Question for all those optimists expecting to see the Denver Broncos leave the Josh McDaniels debacle behind them: How are you feeling this morning? Depressed, probably -- because all the flaws that led to McD's ouster were still on view in their 23-20 home loss to the dreaded Raiders, including a beyond-anemic running game, terrible run defense and QB play by Kyle Orton that will only amplify those calls for Tim Tebow.
Watching the first half of the nationally telecast Monday Night Football contest was like being subjected to unedited footage from Big Brother -- painful, awkward and seemingly without end.
Early on, the Raiders looked accommodating, coughing up the ball in the red zone thanks to Von Miller's well-placed helmet. But Orton once again showed a chronic inability to cash in, eventually leaving the Broncos with a field goal -- their only three points of the first half.
Not that there weren't opportunities for more. But Denver seemed intent on matching the Raiders tit-for-tat when it came to penalties (what the hell was going on with Chris Kuper?), and Orton repeatedly failed to respond to such mistakes with steady leadership and consistent play. For every crisp throw, an errant one followed, with the worst of the batch being a pick heaved in the general direction of Brandon Lloyd, who wasn't even looking for the ball, just before halftime.
Granted, the entire weight of the offense was on Orton's shoulders, since Knowshon Moreno was once again Know-show Moreno and Willis McGahee definitely didn't pick up the slack. With the ground game grinding to a halt, Orton had no choice but to keep chucking. He was under plenty of pressure, too, thanks to a Raiders front four capable of generating a pass rush even without sending a blitzer -- wouldn't that be nice to have?
KO still had an opportunity to quiet the boo birds in the second half, thanks largely to more Raiders ineptitude and Eric Decker's thrilling punt return for a touchdown. But his chances kept slipping away, just like the ball early in the fourth quarter, when his fumble led directly to a 47-yard Darren McFadden run and a Jason Campbell plunge that pretty much put the game out of reach.
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This was hardly McFadden's sole highlight. If he only played against the Broncos, he'd already be Hall of Fame-bound. The defense was once again susceptible to big runs -- and the pass rush, supposedly so much improved, was spotty. Miller had a few moments, but Elvis Dumervil dinged his shoulder early on and was essentially invisible from that point onward, and the rest of the reconfigured lineup seemed as undisciplined and ineffectual as the previous version.
The final score made the game seem more competitive than it was -- and certainly more palatable than last year's 45 point loss. But while both teams displayed rough spots aplenty, the Broncos were by far the most discombobulated -- and Orton's performance was so dispiriting that Tebow lovers can almost be forgiven for imagining a better future with their boy at the helm. Unless something changes fast, all fans will be left with is their dreams.
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