BroncosRants: Grades for Broncos vs Patriots NFL Week 5 Matchup
Manning-Brady Take 13
In the most anticlimactic of all Manning-Brady matchups, the Denver Broncos lost to the New England Patriots 31-21 in Foxboro. If I told you earlier in the week that Peyton Manning would throw for 345yds and 3TDs, while Tom Brady only accounted for 223yds and a TD while running for another, you would probably sign up for that and expect a win from the Broncos.
The problem with those stats is that they are very deceiving as Bill Belichek showed once again why he is the best game planner in the NFL. Belichek did not need Brady to outplay Manning in their thirteenth meeting. Instead he received over 200yds rushing from his running backs which gave them the momentum and time of possession to control the game and give the Denver defense fits.
Combine that with costly mistakes early and late from Demaryius Thomas and Willis McGahee, respectively, and it became a difficult task for Manning to even attempt a worthy comeback as he did in previous weeks against the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans. The Broncos coaches seemed to forget their playbooks at home and began the game with a lackluster and uninspiring performance until late in the third quarter.
The Broncos defense did not know how to handle the three-headed monster that was Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden, along with consistently giving up chunks of yardage to WR Wes Welker. Manning played an almost perfect game while taking a lot of hits and maneuvering in the pocket in order to find his reads. The issue remained that while he completed a ton of passes all over the field and hit three different receivers in the end zone, he could not overcome the defense allowing the Patriots to extend their drives.
These are my grades for each aspect of the Broncos third loss of the year. There were some bright spots, but certain players did not show up for what was one of the most important games of the 2012 season so far.
Peyton at His Best "A"
I don't know if you could ask for anymore from Peyton Manning at 36 years old. Like I stated in the intro slide, he had 345yds and 3 TDs and now has a year to date QB rating of 101.2. No matter who is behind center, if the receivers and running backs keep fumbling and not making the most of their opportunities, Manning can not be of any help.
I especially liked Manning's ability to take the hits and work well under pressure all night and still completing passes to seven different receivers. His arm strength looks better and he has been able to throw to all sides of the field with relative ease.
What You Talking About Willis?? "D"
Willis McGahee has been a welcome workhorse for the Broncos to start the year. Unfortunately, he seemed to have run into a brick wall that was the Patriots defense. I give the Pats credit for being athletic and quick to the ball while closing most of the holes at he line. McGahee also dropped what would have been a key 1st down catch and fumbled to give the Pats the ball back in the fourth quarter in what was a nice drive to try and close the gap to three.
Ronnie Hillman again was mainly a non-factor. It's never a good thing when Manning has as many yards as you running the ball. The run game was affected by the offensive line not getting a good push against the Pats front seven, but McGahee, Hillman and Lance Ball have seen formidable fronts before and have done much better.
WRs All Day But No Pay "B-"
Seven different receivers were hit by Manning today. The problem is that while Demaryius Thomas made an outstanding one-handed grab as seen in this picture, he also fumbled after making a nice grab from Manning deep in New England territory which should have put the Broncos up 7-0. The mistakes that Thomas makes always seems to be deep in the opponents territory on a drive that would have turned the crowd in the Broncos favor.
I understand the fact that Thomas caught 9 passes for 188yds, but he did not have a TD and individual stats will not translate into a win for your team. Eric Decker and Brandon Stokely each had a TD, but were wholly invisible most of the game. I will give props to Decker's stop, drop and roll catch from Manning that was behind him on the floor of the endzone.
One and Done "C-"
In order for the Broncos to succeed, two things need to happen. First, they must make sure the schedule makers only allow them to play the Oakland Raiders the rest of the year. Second, the tight ends need to not only be a force, but be able to decoy and spread the field for Manning to hit the read.
After Joel Dreessen's TD in the second quarter, both he and Jacob Tamme seemed to disappear. The Patriots linebackers seemed to target Tamme and Dreessen almost immediately after the catch, as they were not able to extend many plays. Tamme began to show up more in the late third quarter run that Denver is becoming famous for, but it would be nice to have had both of these two from start to finish today.
O-Line Shaky at Best "C"
While the offensive line only allowed two sacks all day, Manning seemed to be frantic at times as the pocket broke down and even needed to do his best Tim Tebow impression while gaining nine yards. This is not a recipe for success when your Hall of Fame QB takes punishing hits and needs to break the pocket in order to go downfield.
The line of Ryan Clady, Orlando Franklin, Manny Ramirez, Zane Beadles and Dan Koppen also had a tough time opening holes for McGahee to maneuver through. The word manhandle comes to mind and they looked simply pushed around from the Pats front seven. The one plus from today was that there seemed to be no drop off with Koppen at center after J.D. Walton was placed on the injured reserve. The Broncos will be looking forward to Chris Kuper starting next week after missing the first four weeks with a broken forearm. He was active for today's game, and will probably take a week or so to get back up to game speed, but Manning will undoubtedly be appreciative of his return.
Stop the Run?? Oh That's What They Call It "D"
The denver defensive line looked very much like a sieve all game. The Patriots sent their runners out there today and all they did was hum to the 250yd mark tune. Stevan Ridley embarassed them for 151yds and a TD, while Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden added another 101yds between them.
This should be unacceptable to Jack Del Rio and his defense. Derek Wolfe did gain his second sack of the year, while Elvis Dumervil added a half sack with Wesley Woodyard, but it was not constant pressure until late in the game. It is hard to tell if it is the players coming out of the gate sluggish, or Del Rio not game planning the right way for the talent he has.
Maybe it is merely underestimating your opponent, but this defensive line should see consistent pressure on opposing QBs and not be giving up so many yards on the ground. It is not feasible to only show up after halftime in every game
Linebackers Take a Hit "B"
Just when you thought this unit was coming along nicely, another injury occurs. The Broncos saw Keith Brooking leave the field today due to a concussion, which is a detriment if he is out for more than a game. The linebackers actually played pretty well today. Von Miller recorded two sacks, and the unit held Rob Gronkowski to 35yds and 0TDs. They did give up chunks of yards up the middle to Wes Welker, but their tackling looked better and once again they looked quicker from start to finish.
The biggest issue was trying to run down the trio of backs that the Pats utilized all game. The Broncos clearly need Danny Trevathan or Steven Johnson to step up and help make a difference going forward. But you have to be pleased at this point with the production of Woodyard and Miller.
The Silent Assassins- "B+"
What more can be said about the secondary of the Broncos. You did not hear Champ Bailey's or Tracy Porter's name all afternoon. Why? Because Brady knew not to test them much, if at all. That's respect. Rahim Moore and Mike Adams played well while recording six tackles and six assists each. Brady threw short over the middle or quick out routes almost all day and other than Welker who eludes everyone in the league, Deion Branch made one meaningful catch and ex-Bronco Brandon Lloyd was rendered ineffective.
Yes, Colquitt is on This Team- "B+"
It's hard to talk about the Broncos special teams without mentioning heroics from K Matt Prater. But he was a non-factor today only getting the opportunity to kick three extra points. We did find out that the Broncos do have a punter on their squad. Last week against the Raiders he was not needed once. This week, Britton Colquitt punted 3 times for a 45.7avg. The special teams unit was able to pin the Pats deep, but with the run game, it did not matter much. The only thing the Broncos need to do is make sure Trevathan stays away from running into the punter of the opponent and drawing penalties.
I Needed a Game Plan for Today? "C-"
For another week in this early NFL season, the Broncos came out of the gate looking timid and unsure of how to proceed. Did someone leave the playbook in Denver? Five weeks gone in the year and it is time now to question the game plan and preparation from the coaches. Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio has tremendous talent in many facets of his unit and needs to get everyone together from the first snap to the last.
Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy either needs to relinquish this offense to Manning, or balance out his plays a little better. Today, he came out throwing early and often and didn't try consistent running until the second quarter. McGahee needs to be a part of this offense and Manning needs the balance. Seven first half points will not win many games in this league and as with Del Rio, McCoy has plenty of talent to utilize.
Head Coach John Fox has his work cut out for him. He may be the best third quarter coach in the league. When coming out of halftime, whatever he say to his team, something seems to click. Unfortunately, there are four quarters in every football game, at least the last time I checked.