Finally, after weeks of hoping, the offence and defence played at a similar level. Unfortunately, it was the defence who changed their performance to match that of the offence.
As this site is called Gridiron AND Gravy, I think I’ll start with the Gravy this week and get to the rather less palatable Gridiron after.
With the dismantling of Halloween decorations and centrepieces complete, we had a surfeit of pumpkin to manage. Thankfully I am a huge fan of roast pumpkin.
So, with the Broncos and Eagles game about to kick off, I set the TV to record and sat down with my family to baked potatoes, roast pumpkin, mashed turnip, and roast chicken. Topped off with the previously mentioned gravy, it was the perfect start to a Sunday evening.
Unfortunately, it all went downhill from there.
The Broncos offence has been a mess for a number of weeks now; poor blocking, predictable play calling and dropped passes were all too regular. Add in a skittish young quarterback who had been regressing and it was not pleasant viewing.
Many changes are needed, but the first one made was to replace Trevor Siemian with Brock Osweiler. The message was simple, if Brock could look after the football, then the defence would do the rest.
Things did not exactly go to plan.
Having received the kickoff, the Broncos started positively enough. Osweiler connected with Demaryius Thomas for a 14 yard catch and run, then CJ Anderson chipped in with some tough gains. A nice pass to Cody Latimer put the Broncos in good position, but incompletions to Emmanuel Sanders saw the Field Goal team come out.
So far so good, running and passing games established and first score on the board.
What came next was extremely worrying, Carson Wentz marched the Eagles 75 yards in seven plays for a Touchdown. The concerning part was not the touchdown, it was the nature of it. Wentz managed to hit his wide receivers at will for big gains. Up to now the Broncos had struggled with tight ends, but for the most part shut down receivers, this was something different.
The defence managed to hold the Eagles to a field goal on their next possession, but right after that the wheels came off. From the kickoff the Broncos started at the 25 as a result of a touchback. With the first pass of the drive, Osweiler threw an interception to put the Eagles in position at the Denver 15. From there Wentz connected with Corey Clement for the first of his three touchdowns.
With that, the fight seemed to go out of the Broncos. It was as if they had started the day with the smallest glimmer of hope, but once they went down by 14 points that glimmer was extinguished.
The Broncos traded punts and field goals for touchdowns.
Having not conceded a rushing touchdown all season, today saw three, one of them a long range effort from Jay Ajayi who had only landed in Philly at around the same time as the Broncos, having arrived in trade from Miami.
Another first was a wide receiver having a great game against this unit – Alshon Jeffery had 84 yards and two touchdowns.
Caught between a Brock and a hard place
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To be fair to him, Osweiler was under a lot of pressure due to the pass blocking of his offensive line and he was sacked three times. But he made some terrible decisions, the most noteworthy when he threw a ball up for grabs to Isaiah McKenzie (one of the shortest guys in the NFL) surrounded by three defenders.
This was a game where everything that could go wrong did.
Every time the Broncos got any momentum, they conceded a penalty to snuff out the drive and force another punt.
Finally getting a drive going, Emmanuel Sanders made a diving catch which was ruled incomplete. Replay showed that while he bobbled it hitting the ground, he never lost the ball and had indeed taken multiple steps before going to ground. Vance Joseph did not challenge when he perhaps should have.
Later in the game the Eagles had a touchdown given with a catch / bobble that looked like less of a catch than Sanders’one, but the vagaries of the catch rule were not kind to the Broncos this time.
Osweiler did manage to put together one nice drive of 75 yards entering the third quarter. It finished with the first touchdown in over a year for Demaryius Thomas.
Brandon Marshall recovered the ball from a strip sack by Von Miller to finish the scoring, but the sack was on backup Nick Foles, a sure sign that the game was long past over.
Nobody expected Osweiler to be the saviour and he certainly was not that, but if the defence had played to previous levels the Broncos could possibly have been in this game to the end.
Instead what we got was a demoralised team meeting one of the hottest offences in the NFL and getting their butt kicked.
From the talk after the game it seems that the mirror salesmen in Denver will be busy. All the players and coaches saying they needed to take a long hard look at themselves.
It is always darkest before the dawn and often a humbling can make you look inside and come out fighting.
But, with the Patriots coming to town this week, the dawn might be another week away. While the Patriots defence should give Osweiler a little more room than the Eagles did, the defence will need to bounce back in a big way to stop Tom Brady.