The Denver Broncos fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, 28-10. It was a sloppy performance all around for Denver but it really was a case of great quarterback vs. maybe-shouldn't-be-in-the-league quarterback.
Jeff Driskel got the start in relief of the injured Drew Lock once again, and this time, despite performing admirably in Pittsburgh last week, he laid a Mile High egg. Driskel was sacked five times, one of which was resulted in a safety. Yes, Driskel was sacked for a safety for the second straight week.
Part of that onus falls on the Broncos beleaguered offensive line but a larger portion, arguably, falls on Driskel, who showed woefully bad pocket presence and failed to recognize pre-snap pressure tells. At least four of the sacks Driskel surrendered, including the safety, was a case of the QB holding onto the ball for too long.
Finally, with the game all but in the can for Tampa Bay, head coach Vic Fangio had seen enough. The Broncos benched Driskel and inserted Brett Rypien for what turned out to be the team's final offensive possession of the game.
“Obviously we were struggling on offense," Fangio said post-game. "Our pass offense in particular, but we didn’t run it well either. I just wanted to get a new guy in there. See if he can get it out of his hand a little quicker, direct the protections and see if he could provide a little spark there.”
What transpired was once again admirable, but far from the type of QB play fitting of a competitive NFL team. Rypien did move the ball, though, with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur going no-huddle. The tempo helped Rypien get into a quick rhythm.
The 60-yard drive ended in an end-zone interception on fourth down. And that was all she wrote. Rypien finished 8-of-9 for 53 yards, completing passes to six different receivers.
With an East Coast trip to take on the New York Jets quickly approaching, the Broncos suddenly have a decision to make at quarterback.
Will it be Rypien? Driskell? Or the newly-signed veteran Blake Bortles?
“We’ll make that call quickly," Fangio said after the game. "We’ll talk about it as a staff and move forward.”
The Broncos will likely make the decision on Sunday night, as the practice days for the week will start on Monday instead of the traditional Wednesday. There's no rest for the weary.
Bortles was signed for a reason. It'd be a surprise if he doesn't start on the road this week in front of a nationally televised audience on Thursday Night Football. Then again, with the Broncos being basically dead in the water until Lock returns from his shoulder injury, which could be as soon as Week 5, the coaches might decide to give Rypien the nod to see what kind of long-term viability he presents as a permanent backup.
The decision is likely to come down to whether the coaches believe Bortles has had the time to assimilate enough of Pat Shurmur's offense to be effective.