By Rick Brown
It was a tough weekend to move the ball against either defense as the Denver Broncos (2-1) played the Buffalo Bills (2-1). The Broncos brought the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL against a stout Bills defense. The Denver defense also had a huge task in containing LeSean McCoy and the Bills rushing offense.
Going into halftime, these two teams had similar stats, but in the end, the Bills did enough to contain the Broncos and earn a tough 26-16 win. Ultimately, the Bills secondary was able to force the Broncos into a couple of mistakes that would cost Denver the game. Broncos starting quarterback Trevor Siemian threw two interceptions, and those two turnovers proved to be the end of Denver’s winning streak.
Offense – D
The Broncos started off well. Emanuel Sanders was a focal point of this week’s game plan and made seven catches. The offense did an average job running against the Bills with Jamaal Charles and C.J. Anderson. Charles continues to look great and was the Broncos’ rushing leader with 56 yards rushing and a touchdown. Unfortunately, the Broncos were ineffective once the Bills took the lead.
Up until this week, Denver had been doing a great job of converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns. But on Sunday, the Broncos fell flat. The team had three red zone trips and only converted for one touchdown.
The under-appreciated Bills defense has been shutting down teams so far this season, so it should be no surprise that they were able to do a good job of stopping the Broncos offense. And the Denver offense’s inability to move the ball had a rippling effect to the Broncos defense.
Defense – C
The Broncos defense did an above-average job of stopping the Bills offense. While the Broncos were able to limit LeSean McCoy on the ground to 41 yards, they were not able to stop Tyrod Taylor and the Bills’ passing attack. Denver’s secondary only allowed 213 yards, but they were unable to stop Taylor from throwing two touchdowns.
The pass defense gave up a lot of big plays and was unable to bail out the ineffective Broncos offense. Denver’s “D” was unable to force any turnovers while the Bills defense had two interceptions, and Buffalo was able to convert one of these turnovers into points.
The Broncos defense had to consistently face a short field and were unable to stop the Bills from converting in the red zone. Von Miller also committed a huge penalty late in the fourth quarter that resulted in a drive that scored more points for the Bills.
Special Teams – B
While the Broncos special teams did not make any flashy plays, the unit also did not make any mistakes. Brandon McManus was perfect on the day with 3-of-3 field goals. Riley Dixon did a decent job of punting, and Cody Latimer had a 38-yard return and was a few tackles away from breaking it open.
Coaching – D
The Broncos coaching staff did a great job fixing the run defense of a year ago, but Denver was unable to stop the Bills’ usually ineffective offense. Several times throughout this game, the Broncos seemed to abandon the run game. Charles was in a groove late in the game, but the Broncos ditched the run game in favor of the quick score.
There were some questionable calls from the coaching staff this week against the Bills. The choice to go for it on fourth down in the third quarter deep in Bills’ territory was not a good one. Head coach Vance Johnson should have continued to rely on his defense, especially with a long field if the Broncos had punted. The Broncos were flat and needed a spark, but should have gone with the defense to provide that jolt. This Broncos defense is incredible and Johnson should not be afraid to lean on this unit to win games.
Looking Ahead – Oakland Raiders
The Broncos’ upcoming Oct. 1 home game against the Oakland Raiders (2-0) will be a tough battle. Denver has proven that the defense can contain the NFL’s best running backs, so look for Oakland QB Derek Carr to try and tear up the Broncos secondary as the star tandem Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper take on Chris Johnson Jr. and Aqib Talib. The Raiders defense is not as good as the Bills, but this is a vastly improved unit over last year’s defense. Look for the Raiders to stop the run and try to capitalize on any mistakes made by Siemian.