The Morning After: Breathing A Little Easier Now

A little late with this, but because my busiest work day comes on Tuesday, bear with me.

I’ll admit that I was shaking my head in disbelief during the first half of the Broncos game against the Bengals, to the point I made several observations on Twitter where I was somewhat disapproving of certain players and coaches.

Then came the second half, where they all forced me to eat some of those words.

Not that I’m complaining. The Broncos have made the playoffs and taken some of the load off their backs, even though they still need a win against San Diego to clinch the division and a first-round bye.

But we can rest better knowing the Broncos are playoff bound and that they have that chance at the Super Bowl.

So here are some observations that are, in many cases, more complimentary of what the Broncos did that some of those earlier tweets of mine were.

1. Gary Kubiak made the best adjustment he has made all season in switching to a no-huddle offense for most of the second half. It allowed the Broncos to frustrate the Bengals to the point that one of their players tried faking an injury to slow things down. If I were Kubes, I’d use that no huddle more often, as it will keep opponents on their toes and just might wear some of those defenses down.

2. On the above point, that will be particularly true if the Broncos ever meet up with the Chiefs in the playoffs. Their defense is no joke. In fact, the Chiefs are no joke. Time to stop with wisecracks about them until they are eliminated from the playoffs.

3. Brock Osweiler looked so comfortable playing the no-huddle offense. Despite taking several hits, he showed poise and confidence, stood tall in the pocket and made some great throws. I remarked on Twitter that Osweiler wasn’t going to command a big contract, but his second-half play has me regretting I ever said that.

4. CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman are a tough duo, but if one or the other isn’t at full strength, the other one can’t do enough to compensate. That’s particularly true of Hillman, but give the guy credit for hard running and a good burst last night. But a lot of that came from having Anderson in the rotation, and that guy bounced back from a fumble and back injury to gain tough yards when the Broncos needed them. Prior to the fumble, Anderson found plenty of ways to slip past defenders and find the hole.

5. No, I don’t want to trade Demaryius Thomas. Yes, his drops have been frustrating, but when he’s at his best, he’s dangerous. That one-handed grab of his would make Odell Beckham Jr. jealous. More importantly, DT never dropped any ball that hit his hands.

6. Owen Daniels isn’t the same player he once was, but he played like his younger self last night. Several clutch catches, including one where he went up in the air to snag it, impersonating A.J. Green from earlier in the game. And he almost had one that would have given the Broncos a TD opportunity, were it not for Reggie Nelson getting his hand on the ball.

7. Right tackle does need to be addressed in the offseason, as much as Michael Schofield has tried to make things work. It will also help to get Evan Mathis back into the lineup for more snaps, but I can’t blame Kubiak for being careful with him, and besides, Max Garcia needs to take some lumps so he can be ready to start regularly next season.

8. On the above point, I’m going to tip you off about one guy I’ll bring up in my offseason game plan writeup I’m preparing. All the talk is about how the Broncos should go back to the Browns to get Joe Thomas, but why do that when Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is a pending free agent and the Broncos could sign him and the Browns get nothing back and like it. (Of course, you’d still have to consider left tackle, but at least you have one less O-line concern.)

9. Derek Wolfe has been so good since returning from suspension. I’ll gladly start howling along with him every time he gets a sack.

10. The Broncos might have the best one-two punch at inside linebacker in Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall. We’ll cross our fingers that Marshall won’t be sidelined for long (at today’s presser, Kubiak said Marshall’s ankle is sore but no further update because Marshall is attending a funeral). It would be tough seeing the best ILB duo being split up again.

11. On the above note, the good news is Todd Davis can play just as well at ILB. Amazing how ILB was considered a weak spot a couple of seasons ago, but is now a strength.

12. Good to see Wade Phillips get the Broncos out of man coverage and into zone coverage. Sometimes you have to run zone coverage on receivers because some teams have a good group of them, with one elite talent and several who are good or fit the offense well. That might be what the Broncos need to do if they meet the Patriots in the playoffs, or whichever of the Jets or Steelers slips in.

13. Bradley Roby got burned often in the first half. But in the second half, he was far smarter with his play and even defended A.J. Green well on most second-half occasions.

14. DeMarcus Ware may have been quiet since his return from injury, but I’m betting his fumble recovery to seal the victory is just the start of his resurgence.

15. We give Britton Colquitt a lot of grief, but last night was his best overall game. One punt aside, Colquitt either kicked well enough to pin the Bengals fairly deep or put the ball out of bounds in a spot that wasn’t favorable to Cincy.

16. Good to see Brandon McManus explain why getting the foot in the right spot on the ball is so important. Winning in regulation would have been nice, but his execution in overtime shows the dude knows how to bounce back.

17. The punt coverage unit was the best thing about the first half. It was pretty good in the second half, too. I just hope to see more of that strong play. After all, in the playoffs, field position counts for a lot.

18. What I want from the Broncos next week is not just a win, but four quarters of good football. Put four quarters together and we can breathe even easier about their chance for a deep playoff run.

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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.