Gut Reaction: Broncos Fall Down, Can’t Get Up, Film At 11

Let’s get one thing out of the way first, Broncos fans. The Philadelphia Eagles are the best team in the NFC. They just might be the best team in the NFL. They, in some ways, remind me of the 2012 Denver Broncos, in that they have quality players at every position, good depth and few weaknesses.

That doesn’t excuse the poor play by the Broncos today, though.

On one hand, we knew that switching to Brock Osweiler wasn’t the solution by itself. On the other hand, the areas in which the Broncos have executed well this season were terrible.

If you were one of those believe that the defense was hinting that the offense needed a change at quarterback, well, they got it. Then the defense turned around and stunk up the joint. Thanks a lot, guys.

And while we knew that the Eagles were good at stopping the run, there was more than one occasion in which the Broncos run blocking was pathetic — and it seemed to always happen when the Broncos had terrible field position. It’s one thing if good Ds stop your backs from two-yard gains; it’s another when you let guys penetrate into the backfield, something the Broncos didn’t allow to happen against other teams with good run defenses.

Okay, so maybe I’m talking about too many negatives, right? Well, let’s get to a few positives first and then I’ll go into some other negatives.

Positive #1: Demaryius Thomas is easily the best player on the offense and in no way, shape or form should we even think about parting ways with him, even if you believe the teams needs a major rebuild this offseason.

Positive #2: Isaiah McKenzie showed what happens when you show patience on punt returns and let things develop — those long returns will come to him rather than having to force them.

Positive #3: Chris Harris was good in pass coverage and I’m sure he’ll keep getting love from Pro Football Focus.

Positive #4: Cody Latimer proves again how valuable he is to special teams, to the point that I would certainly bring him back next season if he’ll take a low-cost deal.

Positive #5: CJ Anderson was able to return to the game after what looked like a scary injury.

Positive #6: Brock Osweiler moves around better in the pocket and has better awareness than Trevor Siemian, so baby steps, I guess.

Positive #7: Uh, retired for John Elway? Because I got nothing…

I’m not even going to name the rest of the list with “negative” because you should know they will be.

1. This was the hands-down worst job of coaching preparation by Vance Joseph. Though I do not believe he should be fired after just one season, a coaching job like VJ’s today is the type that gets Broncos fans to start calling for your head. It’s one thing to lose a game; it’s another to field a team that repeatedly makes dumb mistakes and gives up big plays.

2. Most troubling about Joseph was his unwillingness to challenge what was a clear catch by Emmanuel Sanders that was ruled incomplete. I know there’s the whole “the NFL doesn’t know what a catch is” debacle, but the replay clearly showed it was a catch and I have no idea how the replay guys couldn’t overturn that. But no challenge flag came out and VJ settled for a field goal instead. And nothing during the presser indicated that VJ couldn’t communicate with whoever in the coaching booth was watching the replays. So I’m gonna chalk that up to VJ as lacking any guts to at least force the NFL’s replay guys to look at it again, even if the end results is Dean Blandino forced to stumble over his words trying to explain any failure to overturn the call.

3. Brock Osweiler might have better pocket awareness and an idea about how the protection is holding up, but he locks onto receivers, too. As I said, he’s backup material at best.

4. What Osweiler’s presence does do is make the other offensive issues clearer. As in, we lack a good tight end, the pass protection isn’t good (but you knew that) and we have running backs who can do good things but can’t take over a game. And though Latimer shows some flashes of being a decent No. 3 WR, he’s far from being the guy who can take on that role full time.

5. I like what Devonate Booker is doing as a running back, but man, he needs to be smarter about when to return a kickoff. There’s no excuse to take a kickoff out of the end zone these days, as long as they keep putting touchbacks at the 25-yard line.

6. Wasn’t Virgil Green supposed to be a good blocking tight end? Because I saw more than one occassion in which he never accounted for the guy he was supposed to block for.

7. I like Garett Bolles but his holding penalties just seem to come at the worst possible times.

8. Ditto for Ron Leary, but maybe I can chalk that up to being less than 100 percent.

9. I’d be OK with kicking Menelik Watson to guard to take advantage of his run blocking but right tacke isn’t in his future. At least if he could make the transition to guard, the Broncos would only have to address one O-line position after that.

10. Oh, and when the Broncos do address that, they better leave it as signing a guy to a cheap one-year deal and drafting another player. No more of this “three-year deals because the guy can fit our system” approach.

11. Can you tell how badly the defense misses Todd Davis? Not only is he good at finding the running back, he’s the best tackler the Broncos have. I lost count of how many players who, despite doing good things elsewhere, just whiffed on tackle attempts against Eagles running backs.

12. For anyone who has been suggesting that the Broncos put Aqib Talib on tight ends, today’s game was not the day to be doing that because this was one of those games in which Talib couldn’t even cover a kid pedaling a tricycle along the field.

13. To make matters worse, even third-string tight ends are beating out our defenders in coverage. It’s the one area on defense in which the Broncos appear to be cursed. By all means, if you can remember a time when the Broncos covered the tight end well, talk about it in the comments, because it seems like such a long time ago.

14. The more I see of Shane Ray, the more I am convinced he’s the guy the Broncos need to trade in the offseason for a draft pick. That’s, what, three offsides penalties in two games since his return? And he just looks so slow in the pass rush and on run D. Maybe the Browns’ analytics will suggest that Ray is worth one of their first-round picks? I mean, the Browns have a lot of them to spare, so help a fellow team out? After all, the Broncos did do you the favor of paying a little bit of Osweiler’s salary.

15. I won’t blame the defense for giving up touchdowns on the short field, but Carson Wentz and company made the Broncos D look like fools on multiple extended drives. I will tip my hat to Wentz, but the Broncos D at his best could have at least forced a few more punts.

16. CBS switched to the Titans-Ravens game in the fourth quarter, using the justification that Broncos-Eagles was a blowout. I don’t like that move, even if my Broncos were getting their asses handed to them, but what really drives me nuts is that CBS thinks I want to watch Joe Flacco, who is one of just two QBs who was worse than Trevor Siemian this season (DeShone Kizer is the other). Or maybe I’m still bitter about those playoffs after the 2012 season…

Nah, screw Joe Flacco, he sucks.

17. I will say to Eagles fans that I hope your team doesn’t suffer the same fate the 2012 Broncos do. I do mean that your team reminds me of that Broncos team as a compliment, I really do, because that Broncos team was easily the best team of the Elway-as-GM era. At least it looks like Doug Pedersen isn’t a fan of Foxball.

Wait, did I say that I’d only focus on negatives? Well, in a way, that is a negative because I’d rather be talking about how the Broncos look like a playoff contender now. Alas, it is not to be.

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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.