Monday, September 28, 2009

Broncos Gameday Recap: Game #3 - at Raiders

You're darn right I'm leading this story off with a photo of Left Guard Ben Hamilton. Why? Because offensive linemen rule, and they deserve their moment in the sun, that's why!

On the road in Oakland with an improving Raiders team, a Broncos team that had to feel fortunate to be 2-0 was going into what felt for the world like a game that would belong to the Silver and Black. So what happens? Naturally, the Broncos thump the Raiders 23-3 as Oakland continues their commitment to excrement.

Through 3 games the defense has given up 16 points, that is not a misprint. 16 Points!

It’s getting harder and harder to be skeptical of this Denver Broncos team. If my preseason prediction of a 4-12 record is to come true, they can only win one game in the remaining thirteen. I’ll never be more pleased to be wrong. I still refuse to get delusional about this team, as I think they will still finish under .500, but it’s nice that they have not looked nearly as poor as I was anticipating at the start of the season and things have gone about as good as I could have hoped or imagined.

Brandon Marshall and Correll Buckhalter celebrate sitting all along atop the AFC West.

That said, the difficult portion of the schedule is now set to commence, and we’re about to learn a whole lot about the Denver Broncos. Taking down the Bengals, Browns and Raiders is one thing…it will be much more impressive if they are able to do it to the Cowboys, Patriots, Chargers, Ravens and Steelers of the world. (Yes, those are the next five games, the NFL schedule maker is not kind to Denver.) So I remain skeptical, yet hopeful, in light of the Broncos who are 3-0. As Ronald Reagan said of Russia during the Cold War, “Trust but Verify,” It’s been easy to trust in the Broncos so far, but these next five to ten games bring the point where we will need to verify.

Although Russell's passes do look good, they tend to fly to players in the other color uniforms.

For now, Sunday afternoon in Oakland was a bit of a cake walk. The Raiders are a poor football team, and despite some good talent in many places, the sum of the parts is less than the whole in Oaktown. If Im the Raiders offensive coordinator, I dont know if I ever call for a pass play of more than five yards past the line of scrimmage at this point. Jamarcus Russell is so bad that it is painful to watch him trying to pass downfield. His two early interceptions set the course for the day. They were both so badly overthrown, that I think the defensive backs could have called for a fair catch. Russells accuracy is troubling, or at least it would be troubling if I were a Raider fan. As an avid Raider hater, I find it more amusing, really. The odd thing is that he looks good back there, when he lets the pass go, he has an authority in the way he looks that really sells him as looking the part of an NFL quarterback. The ball zips out of his hands and down the field with zip, he has a massive arm that is impressive, the problem is he has a hard time getting the ball within twenty feet of his intended receiver, which is clearly an issue in the NFL.

Odds are at least 50-50 that Kyle is throwing the ball away, but somehow it works for him.

At times during Sundays game, the Raiders actually looked like a decent football team. As soon as the Broncos entered the red zone, their defense stiffened tremendously, and the Broncos could barely function offensively from inside the ten. The problem for Oakland is that between the twenties, the Broncos had zero difficulties moving the ball. Kyle Orton may throw the ball away more than any quarterback I can ever remember, but he has to this point in the season made consistently good decisions, as evidenced by the fact that he is yet to throw a pick. Ill take a smart QB who doesnt try to force things to happen that are not there, Im definitely coming around on Kyle Orton.

Positives from Sunday:

Elvis Dumerville continues to enjoy introducing himself to opposing quarterbacks. He now has 6 sacks in 3 games, which is not too shabby.

1. Elvis Dumerville The man continues to play like the world owes him an apology, and I love it. Ordinarily I am not a huge fan of the 3-4 defense, but it seems to suit the Broncos personnel to perfection. Elvis coming from the outside linebacker position is a stroke of genius, and lets just say Im a big Mike Nolan fan as defensive coordinator for this team. The results dont lie, even if they have faced subpar competition to this point, giving up only 16 points in 3 games is solid work by the defense.

Brian Dawkins likes to throw his body around, he's playing some solid ball.

2. Brian Dawkins Early returns of this free agent pickup from Philadelphia are encouraging. I was worried he might not have enough left in the tank, but he has been flying around the secondary and laying wood to any offensive player who dares enter his area, not only that but the heads up play on the fumble in the 3rd quarter where he reestablished himself in the field of play before picking up the ball showed some serious football smarts. I love it when you have a guy in the secondary who is both a leader and an intelligent football player. The Broncos missed that last season with the retirement of John Lynch, and its nice to have it again back there. Im enjoying the Dawkins era to this point.

Knowshon Moreno is starting to show why the Broncos decided to draft him so high.

3. Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter Knowshon looks like he is going to be the real deal in the backfield. He runs with vision and patience, and then when the hole opens up, he attacks it. I look forward to seeing him continue to develop. As for Buckhalter, he is better than I thought. I took a flier on him late in both of my fantasy football drafts, and this week I ignored the urge to start him in both leagues, which was a mistake as he would have been a better option for me in both leagues than the guys I went with. He has more explosiveness and showman in him that I knew, which is nice. Good to see the Broncos have a solid running game to this point. It helped that the Raiders tacklers only brought as much force as your average Autumn Wind. (Man, I love using Raiders lore against them!)

You can take Brandon's picture off of the milk cartons, he was found in Oakland on Sunday.

4. Brandon Marshall - That's right, there was a bonafide sighting of #15 this weekend. He scored the first touchdown, and showed glimpses of the overpowering receiver he was last season. So that's something!

Negatives from Sunday:

1. The running defense: At times the Broncos run D was shredded by the likes of Michael Bush and Darren McFadden. The Raiders fell too far behind to grind it out, but if the Broncos face a team that takes a lead on them in the future, it could be scary trying to get the opposition off of the field if they are able to run it down our throats like the Raiders did at stretches on Sunday. That area of the defense scares me a bit, and I think in the upcoming weeks we will see teams take advantage of it.

The Raiders running game was the only thing that showed even brief glimmers of life.

2. The offense in the Red Zone: The Broncos should have had a lot more points on the board on Sunday than just 23, but they seem unable to smash it in once they get close. I hope McDaniels is the offensive genius he was advertised to be, and he gets to work on shoring up that part of the Broncos attack, as it stuck out like a red clown nose on Michelangelo's David on Sunday.

Again this week, there is little to criticize without sounding like you are nitpicking, so I'll stop there, as the Broncos looked pretty impressive against the Raiders. Just lose, baby.

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