The Denver Broncos lost their second straight game to a sub .500 team on Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium. The Super Bowl sentiment of Week 8 has quickly shifted to uncertainty in both the short term and long term for this team. The Broncos won their first seven games; a feat not accomplished in Denver since the Super Bowl champion team of 1998. Now, for the first time since Week 3 of 2012, the Broncos have found themselves in the midst of a two game losing streak.
While much remains up in the air with these 2015 Denver Broncos, there was also a lot we learned in the loss to the Chiefs.
Three takeaways from Sunday’s game:
Peyton Manning is Injured and Has Been for Quite Some Time
News came out on Monday that Peyton Manning has been playing with plantar fasciitis since his camp at Duke University in April, and a partially torn plantar fascia since early in Week 9 at Indianapolis. This is a serious injury for an aging quarterback who has displayed limited arm strength since four neck surgeries sidelined him for the 2012 season.
Manning was pulled midway through the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to Kansas City and replaced by fourth year quarterback Brock Osweiler. Though Osweiler’s numbers—14-24 for 146 yards, one touchdown and one interception—don’t exactly jump off the page, they’re certainly encouraging.
Coach Gary Kubiak announced in his Monday press conference that Brock Osweiler will be the starter for Sunday’s game in Chicago. So “Plan A” is out, but “Plan B” could be just what this offense is looking for. Brock Osweiler’s skill set, while not backed by an 18 year pedigree of excellence, might just fit Kubiak’s system better than Manning’s.
Gary Kubiak’s system is predicated on a quarterback’s ability to move the pocket and stretch the defense by throwing the ball deep. These are things Peyton Manning simply can’t do with a torn plantar fascia, a bum shoulder, and a rib injury affecting his mobility and arm strength. Osweiler, on the other hand, could be a potential match made in heaven.
A healthy Peyton Manning still gives the Broncos the best opportunity for season long success, but until he can get himself healthy, Brock Osweiler gives the Broncos the best chance to win right now.
This Year’s Broncos Defense is Great, Not Invincible
Photo Credit: Jamie Squire – Getty Images
The average starting field position for the Kansas City Chiefs was their own 48 yard line in Sunday’s contest at Sports Authority Field. The Chiefs started six drives in Denver territory. For a team to hold their opponent under 30 points with the deck stacked that heavily against them is nothing short of miraculous.
Even after losses to Indianapolis and Kansas City in which the defense performed below their own personal standards, Denver remains the best defense in the league by 26 yards per game. By the look of the numbers, Denver’s defense has taken a step back over the last two weeks. They’ve given up an average of 306 yards and 28 points. While these numbers aren’t awful, they’re well above the team’s season average of 277 yards and 18.7 points per game. This is a situation when the numbers just don’t tell the whole story.
Let’s take a look at what happened in the first half vs. Kansas City. After Cairo Santos’ opening kickoff sailed through the end zone, the Denver offense ran only two plays before Peyton Manning threw his first interception to Marcus Peters on a pass intended for tight end Vernon Davis. This left the Broncos’ opposition with a short field, a situation seen all too often this season. The Chiefs scored a touchdown on their first drive and never looked back.
The Denver Broncos offense held the ball for just 5:46 through four possessions in the first quarter. A nearly 2:1 ratio in time of possession is unsustainable for even the most ferocious of defenses.
If under Brock Osweiler the Denver Broncos can do a better job of controlling the football and dominating time of possession, expect this defense to get back to performing at the level they did for the first eight weeks of the season.
Stupid Mistakes are Still Plaguing the 2015 Denver Broncos
Photo Credit: Chris Humphreys – USA TODAY Sports
Let’s get down to brass tacks on this one. This team has a serious problem with discipline. Safety T.J. Ward was ejected late in the fourth quarter for punching Chiefs’ wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. If Gary Kubiak and his coaching staff can’t get this team to harness their emotions and stop committing stupid fouls, they’re in trouble.
Denver is tied for eighth most penalties in the league with 71. They’re fifth in penalty yards. Great teams just don’t make this many mistakes.