By Lance Sanderson
(247 SPORTS) – Ouch. That was just about as bad as it gets.
Even though the Broncos were able to put up a couple of touchdowns in the first quarter, the Baltimore Ravens were able to shut down Denver in all facets of football on Sunday afternoon.
Despite receiving tremendous special teams efforts early in the contest, the Broncos couldn’t get out of their own way. An early blocked punt set up a Royce Freeman touchdown run on Denver’s first offensive play, and another long drive immediately following had Broncos Country looking like that heart eye emoji.
Until that emoji turned into another commonly used one. One that I can’t use on a family forum.
After reviewing the tape, there are not a lot of positives to take away from this game. A few dropped passes, lack of protection, questionable coaching decisions and a plethora of other proverbial bullets to the foot caused Denver to drown in their own squalor.
After their quick start, the Broncos closed the first half with five consecutive drives ending in a punt. It wouldn’t stop there, either. Denver would make it seven straight possessions where they would kick it away, followed by a couple of late drives that both ended in the red area.
Who were the biggest winners and losers from Week 3’s debacle? Let’s start with a big positive.
BIGGEST WINNER: TOM MCMAHON, SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR
After watching the special teams disaster of 2017, any form of improvement was going to be immediately noticeable. Gone are the days of terrible coverage and dropped punts folks.
Denver’s improved kickoff coverage was apparent immediately, and I noted that in our VIP open thread during the game, following a great stop on the opening kickoff. After Denver’s defense forced a quick three-and-out, Tom McMahon dialed up the pressure even more and LB Joseph Jones blocked a punt to set up Denver’s first score.
A blocked field goal later in the first half should have resulted in another Broncos touchdown, but somehow the referees got their colors mixed up and called a block-in-the-back penalty on Billy Turner, who wasn’t even on the field.
Had it not been for these monstrous plays by McMahon’s unit, the Broncos might have been blown out even worse.
LOSER: MARQUETTE KING, P
Even though McMahon had a great day dialing up some spectacular calls, the special teams unit wasn’t clean as a whistle. Marquette King was below average in Week 3, not getting the usual ‘oomph’ behind his punts as he normally does. Despite landing three of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line and only allowing three returns, he failed to flip the field position when Denver’s offense couldn’t get anything going.
Baltimore was able to capitalize on a couple of short punts in the first half that would extend their lead to 20 to 14 going into halftime. A 35-yard shank a following the two minute warning gave the Ravens possession at the 50-yard line, which set up a 52-yard Justin Tucker field goal attempt to close the half.
King had fine numbers, including a 55-yard bomb that bolstered a 41.0 yard per punt average, but his duds came in terrible situations. To be fair, his performance wasn’t the worst of the bunch.
WINNER: DEMARYIUS THOMAS, WR
The Broncos No. 1 wideout has received a lot of criticism over the first few weeks of the season, and rightly so. Demaryius Thomas has been struggling with a case of the “dropsies,” as he has had a penchant for throughout his career.
Week 3 was a resounding response to his critics, however, seeing Thomas catch all five of his targets for 63 yards. He also had an explosive reception of 39 yards called back on one of Garett Bolles’ holding penalties.
LOSER: CASE KEENUM, QB
After a breakout campaign with the Vikings in 2017, the Broncos signed Case Keenum to be the answer at their quarterback position. He hasn’t been terrible through three games, but he has failed to live up to expectations.
Keenum threw another interception in the red zone in Week 3, killing a much needed scoring opportunity midway through the fourth quarter. It was his fifth interception of the year, which is very troubling.
Keenum also failed to throw a touchdown pass for the second consecutive week. The Broncos need Keenum to step up and make some plays.
They were hoping to get the Minnesota version. So far they’ve gotten the Texans version.
WINNER: EMMANUEL SANDERS, WR
Both Thomas and fellow WR Emmanuel Sanders had solid outings against the Ravens secondary. Sanders came alive in the second half, doing everything he could to will the Broncos to another victory.
Sanders also notched the first rushing touchdown of his career, scampering for 35 yards on a well designed end around in the first quarter. With Thomas struggling, Sanders has made a strong case to be called the best wide receiver on the team.
LOSER: VANCE JOSEPH, HEAD COACH
Vance Joseph needs to get his team under control. Quickly.
A bevy of idiotic penalties, punches thrown, and sloppiness all over the field are a direct contributor to Denver’s first loss of the season. And as a proclaimed “leader of men,” Joseph needs to rally his troops and become more of a disciplinarian, rather than try to be everybody’s friend.
As a coach coming into the season on a scalding hot seat, he better figure it out. Or else his time may soon come to a close in Denver.
WINNER: ROYCE FREEMAN, RB
Headed by rookie running back Royce Freeman’s 53 yards on 13 carries, the Broncos ground attack was able to grind out yet another game over 100 yards on Sunday. As a whole, Denver amassed 120 yards on 24 carries for a 5.0 yard per attempt average as a team.
Freeman was the tip of the spear, with Lindsay out, grinding out the tough yards. As far as the offense was concerned, this was about the only positive.
LOSER: PHILLIP LINDSAY, RB
Speaking of punches being thrown, Phillip Lindsay got himself ejected from the game in the second quarter, while scrambling for a loose football. In the scrum, you can clearly see Lindsay hammer-fisting at something. Whether that was the football or a fellow player is unclear.
That cannot happen under any circumstances. Lindsay has been a huge part of the success of the Broncos offense, and following his early departure you could see the unit lose nearly all of it’s swagger. Another indictment on Keenum.
Live and learn. Just don’t let it happen again.
BIGGEST LOSER: GARETT BOLLES, LT
The Ravens have a future Hall of Fame level pass rusher in OLB Terrell Suggs, and his prowess was on display from the jump yesterday. Suggs terrorized the Broncos second year left tackle to the tune of a sack and a half on top of several other pressures.
It wasn’t only Suggs that obliterated Garett Bolles yesterday. Bolles was put on skates by almost everybody, and had a few egregious holding calls that wiped away big plays for the Broncos offense. Even though Bolles was doing his best to keep case Keenum from getting crushed, his bad hand placement, weak initial punch, and apparent mental guesswork had him beaten all afternoon.
The Broncos are depending on Bolles’s development, and while he’s been markedly better than his rookie season, yesterday was a drastic step in the wrong direction.
The early season sloppiness finally caught up to the Broncos. Penalties quite literally wiped out every rushing yard the Broncos were able to gain.
A porous secondary got even weaker when CB Tramaine Brock went down with a ground injury, and rookie Isaac Yiadom struggled in his first action as a pro. It was an ugly game all the way around, and there were only a few positives to mention.
The defensive line was great in the running game, only allowing 77 yards on 28 carries. The secondary, even though unable to make key defensive stops, only allowed 265 yards passing, extending a streak of 37 consecutive games without allowing 300 or more passing yards.
Special teams kept the Broncos in this game, led by Joseph Jones. Next week could be an even bigger disaster. If the offense doesn’t get rolling quickly against Kansas City, the Chiefs are liable to put a whopping on the Broncos.
Buckle up, Broncos Country. It’s about to get bumpy.