On a day when Denver Broncos great Rod Smith was honored at halftime for being chosen to enter their Ring of Fame, the Mile High magic seemed lost.
The Broncos for the second week in a row came out of the starting gate sluggish in their secondary. After Elvis Dumervil sacked Matt Schaub in the end zone for a safety and Matt Prater kicked a field goal to put the Broncos up 5-0, the Houston Texans answered with 21 straight points. Schaub torched Tracy Porter for 60-yard and 52-yard TD passes to Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, respectively, while also hooking up with Arian Foster for a three-yard toss.
In preseason, the secondary was considered to be the strength of the Broncos with the additions of Porter and S Mike Adams, while there were many questions about the run defense. Through the first three weeks, though, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio needs to find some answers as to why this secondary cannot keep up with their man.
The Texans are undoubtedly one of the best teams in the league, coming into Denver with the NFL‘s best defense statistically. It showed while pressuring Peyton Manning and harassing the receivers throughout the game, as the Broncos could not get in any sort of rhythm. The offensive line looked over-matched, receivers dropped passes, and even Willis McGahee could not get his motor started. Overall, this turned out to be one of those listless games that proved the Broncos need more time together before they can be considered contenders.
Quarterback: B-… Manning had no time to set, throw the ball, or do much more than check down because of the constant harassment of Denver’s o-line. His passes, when able to throw down field, did look better all around than a week ago, but was not helped out with constant drops from his receivers. Another step for Manning, but not a great one, even though once again, his Broncos were within striking distance. He is now the all-time leader now in 300-yard passing games with 64.
Running Backs: D… McGahee and Ronnie Hillman did not have much help from the offensive line either as there were no holes to run through all game. Yet, they also did not do enough to open the holes either, and couldn’t block well. The Texans d-line showed just why they are the league’s best. McGahee did leave the game with a rib injury and his status is uncertain at this time.
Wide Receivers/TEs: D… Yes, as a unit they had quite a few drops, but Eric Decker did break 100 yards, even against an incredible pass defense that allowed no room to run. Still, Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Stokley could not create separation until the 4th quarter and struggled to make plays for Manning to find a target. Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreessen were non-factors in a game when the Broncos could have used some play-making ability through the first three quarters.
Offensive Line: F… Ryan Clady protected the blindside of Manning as best as he could. There will come a time though, when Zane Beadles, Manny Ramirez, J.D. Walton and all others need to step it up and allow Manning the time he needs to throw. The loss of Orlando Franklin undoubtedly has been felt, and this unit needs to find the rhythm it showed in the first game. Manning was shell-shocked in the pocket while running for his life most of the game.
Defensive Line: D… Hello?? Anybody there?? Where has the pass rush of Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil and Derek Wolfe gone? After the initial sack to gain the safety in the first quarter by Dumervil, it seems as if they disappeared for stretches at a time. Yes, they knocked Schaub out for a play or two after consecutive roughing the passer penalties, but in order to proceed, this unit needs to find their identity again, and it starts with Del Rio.
Linebackers: D… I know I included Miller in the “anybody there” excerpt for the defensive line. I get that. That’s because he is more valuable as a pass rusher than he has been as a pass defender. This unit has not been able to cover the pass and looked slow to get to the ball when protecting against the run. Even though the Texans seemed to have a hard time scoring in the second half, you can not continue with penalties and missed tackles.
Secondary: C… For the second straight week, this unit decided not to play until the second half, and missed a ton of interception opportunities. Porter was the early goat, giving up the two long TD passes, but then the unit seemed to turn it around later in the game. The Broncos can not keep playing from behind and whatever Del Rio seems to tell his men at halftime, he needs to make that speech pre-game.
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