Sunday, October 4, 2009

Broncos Gameday Recap: Game #4 - vs Cowboys

Kenny Peterson is Big Heap Strong!

The Denver Broncos are either legit, or they are the worst 4-0 team in NFL history. To be honest, I'm STILL not sure which is the case. Sunday's showing at Invesco Field is definitely the most impressive win on their resume, but the Cowboys are looking shaky enough, that I still refuse to chug the Bronco Kool-Aid just yet, I'm just sipping it for now. If they can take down the Patriots next week, poor me a big old glass.

This was the first game of the season which I attended in person, and it was a doozy to be sure. Out of the gate, it appeared the Cowboys would run away with it. The visitors jumped up 10-0 with a 1st quarter stampede, and the whole first half left me with the sinking feeling that the Broncos were indeed nothing more than a paper tiger at 3-0, having only beaten the NFL's dregs. It felt like they were getting ready to be taught their proper place in the NFL food chain. The only touchdown was scored on a one play nine yard drive that was set up by a Romo fumble, and even that one play saw the Cowboys almost snag an interception that would have gone back a long way, possibly even for six points. The Broncos had to feel incredibly fortunate to only be down by 3 at the break.

Then a funny thing happened in the second half. The defense started to stand on it's head. That's the only way I can describe it. The defense played so stout they were like a hockey goalie making one impossible save after another. After Knowshon Moreno coughed up the ball on the first offensive play of the half, the Broncos defense stiffened up, and on a third down play Champ Bailey made a ridiculously artful interception. Both offenses continued to sputter until the Broncos tied it up with less than six minutes remaining.

The defense held one more time, and then Brandon Marshall reminded the Denver faithful why we put up with all his crap, as he hauled in a pass on the sidelines and zig-zagged his way up and down the field for one of the more athletic touchdowns you'll ever see.

Even then, with less than two minutes to go, the drama wasn't over, as on a 4th and 3 from their own 27, Tony Romo found something called Sam Hurd for a 53 yard gain, and the drama was on. The nervousness didn't end until Champ Bailey knocked down a 4th down pass in the end zone that was dangerously close to a Cowboy touchdown. In the end, Denver escaped with a hard fought and well earned 17-10 victory.

Positives from the game:

1. The Defense:
This is starting to sound like a recording, but this Mike Nolan coached group of defenders is playing some very solid defense. They are mixing up their coverages and blitzes, and they are keeping opposing quarterbacks very uncomfortable. I am completely bewildered at how a squad that was so pathetic last season has become so stout year to date. Make no mistake about it, the defense won this game for Denver.

2. Champ Bailey: For some reason, Tony Romo was throwing at Champ like a brazen fool. Champ made the most of it, defending numerous passes, tackling receivers in the flat with his usual panache, laying wood to several wideouts, and even picking off Tony Romo at a most opportune time. In case anyone was wondering why most NFL quarterbacks try to avoid #24, Champ reminded us all today. This just in...Champ Bailey is pretty good.

Brian Dawkins had another outstanding day versus Dallas.

3. Brian Dawkins:
That man throws himself into the game like very few. I always knew he was good when he played in Philly, but getting to see it every week now, I am exceptionally impressed. He had a few hits out there today that were just spectacular, and he played in coverage like a stud.

Brandon Marshall had his first good game of the year today, and boy did he deliver!

4. Brandon Marshall:
Four catches for 91 yards, and one of the more spectacular touchdowns you'll ever see. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, my only regret is that I failed to start him on my fantasy team this week...DOH!

Tony Romo is not going to want to put the tape from this game into his personal highlight reel.

5. Tony Romo: I joked with my Cowboy fan buddy with whom I attended the game that Romo was one of the Broncos best players this game. Make no mistake that this game will not be remembered for solid quarterback play, but Romo is a quarterback with zero confidence on the football field right now. Almost every pass longer than eight yards downfield was severely off target, and Romo seemed shaken pretty much all day and he got worse as the game moved along.

Negatives from the game:

Orton didn't play great, but he did enough to win. Which kind of perfectly describes Kyle Orton.

1. Kyle Orton in quarters 1 through 3:
Ugh. The positive thing is that he never had a turnover in that whole stretch. The negative thing is that he never really made anything good happen either except for that one 9 yard touchdown pass in which Terrance Newman was ever so close to snagging it and going 95 yards for a touchdown for Dallas. Kyle missed badly on several plays during the first three quarters, and played about as badly as possible. The instant pressure started to come he seemed to take his eyes off of his potential receivers and started looking to see who was going to sack him. However, I can't completely kill him because he pulled it together in the fourth and led the Broncos on two huge scoring drives to get the win. Another positive for Kyle, is that he was almost the complete opposite of Romo in that he got better the deeper the game progressed.

2. Josh McDaniels decision to go for it on 4th and 1:
Yes, Josh did a great job preparing the team, and I have to hand it to him that he is proving to be a very solid coach to this point. However, on the final play of the third quarter on a 4th and 1 from the Dallas 30, you HAVE to tie up the game. The Broncos were trailing 10-7, and they hadn't been able to mount a drive all day. Points were scarce in this one, and not taking the three right there was indefensible. Especially since the week previous they were also denied on a 4th and 1 against the Raiders. Sometimes it's just for the best to swallow your pride and take the three points. There is no shame in a field goal, especially one which ties up a game in which points were not flowing like wine. I like risking it on 4th down sometimes, and would like to see coaches risk it a bit more often than they do. However, in that situation, knowing that you can erase your deficit right before the 4th quarter starts, I think you have to put Matt Prater on the field. That was a weird decision that I really hated, thankfully it didn't cost them.

Knowshon played pretty well, but that could have been a game ending fumble.

3. Knowshon Moreno's fumble to open the 2nd half:
He played pretty well for the most part, but fumbling the ball over to the Cowboys to start the 3rd quarter could have been deadly. I sincerely hope this is an aberration and he doesn't start proving to be fumble prone.

Final Thought: I am all in favor of raising money to fight breast cancer, however, do we really need our football players donning pink? All throughout the NFL today, the least manly color of them all was prominently displayed in a manner most disconcerting. I like the idea of fighting breast cancer, or as my buddy so suavely put it, "It's the Save the Boobies Campaign." However, mark me down as not being a huge fan of the random blotches of pink littering NFL fields today. Pink is great for my four year old daughter, it's a little weird on Knowshon Moreno.

Breast cancer survivors were honored at halftime to raise breast cancer awareness but...

...the comment of the day came from my Cowboy fan buddy who commented when the Broncos cheerleaders came out in these pink numbers that "They are promoting breast awareness."

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