Another week, another shambles. With a humbling 41-16 defeat to the Patriots, any hopes of a turnaround for the Broncos can be put to bed for this season.
The losing streak started with an inept offence. For the Eagles game, the defence took over as the unit under scrutiny. Against the Pats this week, it was the turn of special teams to kill the game.
The Patriots received the kickoff and the defence took the field. Holding Tom Brady to a three and out was the perfect start. The Patriots punted and Isaiah McKenzie muffed it giving the Patriots back the ball in excellent field position. They scored two plays later.
That was McKenzie’s 5th turnover on a punt this season. He seems uncomfortable at times, but also too aggressive, he is attempting to return punts when fair catches are the logical play. In this particular instance the gunner was closing in fast and he still elected to catch and return, muffing in the process.
Bill Belichick will famously bench players for a single mistake. I think that is a little harsh, but five is another matter altogether.
So, the offence finally got onto the field down seven points. The opening play was a beautiful long pass to Emmanuel Sanders for a big gain. There were then a few short runs and another pass to Sanders. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy showed some innovation lining up both Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas in the backfield leading to a completion for Demaryius Thomas. Unfortunately, the drive stalled there and the Broncos had to settle for a field goal. But, the offence had shown ability to throw deep and a willingness to mix things up.
Next came the dagger. From the kickoff, Dion Lewis took the ball 103 yards for a touchdown.
The opening plays had seen a stand by the defence, a good looking drive from the offence and two killer failures by special teams.
These were later added to by a missed assignment on a punt leading to the kick being blocked, plus jumping offside on a Patriots punt, giving them a first down instead.
These were all killer blows that gave the impetus to the Patriots at crucial times.
You do not spot the Patriots points and expect to win. Bill Belichick had a plan for this game and getting the lead early meant he could stick to it without being stressed whatsoever.
Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia took away the run from the Broncos and dared Brock to beat them through the air. Emmanuel Sanders had a great day and Demaryius Thomas chipped in too, but having to settle for field goals on a number of occasions was not enough when they were already trailing.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos needed to get to Tom Brady early and often, this they failed to do.
The strength of the Broncos defense is their corners. Chris Harris Jr, Aqib Talib and Bradley Roby are a very talented unit and the Patriots wisely avoided them. Tom Brady used running backs and tight ends almost exclusively in the passing game. This allowed him to get the ball out quickly, leaving little chance for the pass rush.
This put pressure on the known weakness of the Broncos, coverage with linebackers and safeties. This is nothing new, many teams have done this. But, with Tom Brady under centre the Patriots have a master at reading the matchups pre-snap and ruthlessly exploiting whichever player is exposed.
We saw this with the zone defence where putting Amendola in motion saw him covered by Brandon Marshall and also in exposing Von Miller when he was forced to cover the tight end out of the backfield with no help.
On defense the Broncos were unable to stop the Patriots at all, allowing them to score on nearly every drive. They were out-schemed and made no adjustment to fix it.
This game was a failure on special teams, a unit loss on defence, with an offense that was never going to be able to make up for failures elsewhere.
Pressure now falls everywhere; Brick Olivo’s job is under threat, Isaiah McKenzie’s punt duties should be gone, Joe Woods has some serious questions to answer and Vance Joseph needs to show some major improvements over the next six weeks.
It is not a great time to be a Broncos fan. Having been spoiled for so many years with regular season success, this is not a nice place to be.
But, the only things that I want from my team is effort and for them to learn from their mistakes.
This week sees the Bengals coming to town, I want to see the defence manage the tight ends and for the special teams to play an unexciting, clean game.