Some of the things that came out of the Kansas City game:
1. The run defense still is not fixed. Does Pat Bowlen still have Ray Rhodes' phone number? The blame does not fall on the Linebackers, who had excellent pursuit, or the corners, both of whom had great run support games. No, it falls instead on the tackles who were manhandled by the hodgepodge offensive line of the Chiefs. If you noticed, the running lanes that opened up for Larry Johnson were after the entire defensive line had been turned away from the play. Defensive tackles need to get more of a push to hold that line in place and force the runner either to a secondary point of attack or outside to allow the fastest linebackers in the league to continue pursuit, supported by 'Dre Bly and Champ Bailey. That said, the Broncos defense has got to be up there in terms of red zone play. They allow a lot of yards, which makes it difficult to win, but once inside the 20, they buckle down. How about 1st and goal from inside of the five last week and the week before, not allowing a touchdown either time. Or last week, on the first two Chiefs possessions, allowing only field goals. The Linebackers pursue better, the safeties come up, and the corners shut down their respective sides of the endzone. Which brings me to:
2. Champ Bailey is underrated. That's right, underrated. Did you know that the Chiefs started a wide receiver named Devard Darling and a Tight End named Brad Cottam? Neither had a catch. Their connection? They were both lining up on the Chiefs' right side. Champ Bailey's side. He completely shuts down nearly half of the field for quarterbacks. And while he is shutting down multiple receivers, he still is able to cut out any running game to his side. He is not like the cornerbacks that we imagine, who meet an outside run after 6 or 7 yards and then try to cut his legs out from under him or run him out of bounds. He diagnoses plays perfectly, gets there fast, and cuts the play off at the roots. And he can hit. Someone explain to me how it is that 40 extra pounds of bent over Larry Johnson (230 pounds) got simply upended by Champ Bailey (192 pounds) in that game. He dominates runners and quarterbacks alike. That said, they need to find some overhead safety help for when they drop him in short zone coverage (like they did against the Chiefs a lot) Kansas City was running deep slants intended to pass just beyond his zone, and there needs to be a safety or a converted corner who can cover those routes, or they will get scorched by those all year long.
3. 'Dre Bly finally did a nice job in coverage. I don't know about other Broncos fans, but I was beginning to doubt 'Dre Bly's skills were still where they used to be. He was getting beat. A lot. But yesterday, although Dwayne Bowe had a nice game, Bly did a great job of making the plays go where he wanted, for the most part. He forced Damon Huard to throw the ball in places where it was very difficult for Bowe to make the catch or out of bounds. That said, he needs to do better timing when to swat the ball away, but still, it was nice to see that he did a better job of cutting down on receiving opportunities. Another case where they need to bring in more nickel sets or something to help control that half of the field, or bring down a better coverage safety.
4. People who suggest that the Jay Cutler-John Elway comparisons are off base should probably be quiet now. If you are old enough to remember Elway's entire career, you probably have as poor vision as I do and can easily pretend that the 6 on Cutler's jersey is the 7 of Elway's. Cutler rolls against the grain very well, just like Elway. He gets enough mustard on the ball that the receivers are praying it will be tipped at the line, just so that it will slow down a little (like yesterday's pass to Brandon Stokley and the previous weeks' to Brandon Marshall). He squeezes throws into places that C.C. Sabathia would not try to fit a baseball into (sometimes with poor results) just like Elway. He seems calm and flip while really being passionate and firey, just like Elway. And most of all, he is a consumate winner, who cares little about stats and lots about wins, just like Elway. Just like Elway, I expect him to progress and gain all of that knowledge that John gained throughout the years, and will begin to become even more of a highlight reel. He has great raw skills, and could not be in better hands, unless Kubiak was available. Lost in the fact that they lost yesterday and that he had two picks, was that he threw for 361 yards, and had them in a position to at least tie the game late. He also has the advantage that the only constant receivers he has that are significantly older than him are Brandon Stokley (#3 WR) and Daniel Graham (#2 blocking TE). He will be growing with his receiving corps, and that is scary. Expect a Manning-Harrison type of synergy between him and Marshall and Scheffler to continue to develop.
5. Jason who? Matt Prater has a boot. He has kicked 70 yard field goals in practice, and Shanahan says he is confident putting him out there for up to 60 yarders in game situations.
6. Spencer Larson is a weapon. He was brought in as a linebacker, but has had practice time at fullback. Shanahan says he is a legit two-way threat, and plans to use the rookie on offense and defense. Add a third. He had a monster hit on special teams early in Sunday's game, and got a fantastic jump on the onside kick late in the game, nearly recovering it. He is a football player, and may well develop into a threat in all aspects of the game. He has a large frame (6-2/240) but gets down the field fast, and has a pretty good vert (as demonstrated yesterday) Expect him to be a game impacter for years to come.
7. Elvis Dumervil is a player. The defensive line is much maligned this season, but watch Dumervil at some point when they are playing. He is constantly drawing a halfback blocker in passing situations and is often doubled in rushing situations. He needs to continue to use his size to his advantage. He is tiny, as pointed out by the linemen who have blocked him this year, who grumble about "how far down" he is. In college, he got under and squirted around linemen, and now in the pros, he is trying to take them head on. One thing he did much better against the Chiefs was pull the tackle back, toward the QB, and then spin upfield, around the blocker, he did not have a sack again, but was in the backfield for a lot of the game. As his strategies develop more, he will be a speedy, pass rushing end.
8. Eddie Royal was an incredible draft pick. Let the Eagles have DeSean. Eddie Royal is a down-to-earth, team-oriented threat that once again chalked up 100 yards receiving and gives the Broncos their first legitimate punt returner since Deltha O'Neal and before that Darrien Gordon. He runs routes perfectly and crisply, and seems to flow very well with the game.
9. Are there a stronger set of hands than Brandon Marshall's? He catches lasers away from the body effortlessly. He pulls balls away from defenders. He blocks very well. He is a playmaker. His college coach at UCF made him into a receiver after he said he outgrew his position of running back. That may be, but he never outgrew those moves. He cuts around and through defenders very well for a receiver that does not have knock-you-flat footspeed. He is a perfect combination of speed and strength that will make him a huge receiving threat for a long time.
10. The Broncos equipment manager must have sprayed teflon on their gloves and cleats. The players slipped a bunch of times on the grass, and had a lot of passes go through their hands, and had two costly fumbles. Considering how sloppily they played, they were lucky to be in that game at all late.
Just a few Mile High Musings.