So what did we and the Denver Broncos learn about themselves and their opponent today? Plenty of things, as it turns out.
For starters, the Bills are not tanking. Furthermore, the Bills defense isn’t Marcel Dareus and a bunch of nobodies — if anything, quite a few players rank higher than Dareus in terms of their importance to the Bills D. Also, we saw that Rick Dennison can do some good things with his offense when he has personnel that are better fits for his schemes.
As for the Broncos, we found out that Trevor Siemian still has plenty to learn as a quarterback, that we shouldn’t focus solely on right tackle when it comes to pass protection, that Justin Simmons has plenty of room for improvement and that Chris Harris isn’t immune to a subpar outing (hey, he’s only human).
And while it’s easy to grumble about bad calls by the referees, they really aren’t the reason why the Broncos lost today. They still had plenty of things they could control and didn’t do it enough.
Let’s go over the key points about today’s game.
1. Trevor Siemian showed progress the first two weeks of the season, but today he showed he still has plenty of work to do as a passer. He had a couple of good throws in tight coverage, but most of his big gains were wide open throws and the majority of his throws were bad. His first interception looked like a badly underthrown ball when Emmanuel Sanders wasn’t even close, and his second interception was a situation in which you throw the ball away but it sure looked like he was trying to force it to Bennie Fowler. The latter pick was what really did the Broncos in because it put the defense in a bad situation.
2. Yes, I know — the Bills might not have gotten the ensuing field goal if not for the ridiculous flag thrown on Von Miller. But while the call was terrible, if Siemian doesn’t try to create something out of nothing a few plays earlier, you may not wind up in a situation in which the defense has to bail you out.
3. I’ll get one other gripe with the calls out of the way: I don’t even know how the NFL can declare that Sanders’ overturned catch wasn’t a catch after he took two or three steps with the ball secured. And I’m just gonna leave it at that, because that’s not the reason the Broncos lost, either.
4. Siemian seemed to be picking on Tre’Davious White a lot, as if he thought White was going to keep letting receivers get wide open. But while White made mistakes, he showed he can bounce back from it and do a good job with coverage. The Bills got themselves a good player.
5. Pass protection was decent today, but if you want to point to the number one culprit for the problems, well, Max Garcia was that guy. I’m still having my doubts that he’s the long-term answer at left guard.
6. Meanwhile, for other guys who are tasked with protecting the QB and with run blocking, they did well except for one thing: false start penalties that made things tougher for the Broncos to gain additional first downs. I can deal with one in a game, but four is too much for my liking.
7. I think Justin Simmons will be a good player, but it wasn’t his day today. Too many times, tight ends who aren’t among the best were beating him and hauling in easy receptions. Other times, he missed safety help assignments. And I’ve never been a fan of Charles Clay, but maybe he’s the type of player who is the right fit for Rick Dennison’s schemes?
8. Chris Harris has been tremendous for most of his Broncos’ career, but today was not his best day. You can bet he’ll be kicking himself for the blown coverages he had on Jordan Matthews.
9. Vance Joseph, next time you want to try a fake punt and the players look confused, call time out and don’t try to get cute with a quick snap in the hopes the Bills don’t know what’s coming.
10. Okay, if you want to talk about things I liked, I will say that Shelby Harris has been a great find.
11. Oh, and it was nice to see Jamaal Charles show he can still break off a big run and it was great he got his first touchdown as a Bronco.
12. And I did like what I saw from the Broncos pass rush overall — but give Tyrod Taylor credit for taking a licking and still playing agressively.
13. On a final note, I want to address the league-wide display of protest by taking a knee or other gesture during the national anthem. I have written in the past that I support the right to protest, but let’s not forget that this protest gained notoriety because Colin Kaepernick wanted to raise awareness about police brutality and racial relations. There are many reasons to criticize Donald Trump, but remember that the issues Kaepernick wanted to address were around long before Trump even announced his 2016 candidacy — and if we are honest, long before Trump embraced birtherism. Criticize Trump as much as you wish, but don’t forget the issues Kaepernick wanted your attentions on. Find a way to make a difference on those issues and get the conversation going. I know I’m having to think about what I can do — everyone else should do the same and not just use #TakeAKnee as an excuse to thumb their noses at Trump.