Hey, at least we still have Eddie! Either Royal or Hillis are my favorite Broncos going right now, I can't decide which. (Also a nod to Champ, who is a stud.)
Who knew that the best news the Broncos would get all day on the day of their first preseason game would be that star Wide Reciever Brandon Marshall would be found not guilty on all charges of battery against his ex-girlfriend? Sad, but true. If you're a fan of the Broncos, or a fan of well played football in general, it would probably have been for the best had you averted your eyes from the scene that played out Friday night at half empty Candlestick Park (or whatever the latest corporate giant the stadium has whored it's name out to most recently, it's either 3Com or Monster, who can keep up? For our purposes, we'll call it Candlestick.)
"It's only preseason." is the mantra I keep reciting to myself in the hopes that by the time the regular season rolls around the defense will have remembered how to tackle opponents and Kyle Orton will be a little less...um....Kyle Ortonish. Chances are that neither of those things are going to happen between now and September 13th, but a guy can dream.
The 49ers defeated the Broncos in a meaningless game that came down to a meaningless 2 point conversion attempt late in the meaningless 4th quarter. If you think I'm overusing the word meaningless, you are not familiar with NFL preseason games. Ugh.
A scene I fear I will see far too much this season...Kyle Orton looking dejected with his hands on his hips.
Oh, and speaking of Ugh, Kyle Orton could not have opened up his preseason in a much worse fashion. After the porous Broncos defense was able to hold the Niners to a field goal on their very long opening drive, Orton looked pretty solid leading the offense to the three yard line, but that's where the good vibes ended. Orton threw an interception in the end zone on a 2nd and goal from the 3 where he would have been better served to either throw the ball away or at least not throw it directly at the San Francisco safety. Kyle did neither, and tossed the ball into the waiting arms of the defender, a move he would repeat two more times in the next two drives. Yup, three drives, three interceptions. Orton played almost the entire first half, and I just was struck by the fact that rather than having an actual NFL starting quarterback, the Broncos have two backup quarterbacks competing for the starter job for lack of any better option. (Thanks Josh!) When he was done for the night, he went to the sideline with a less than inspiring QB rating of 32.6. Let's just say I don't feel any better about the McDaniels/Orton era.
The first half of the game ended with the score at 9-0 San Francisco, and it was just as brutal as the score indicated. This display of football was so poor that it even included a missed extra point. The Broncos defense looked okay, but I'm not sure how much of that was them, and how much of it was the fact that the 49ers looked almost as inept offensively as the Broncos. It is good to see Mike Nolan is willing to bring the heat, which led to several QB sacks, but which also led to some fullback named Brit Miller scoring on a screen play that turned into a 40 yard touchdown because all gentlemen eligible to tackle him had already rushed the passer and no one stayed back to handle the large lumbering gentleman. Oh well, win some lose some, I guess.
The defense played okay, I'm more worried about the offense right now. The first battle in the backup quarterback competition went to Chris Simms, who looked much better than Orton, although you have to take it with a grain of salt, as Simms was playing against a ton of guys who will fail to make an NFL roster when the real games begin. Still, the lefty (Yes, Simms throws left handed which is more disorienting that I realized) played a mostly solid game and is the early leader in the clubhouse to lead the Bronco offense. Although he isn't going to make anyone forget Jay Cutler, at least he threw more touchdowns than interceptions, which is a good trait in your quarterback. If Orton continues to struggle, get ready to hear the call for Simms to play early and often at Invesco Field.
As for Josh McDaniels' first time out as an NFL head coach, he looked a little bit like a lost kid out there on the sideline. Granted, he didn't do anything stupid, and he seemed okay on the sidelines, I guess, but when the cameras cut to him standing there, he didn't seem to have control of the situation. He doesn't seem to inspire much confidence in his coaching abilities just yet to the average fan. Granted, Andy Reid has the same thing going for him, and he's led his team to a Super Bowl and countless championship games, so it's not a prerequisite, and his sideline demeanor may improve, but I'm not sold on this guy as the coach for my team.
Bright spots for the Broncos include the return of Peyton Hillis, who runs like a beast and is fun for the novelty of watching a Caucasian tailback. Also Alphonso Smith showed some glimpses of why the Broncos traded away a 1st round pick next year for the rights to draft him, playing solidly in the secondary and also showing a few moves in the return game. The final positive was that Knowshon Moreno looked like a solid running back, rushing for 18 yards on three carries before being taken off the field with what turns out to be a slight MCL sprain that the doctors say will have him out one to two weeks.
I don't mind losing this one, because it was a preseason game, and honestly...who cares? The thing that worries me is that this team looks every bit up to the challenge of finishing 4-12, and signs of hope I was desperately hoping to see that might make them seem better than that were nowhere to be seen. Well, Josh has three more preseason games to try and give me some hope...While I'm not confident...here's to hoping!