Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

WHAT???????

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 24, 2008

Surely what I saw today was a bad dream.  I’m going to wake up from my nightmare any moment and realize that the Broncos-Raiders game hasn’t really kicked off yet.  I’m going to realize that the embarrassing 31-10 loss that I saw the Broncos suffer today will actually be reversed when I wake up.  Surely the Broncos really didn’t lose the turnover battle (again).  Surely they didn’t allow an 88-yard punt return touchdown to someone named Johnnie Lee Higgins right before halftime.  Surely Matt Prater didn’t actually miss two first half field goals.  Surely the Broncos’ red zone failures didn’t really come back to haunt them in the form of a lost fumble inside the Oakland five yard line on the first drive of the game.  I had to be hallucinating, was that really disgraced ex-Bronco Ashley Lelie ripping the ball away from Dre’ Bly and then later catching a touchdown pass while wearing the silver and black?  Was Eddie Royal really held to just 14 yards receiving?  Was Mike Shanahan really calling a running play on 3rd and 15 in Raider territory in the fourth quarter?  Were there really the thousands of Raider fans in the stands on Invesco Field that there appeared to be on TV?  I mean, that has to be a bad dream right?  The Broncos wouldn’t have allowed themselves to get embarrassed like that in an important division game right?

Truth is, the Broncos should be embarrassed for how they performed today.  It is unbelievable on so many levels that the Broncos still own a two game lead in the AFC West after giving that kind of performance, owing to the Chargers’ loss at home to Indianapolis (side note: how upset are Chargers fans right now after San Diego failed to take advantage of Denver’s collapse today?).  I will say that the Raiders deserve a ton of credit for their performance.  This is a franchise that in many ways became the official joke of the league after Al Davis dismissed Lane Kiffin, but Tom Cable has more less kept things from really falling apart.  The Raiders do after all have a win against the 8-3 Jets on their resume, and they also had fourth quarter leads against Buffalo, San Diego, and Miami, and they somehow held Carolina to one of the worst passing days in Panthers history.  The Raiders didn’t look like a 3-8 team today, and I’m sure Denver’s ineptitude had a lot to do with that, but the Raiders played with a lot of energy especially on defense.  I still say Nnamdi Asomugha is certainly a top three cornerback in the league, but he never gets credit because no one ever throws his direction.  I say he would be a multiple time Pro Bowler if he wasn’t a Raider.  He didn’t register a single tackle today, but his mere presence in the secondary disrupted Denver’s passing game, especially since the rest of the Oakland secondary did a good job too.  The Raiders also did a good job in the running game, especially on their final drive of the game, when they were able to kill off the last six minutes without Denver getting the ball back.  

That being said, the Broncos did not come out with the intensity you would expect of a big division game.  In retrospect, it should have been easy to see this coming earlier in the week when the players were saying things like, “We’re not concerned about the rivalry, we just want to win” or “They may be 2-8 but we can’t afford to overlook them”.  It used to be that the Broncos would be fired up for the Raiders whether they were 9-2 or 2-9, it never mattered.  Broncos Raiders used to always be the biggest game on the schedule.  Bad Broncos teams were capable of beating good Raiders teams and vice versa.  I suppose that was still true today, but the point is I got the impression watching the game today that the Broncos were treating it like any other game while the Raiders were fired up to play a big rival.  Oakland had a particular chip on its shoulder after getting waxed by the Broncos 41-14 in week one, and Denver seemed like it really had a letdown after two big road wins.  Even after the Broncos tied it at 10 in the third quarter, it still seemed like something was missing.  It even seemed as though the crowd was having a hard time getting into the game, which should never happen at a Broncos-Raiders game. 

The following sequence should in many ways sum up the Broncos ineptitude especially on offense.  It illustrates that even when the Broncos were given gifts (four Oakland penalties in this case), they got nothing out of it.  This was the last drive of the first half, after Higgins’ punt return gave Oakland a 10-3 lead:

    – 1st & 10 at DEN 26 (:59 seconds left): Oakland penalty, illegal contact – 5 yards

    – 1st & 10 at DEN 31 (:54): Jay Cutler incomplete deep to Eddie Royal – nearly intercepted

    – 2nd & 10 at DEN 31 (:48): Cutler short pass to Brandon Marshall, which he is able to turn into a 20 yard gain

    – 1st & 10 at OAK 49 (31): Cutler spikes ball, Oakland penalty – 12 men on field (declined), Oakland penalty – offsides (accepted)

     – 1st & 5 at OAK 44 (44): Cutler incomplete to Royal, completely blanketed by Asomugha, Oakland penalty – roughing the passer on Thomas Howard – 15 yards (I’ll be honest, this was not a good call, but the Broncos benefited)

     –  1st & 10 at OAK 29 (:22): Cutler runs up the middle for four yards on a designed keeper

     –  2nd & 6 at OAK 25 (:04): Cutler spikes ball, after the team stays in formation at the line of scrimmage for 10 seconds after getting set

     – 3rd & 6 at OAK 25 (:04): Matt Prater 43 yard field goal sails wide right

Now, to be fair, the Broncos were out of timeouts, and were probably thinking field goal upon starting the drive at their own 26 with a minute remaining.  They might have been thinking about even playing it safe and just not turning it over.  But, they got a gift of four Raiders penalties on the drive, including the roughing the passer that was at best questionable as it was not a late hit and Thomas did not go for Cutler’s head.  Nevertheless, the Broncos failed to turn this gift call into any points.  They were at the Raider 29 yard line with 22 seconds left.  Even with no timeouts, they had plenty of time to at the very least take a shot at the end zone or try a sideline pass or two to either get a closer field goal attempt or even try to get in position where you could more easily run a play that would allow you a shot at six points.  Instead, the Broncos called a designed run for Cutler to stay in the middle of the field, feeling confident that Prater could hit a 40-45 yarder.  After Cutler’s run, he was clearly in no hurry to spike the ball.  If the Broncos had called a sideline pass, say they even get 7-8 yards.  If such a play is run properly, it can be run in 7-8 seconds, so the Broncos had time to try two quick sideline routes.  Assuming the runner got out of bounds on both, the Broncos at the very least could have been looking at 30 yard try instead of a 40 yarder, which is a much higher success rate for any kicker.  It might have even given them time to try for the end zone.  I know Prater has been reliable most of the season, but he did miss a 47-yarder earlier in the game heading the same direction.  The Broncos wasted 30 valuable seconds where they had plenty of time for multiple plays to at the very least get closer for a higher percentage field goal attempt.

This is not to say that particular sequence decided the game by any means, I am merely using it as one example to show that the Broncos offense was not in sync most of the afternoon.  Here is a summary of the Broncos’ final three drives, starting right after the Raiders took a 17-10 lead with 5:26 remaining in the third quarter:

  – (starting at 5:26 3rd qtr) 3 plays, 0 yards, 47 seconds, punt (led to an Oakland TD)

  – (starting at 14:08 4th qtr) 3 plays, 2 yards, 34 seconds, interception (led to an Oakland TD)

  – (starting at 9:42 4th qtr) 8 plays, 42 yards, 2:55, turnover on downs

The last Broncos drive ended with 6:47 remaining in the game, which the Raiders were able to milk off the clock while running 10 plays. Overall, the Raiders held the ball for 15 of the game’s final 20 minutes.  Combine that second half time of possession dominance by Oakland with Denver’s two turnovers to Oakland’s none in the game, and you have a recipe for defeat by the Broncos.  

It is really important for the Broncos to put this one behind them immediately.  It seems strange, but even coming off this loss and sporting a 6-5 record, the Broncos still own a two game lead in the AFC West with five games to play.  Denver has a very difficult road game next week against the red hot Jets, who are coming off two huge wins including a rout of the previously unbeaten Titans today.  Denver in many ways seems to rise to the occasion when it’s assumed they have no chance, while falling flat when they’re expected to do well.  Denver has to hope that what happened today is an aberration, because they still are in the driver’s seat for the division title and a home game in the first round of the playoffs (that may not be a good thing, considering the Broncos have dropped three straight home games).  Their defense should a boost soon with the return of Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams, but the offense needs to get some consistency in a hurry.  In the meantime, I can still hold out hope that I’m about to wake up from my dream and the Broncos-Raiders game hasn’t really kicked off yet…….

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One Response to “WHAT???????”

  1. Doug Baker said

    Will a team with a losing record make it to the playoffs out of the AFC West? I guess you are glad the Chargers lost last night.

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