.
8. Michael Schofield, though, had a rough night to start, but he got better as the game progressed. I’m just going to chalk this season up as a learning experience for him.
9. The frustrating thing about the dumb penalties is that it’s the high profile guys committing them. I don’t know what Aqib Talib was thinking when he kept pushing Matt Slater around when they were out of bounds, and I’m even more perplexed about Von Miller thinking he can just dive on Brady after he gave himself up and Vance Walker touched him.
10. On the other hand, Miller made up for it with a late sack on Brady. See, kids, this is what happens when the Patriots don’t have Rob Gronkowski in the lineup. Teams no longer have to drop different guys into coverage to account for him and they can attack that weak offensive line at will.
11. A quick note to any Pats fans who protests that this loss would never have happened with a healthy lineup: The Broncos lost Ward, Vasquez and Sylvester Williams during the game, didn’t have DeMarcus Ware and played with a banged-up Evan Mathis. Patriots fans, your team isn’t the only one with key injury issues.
12. The more I watch Derek Wolfe, the more I am convinced that he’s the defensive end that needs to be re-signed. He’s been a stud in run defense and now we are seeing how good he can be as a pass rusher. Malik Jackson may be a slightly better player, but he’s probably going to command more money than he may be worth. Wolfe is more likely to be extended at the right price.
13. Brandon Marshall may not have had a glamorous game in the stat line, but don’t let that fool you. He was very good in coverage and didn’t make things easy for the players he covered. I’ve maintained that the Broncos will need to tender Marshall at the first-round RFA level next year, because don’t think for a minute that other teams aren’t noticing Marshall and how he’s very much worth a second-round pick. Of course, Elway can always look at the alternative: Announce that he intends to extend Marshall and not go through the tender process.
14. Early in the game, we all wanted to kick around Britton Colquitt, and rightly so. Sure, he had one good punt, but the writing is on the wall. Next season, the Broncos can’t just bring in competition; they need to replace him and move on.
15. The Broncos recovered all three fumbles, two were their own. Be glad randomness was smiling upon you, Bronco fans. And be glad the referees correctly ruled Shaq Barrett recovered the Patriots’ fumbled punt, even if Chris Harper came out of the pile with the ball.