After our "Top 10 Ways Josh McDaniels Has Destroyed the Denver Broncos" post last week following the team's 59-14 shellacking by the Oakland Raiders, we hoped there'd be no reason to come up with another critical list today.
No such luck. The Broncos' 24-16 collapse against the woeful San Francisco 49ers showed the team could come up with a whole new set of ways to choke. Here's our countdown.
10. Lack of intensity going into the game: One of the most dispiriting things about the Broncos' loss to the Raiders was Coach Josh McDaniels's silent surrender to the beating. Instead of loudly expressing his displeasure, as McDaniels did with his f-bomb attack during a game against the New York Giants last season, he failed to challenge his players during or after the embarrassment. Then, to compound this error, he got the squad ready for retribution by... allowing them to play a goofy game of cricket shortly after their arrival in London. Not exactly a smart way to ratchet up the aggression.
9. Offensive predictability: During the first half of the game in particular, the Broncos' play-calling was as creative as a photocopy of a blank page. The result: One stalled drive after another and a goose egg on the scoreboard. And while McDaniels loosened the shackles on signal-caller Kyle Orton to some degree after the break, he continues to make poor use of Tim Tebow, who nearly half of America would like to see as the Broncos' starting QB. Yes, he did score one of the outfit's two touchdowns -- but he did it running, as usual. Who does Tebow have to blow to be permitted to throw an actual pass?
8. Inability to get the running game going. The headline of our October 11 post "Broncos' Running Game Running Out of Excuses After Ravens Loss-- But Who Deserves the Blame?" speaks for itself -- and yet Denver's made precious little progress when it comes to improving the situation since then. Yesterday, principal back Knowshon Moreno gained a whopping forty yards on eleven carries -- a pathetic performance, yet not bad by the standards of the 2010 Broncos. Which makes the situation even sadder.
7. Iffy pass protection: Moreno's lousy numbers shows that the offensive line has hardly been dominating the line of scrimmage when it comes to the ground game -- a situation due in part to a disastrous switch from the Broncos' longtime zone-blocking scheme. But that's not the only way players like rookie center J.D. Walton have come up short. They're also allowing opposing defenses to put way too much heat on QB Orton way too often. Aside from the four sacks allowed, the line let the 49ers frequently pressure KO. And when that happens, bad things follow -- as we document further into this list.
6. Ridiculous penalties -- over and over and over again: Yellow flags took points of the board twice during the game: when a Jarvis Moss clip negated an Eddie Royal punt return for a score, and when a Knowshon Moreno chop block wiped out a flea flicker that worked to perfection. In addition, the Broncos committed a slew of illegal motion penalties -- the kind of infractions that wouldn't happen if the Broncos were a disciplined squad. Which, clearly, they're not.
5. Special teams ineptitude: Painfully ironic fact: In the Raiders loss, pretty much the only Bronco who played well was punter Britton Colquitt. But he couldn't pull off this trick in consecutive weeks. Two of his kicks registered right around twenty yards. Nice! But neither of these boots was as laugh-out-loud unfunny as kicker Matt Prater's missed extra point, which went so far awry that it initially looked as if it had been blocked. Nope -- just shanked in a comical way we tend to associate with pee-wee football.
4. Inability to stop Frank Gore. With the 49ers giving Troy Smith his first meaningful game time in a couple of years, everyone who's ever watched an NFL game knew what Mike Singletary's staff would do -- repeatedly feed running back Frank Gore the ball. That should have made stopping him a snap, right? But no: While Gore didn't run wild, he still gained over a hundred yards, allowing San Francisco to keep the ball for long stretches, chewing up the clock along the way.
3. Lack of a pass rush: Unlike the 49ers, who kept Kyle Orton on his toes (or on his ass) for much of the game, Justin Bannan and the rest of the defensive line couldn't return the favor against Smith, recording a grand total of zero sacks. Yes, Smith is mobile, but given his aforementioned rustiness, he likely could have been rattled if consistently harassed. Unfortunately, the one pass he stupidly heaved up just before being face-planted wound up being the throw that brought this team back to life.
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2. Defensive lapses during crunch time. Troy Smith should never have thrown that rainbow in the direction of Delanie Walker. After all, Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey, the Broncos' defensive stalwarts, had him in an orange-and-blue sandwich. And yet somehow, Walker came up with the ball just outside the goal line. And that wasn't the only D-lapse down the stretch. Witness Michael Crabtree's touchdown catch, which Andre Goodman facilitated to an enormous degree. When the going gets tough, the Broncos collapse.
1. Focus problems when it matters most. Yes, Orton had another good statistical game. But he also turned over the ball twice in key situations -- an interception during the waning seconds and, prior to that, a fumble due to him simply forgetting not to carry the ball like a lunchbox while scrambling. Well-coached teams don't make those kinds of mistakes -- which takes us back to last week's list, doesn't it?
More from our Sports archive: "Josh McDaniels likely to be left in London, 'cause Broncos coach is toast, says ESPN's PTI."