Monday, October 12, 2009

Broncos Gameday Recap: Game #5 - vs Patriots

Brandon Marshall hauls in a first half touchdown pass.

I believe! The Broncos Kool-Aid tastes delicious, another glass please! 5 and OH! On a chilly October afternoon dressed in mustard yellow, the Denver Broncos shot out to their best record since the last year they won a Super Bowl by bringing down the team many pundits had penciled in to the Super Bowl for the AFC.

The Broncos offense celebrates a game tying fourth quarter 98 yard touchdown drive.

For the second straight week, the Broncos spotted the opposition a 10-0 lead, and for the second straight week, they completely shut down their opponents in the second half and stormed back to win an exciting game. In the fourth quarter they were somehow able to hold the Patriots three different times on the same drive. Thanks to the Broncos inability to avoid dumb penalties on punting plays, they gave the Patriots three opportunities to salt away the game, but each time the defense came out and forced yet another punt. Finally, with less than ten minutes to go, they were able to avoid giving the Patriots another first down via penalty on a punting play, but then the ball was downed at the 2. Channeling his inner Elway, Kyle Orton led the Broncos on a 98 yard touchdown drive to tie up the game and force overtime. The Broncos won the coin toss, and never let the Patriots touch the ball, marching to the Patriots 22 yard line, where Matt Prater slammed the door shut on Patriots to seal the overtime win with a 41 yard field goal. No matter how many times I blinked, the scoreboard kept reading Final Score in OT: Denver 20 New England 17.

Matt Prater bangs home the winning three points in OT.

As I walked out of Invesco Field on Sunday, I sounded much like Jack Buck after Kirk Gibson hit his improbable World Series home run in 1988. I just kept saying, “I don’t believe what I just saw!”

It is time to believe in these Broncos. In what is surely the most surprising start to a Broncos season in their entire 50 year history, Denver has bolted out confidently to a
5-0 start in a season where I only predicted they would get four wins the entire year. This is why I don’t gamble, my crystal ball is notoriously shaky.

No truth to the rumor that Tony Scheffler can leap small buildings in a single bound.

The amount of surprise to this start is hard to chart. After a tumultuous off season, the Broncos faithful were ready to toss Josh McDaniels onto the first bus out of town, now he could run for mayor and win in a landslide. The Broncos defense, widely regarded as terrible and officially ranked as 29th out of 32 last year on the official NFL website has suddenly turned into an impenetrable force. The Broncos are only giving up an average of 8.6 points per game. In one off season they have somehow gone from tin foil to an iron wall. Losing Jay Cutler barely has mattered at all, and this team is declaring itself to be a force in the AFC. Who knew? Everyone knows now, and I am firmly a believer now. Against all odds, The Broncos are actually a good football team.

Positives from the game:

The defense stuffed the Patriots all afternoon.

The Defense: In what is quickly become a broken record in the positive category, the Broncos defense played fast, smothering, aggressive, good defense. Although they only recorded 1 sack all day, they clearly were affecting Tom Brady with their pressure, and they held the strong Patriots offense in check. This defense is solid.

Josh McDaniels got a bit emotional after the game, and it was awesome!

Josh McDaniels: This is exactly what I want in my head coach: Aggressive play calling when the situation called for it, maintaining belief in his team, and genuine emotion and enthusiasm when something great is accomplished. I have gone from hoping he got fired before the season began to absolutely loving the guy in a little over a month. It’s amazing what winning your first five games can do for your reputation around these parts. Just like the Broncos, I now believe in Josh McDaniels.

Kyle Orton looked amazing on Sunday, he played well too!

Kyle Orton: Sadly, he tossed up his first interception of the season, but to be fair it was on a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half, so I’m going to go ahead and say that it doesn’t count. However, on the plays that did count, Kyle Orton was extremely solid. His passes were accurate and he led the Broncos on methodical drives, and was very clutch in the 4th quarter and overtime. He outplayed Tom Brady, and looked like a stud quarterback. I really can’t say a single bad thing about KO’s game on Sunday. He was perfect for Denver.

Brandon Marshall breaks up what could have been a crippling interception in overtime on the next to last play of the game.

Brandon Marshall: Marshall had eight catches for 64 yards and a pair of 11 yard touchdown catches. He had a ton of clutch grabs, and is starting to look like the dominating receiver that the Broncos need him to be. Plus, on the next to last play of the game, he played the role of defensive back as he kept a rare errant throw from Kyle Orton from being intercepted by Shawn Springs at a most inopportune time.

Eddie Royal had a great 10 catch game.

Eddie Royal: While not spectacular, he was consistently solid, and pulled down a whopping ten catches for 90 yards. He was the perfect compliment of possession receiver to Brandon Marshall’s explosive #1 receiver.

Man do I dig those socks!

The Uniforms: Obviously, since the name of my blog is, I probably am going to like these retro uniforms. I have to say, that after seeing them in person on the field, I am even more happy about them. I’ll be the first to admit that they are uglier than a Boston sports fan’s attitude after yesterday’s games, but the Brown and Yellow duds are so ugly that they are beautiful. In no way do I support moving to those crazy threads full time, but for a one time thing, they were about as cool as it gets. The Brown helmets were cool, the bright yellow jerseys were cool, naturally I thought the socks were awesome, I even liked Jabar Gaffney’s sock swirls. It was a lot of fun to bring back a part of the past that I was to young to have ever been able to see first hand. The fact that they won in those uniforms was even better!

I'm not a big fan of the Patriots, but I totally love their retro uniforms.

I have to even give credit to New England who broke out the glorious Pat Patriot uniforms. New England should return to using those uniforms immediately, as they are far superior to the Flying Elvis uniforms they have worn over the past decade plus.

"Do you have any Rocket Pops?"

Heck, even the referees got into the throwback spirit, although their uniforms looked suspiciously like ice cream men, I wasn't sure if Bill Belichick was going to challenge a play or order a Dilly Bar.

Negatives from the game:

Knowshon Moreno loses a 1st quarter fumble.

Knowshon Moreno: Although Knowshon did a lot very well, his fumble in the first quarter is disturbing. He is putting the ball on the turf a lot more than I’d like to see, but he did hang on tightly for the rest of the game, which was good. His 88 yards rushing were fantastic, and he is starting to show some real signs that he is going to be a legit back.

Special Teams: Between Matt Prater missing a 1st quarter field goal to the Broncos having to stop the Patriots three times on a critical fourth quarter drive due to multiple penalties on the punting team, it was not the finest hour for the Broncos special teams. I imagine Josh McDaniels will be discussing the efforts with Broncos Special Teams coach Mike Priefer this week.

As good as Josh McDaniels was, he needs to learn to not always drop the red replay challenge flag.

McDaniels replay challenges: As good as McDaniels was on Sunday, knowing when to throw the replay challenge flag was not a strong point. Challenging Moreno’s fumble was foolish, as it was pretty obvious that the ball was out, but even worse than that, challenging the 3 yard pass that was originally called a completion to Chris Baker early in the second quarter was a huge tactical error. Even though it was obvious that the call was wrong, you can not waste your last challenge right there. NFL coaches are only allotted two challenges a game unless they get both of their first two challenges correct, in which case they are awarded a third challenge. Since Josh had already missed on one challenge, challenging that 3 yard gain was his final challenge for the game. It was silly to waste it debating a three yard gain for the Patriots. If the zebras had made a game changing bad call later in the game, the Broncos would have been unable to challenge. You can’t give up your final challenge over a petty three yards on a second down play. It was McDaniel’s only major tactical error of the day, but it could have been huge, thankfully it wasn’t.

Bronco offense on 3rd and 1: In what can only be described as a lingering problem, the Broncos seem completely unable to get a single yard when they really need one. As once again this week, they were stuffed multiple times in short yardage situations. The offensive line, while providing stellar pass protection, is just not getting off the line enough to allow the running backs to pick up short yardage plays. This could be a problem down the line if not corrected.

Even the referees are believing in the Broncos now!

Final Thought: This was a glorious week for Denver. Not only did they showcase their sartorial splendor by having the guts to wear the yellow and brown threads, a look that inspired fans to literally set fire to the uniforms in the 60's, but they made it look good. To do it one better they even pulled out a win in the most exciting and meaningful NFL game of the week to raise their record to a head scratching 5-0. The Broncos have done it, they have made a believer out of even me. GO BRONCOS! I BELIEVE!


Captain Mañana said...

Well said about the throwback uniforms, they are awesome! It is especially cool that the Bronco organization paid honor to the original uniform, it probably wasn't an easy decision, but they have chosen wisely.

Pretty sure that Jabar Gaffney's socks were cyclone socks and not twisted vertically striped socks; check out any close-up shot of Gaffney and look at the sock ribbing... looks like ribbing is vertical, so stripe twists around the sock.

"I sounded much like Vin Scully after Kirk Gibson hit his improbable World Series home run in 1988. I just kept saying, 'I don’t believe what I just saw!'”
I bet that you sounded a lot more like Jack Buck.

Captain Mañana said...

Upon further review Gaffney does have the twist going on; other than detracting from the 'team' concept, I really like the look. The vertical stripes rock too IMO.

The big brown banners in the endzones looked great as well; the yellow letters in original font that just screams "Early 1960s!"... that would be a pretty nice looking retro t-shirt in either mustard or brown.

Craig Dodge said...

Yup, Jabar Gaffney definitely just twisted his socks to get the cyclone effect, pretty clever even if it didn't totally match the rest of the team. I wonder if the NFL fined him?

As for the "I don't believe what I just saw" quote...I can't believe I attributed it to Vin Scully instead of Jack Buck, thanks for saying something, and I'll edit the post to make it correct this evening. Thanks for reading! -Craig

Captain Mañana said...

I heard that the NFL wasn't going to fine any Bronco who twisted his socks, which is a good move on their part; the uniform police let-up for once!

Though I'm not a Bronco fan, I did get a couple of pairs of the vertically striped socks a few weeks ago and they are something else! The brown stripes are so dark they can pass for black stripes, so I almost wore them when I went back to my alma mater (whose colors are Old Gold and Black) for our game versus some team called "Irish".

I decided to go with traditional Old Gold and Black horizontal striped socks AND sleeves (like "Pest" Welch is wearing in my avatar), solid black Converse half-calf high tops, black shirt, gold shorts and dark leather football helmet.

I received A TON of comments about the look before, during and after the game... if I had worn the Bronco socks (AND sleeves!) instead, I bet the already numerous comments would have increased five-fold.

Well, best wishes to the Broncos! I do want to see them do well, as a team member did attend the same school I did and Denver succeeding means he is succeeding. While I would never proclaim anyone to be a "Savior", this guy has very good potential to help the Broncos become consistent winners; I hope it works out for everyone.

All the best to you too Craig!