The Denver Broncos played liked like a punch-drunk boxer against the Las Vegas Raiders, who used a combination of physicality, well-designed game-planning, and coaching acumen to keep Vic Fangio's hapless squad on the ropes. Denver fell to Las Vegas 34-24.
Now mired in a three-game losing streak, it’s time for the Broncos to make significant changes in their approach to game-planning before the 2021 season becomes a “standing eight count” for the coaching staff.
For now, let's break down the good, bad, and ugly from Week 6.
On limited carries, Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams gave the Broncos a bit of a spark. The duo ran for a combined 103 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Playing from behind most of the game forced the Broncos to go into a passing mode which squandered the opportunity to control the tempo of the game.
For the first time in recent memory, the Broncos' special teams outperformed the offensive and defensive units. Tight end Eric Saubert flawlessly executed an onside kick recovery in the team’s desperate attempt to make a comeback. While veteran Brandon McManus kept his kicking streak alive by connecting on his single field goal attempt and three extra points.
The Broncos played like a boxer who'd been hit with a low blow. You may be able to stay in the ring, but you don’t feel inspired and there's a sharp ache in your guts. Once again, a slow start and lack of execution in critical situations are causing the Broncos to constantly play from behind.
Denver has the talent to compete against good teams. However, the Broncos don’t have the ability to beat teams with their lackluster play. The team needs to take back its killer instinct.
Over the last three games, the tape shows the defensive backfield has a glass jaw. Despite the investment in building the most expensive secondary in the NFL, the Broncos' group is not playing up to expectations.
Missed assignments, losing one-on-one battles, and not winning on key third down situations — this is not what fans expected. Let’s not give up on the Broncos' secondary just yet because the group has talent but it needs to own its deficiencies and take action to improve.
Opposing coaches are getting the best of the Broncos. Offenses are exposing flaws in coach Fangio’s defense. To their credit, the Raiders' offensive staff was creative on Sunday focusing on exploiting individual match ups.
Las Vegas' strategy was highlighted when it forced Broncos' run-stopping linebacker Alexander Johnson into coverage against a speedy running back Kenyan Drake on a wheel route, resulting in a touchdown.
Besides the opening drive, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s unit never seemed to find a rhythm. Shurmur's play-caller vacillated between three-tight end run-blocking formations to five-wide receiver, empty spread sets. Six games in, the offense is in a desperate search of an identity. Shurmur needs to pick an offensive philosophy and stick to it.
Word to the Wise
Broncos Country should keep its pitchforks and torches in the closet for now. There are a lot of games left in the season but GM George Paton must find a way to light a fire under his players and coaches and resurrect their will to compete.
More importantly, the first-year general manager has to determine whether his coaches have the wherewithal to win the game-planning chess match against opponents while maximizing the talent on the field. Sitting at 3-3, Fangio must start winning games before Paton throws calls the curtains on his tenure as head coach of the Broncos.
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