In a week where the formerly hapless Giants came to town, we saw many of Denver’s problems from last season resurface. The result was a humbling 23 -10 loss to Eli Manning and friends.
Coming off a bye week and largely healthy, the Broncos were overwhelming favourites against the winless Giants who were without most of their receiving corps. But, the Broncos were sluggish out of the gate and saw the game drift away from them.
The opening drives showed us what the mile high faithful would have to endure for the day. The Broncos opened with a one yard run, a three yard pass, an incompletion and a punt. The Giants used a varied attack leaning heavily on Orelans Darkwa out of the backfield and Tight End Evan Engram to march down the field for a Field Goal.
Offensive Ups and Downs
As has been the case previously this season, the Broncos struggled to establish an identity on offense. Running the ball sporadically netted only 46 yards in total, CJ Anderson was even stopped from half a yard out in a bad day for the rush.
The offensive line struggles continued, Siemian was once again under pressure and was sacked four times, three of them by Jason Pierre-Paul, in a dominant performance that the Giants will hope is a sign of things to come.
Right tackle Menelik Watson had to leave the game with a calf injury and his replacement Billy Turner has now been placed on Injured Reserve. So, things have gone from bad to worse for Denver on the O-line and it remains to be seen what the coaches may decide to do there with the trade deadline looming.
The Offensive Line was not the only area hit by injury. Wide Receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Isaiah McKenzie both had to leave the game with ankle injuries. Now, with Cody Latimer already sidelined, the Broncos are very light on receivers. Bennie Fowler, Jordan Taylor and Demaryius Thomas – himself banged up – are the only active receivers, so help is needed here so Denver are promoting Hunter Sharp from the practice squad and signing River Cracraft to take his place.
Interestingly, Devontae Booker got himself 78 receiving yards out of the backfield, so may see his use as a receiver increase in the coming weeks also.
Trevor Siemian again hurt his shoulder which pressed Brock Osweiler into action for the first time in this stint as a Bronco. He was only required for one drive to close out the first half, but looked exactly as we remembered him before, a serviceable backup, which is exactly what the Broncos need from him.
The passing game was on show more this week as the rushing attack struggled. Demaryius Thomas fought through injury – even getting an X-Ray during the game – to have an excellent 133 yard day. He hauled in some strong catches in traffic and was a major threat all day long. He did, however, have two spilled balls, one only came out after his knee hit the ground, but the other was stripped by Janoris Jenkins for a crucial turnover late in the game.
Janoris Jenkins was very busy as the Broncos surprisingly went his way a lot, he conceded a number of catches early, but showed his class when he jumped a pass to Bennie Fowler for a pick-six with the first half winding down.
Emmanuel Sanders had five catches for 76 yards and Devontae Booker, Jordan Taylor and Bennie Fowler got in on the action too. But, outside of Thomas none of the receivers had a dominant day and the passing game never felt solid. Siemian was under some pressure and threw another interception with an overthrown pass. Too often he was pushing the ball into heavy coverage, even on the late touchdown to Jeff Heuerman there were three defenders in the area and it seemed fortunate to get to the Tight End.
Down Week for Defence
On the defensive side of the ball things felt worryingly familiar. Tight End Evan Engram was the leading receiver with 82 yards as the Broncos struggled to contain him both with the zone defence and with safeties / linebackers one on one.
That the Broncos struggled with a tight end is nothing new, but more concerning was the rushing of Orleans Darkwa. The essentially unknown back ran for 117 yards. That is, by far, the most yards that “Ground Control” has given up to any rusher this year and they will not be happy about it.
Besides Darkwa and Engram, the Broncos defence managed to keep everybody else in check. But, having been exposed by a Tight End and Running Back again defensive coach Joe Woods will be working hard with his group this week. The Tight End will be harder to fix, but hopefully the rushing defence was a one off.
Pressuring the Quarterback is another feature of this defensive unit. They did notch sacks through Von Miller, Shaq Barrett and Adam Gotsis, but the Giants offensive line have been poor this year and the pass rushing unit would have been expecting to get after Eli a lot more.
Special teams managed to chip in with a below par game also. Brandon McManus missed one field goal and had another blocked. The failure to gather those points put a dent in the Broncos momentum at two crucial points in the game and they failed to overcome that.
Isaiah McKenzie muffed two punts, but was fortunate to have one called back for a penalty and he managed to recover the other himself.
The special teams have generally been very solid this year and coach Brock Olivo will need to get them back on track. McManus did kick successfully after the misses, but with McKenzie now injured Olivo will need to look elsewhere for punt returns.
This loss to the Giants will hurt and now leaves the Broncos at 3-2 for the season. However, with the crazy results and standings all over the league this year, the sky is not falling. A trip to LA to what should be a home away from home atmosphere against the Chargers is the perfect opportunity to get right back on track.
So, what did we learn?
All three of Denver’s Tight Ends have a touchdown now, maybe they should be used more.
The problem at right tackle just got bigger.
Never write off a team with a Superbowl MVP at Quarterback.
Demaryius Thomas can quietly amass 100 yards receiving, while injured and still be questioned by some fans.
It’s better to have people questioning your starting Quarterback than to have the best Quarterback in the league badly injured. Get well soon Aaron Rodgers.
The Texans and the Broncos are both happy that Osweiler is back in Denver – and that the Browns are picking up $15M of his salary.