The 2019 Denver Broncos season is the epitome of the old adage “a tale of two halves”.
They have shown an ability to take big leads in the first half, dominate on defense, and show that the talent on this team is that of a winner. Then the second half rolls around, the team comes out of the locker room with seemingly no energy, the coach’s halftime adjustments appear to be terrible, and the coaches and players look completely inept.
The Broncos Week 11 road game in Minnesota, coming off a bye week, was another example of this trend, and the team fell to 3-7 on the season. The Broncos carried a 20-0 lead into halftime, scoring on four possessions, with the defense getting big-time sacks, special teams converting muffed kickoffs and punts into turnovers, and everything going the Broncos way.
No team in the last 10 years had lost a game with a 20-plus point lead going into half time, a perfect 99-0 undefeated. What do the Broncos do? They take that 20-point lead into halftime, then come out and lay an egg in the second half to ultimately lose 27-23.
In my preview article, I stated the Broncos could win this game with turnovers, sacks, and taking care of the football. The Broncos almost completed the upset victory if it weren’t for an untimely red-zone interception, a missed field goal by Brandon McManus and the inability to score on three plays from the four-yard line with time expiring.
If McManus hits that field goal or they settle for three points before halftime, the last drive only needs to be a field goal instead of a touchdown and Brandon Allen got the team in position.
Despite those factors, the biggest disappointment was the recurring nightmare of the coaching taking a full-on turtle approach and being terrified of losing games in the second half. It feels like the offense goes into predictable play-calling on must-score possessions and the team goes three-and-out with a poorly-executed trick play, and the defense cannot get a stop. The defense gave up four touchdowns in the second half after shutting out the same team in the first half.
Three of the four touchdown drives surrendered were quick scores taking up hardly any game time. The defense was giving up huge chunk plays and big-yardage scores with Stefon Diggs recording a 44-yard catch and a 56-yard touchdown reception, and Kyle Rudolph recording a 32-yard touchdown.
Offense scored on one possession in the second half, missed a field goal on another and couldn’t get into the end zone to win the game on the final drive of the game. The game was yet another close one, another loss, and another heartbreak for the Broncos and their die-hard fans.
Despite losing the game however, there were still plenty of positives in terms of player development and some things for individuals to work on.
Courtland Sutton – Sutton showed he’s the premier player on the Broncos offense by a country mile, as he had 116 yards receiving over one of the best corners in the league in Xavier Rhodes, completed a trick-play deep pass to Tim Patrick for 38 yards, and carried the ball two times for 10 yards. Sutton totaled 162 all-purpose yards, with the only negative being none of the last three passes into the end zone targeted their best player.
Todd Davis – Dalvin Cook came into the game as the leagues leading rusher, having already eclipsed 1000 yards by Week 11. Davis racked up 13 tackles and was key to stopping the Vikings powerful running game.
Shelby Harris – Harris finally had that monster game that everyone was anticipating based on his preseason film. Harris had three sacks, a forced and recovered a fumble and two additional tackles in the game.
Tim Patrick – Patrick returned from injured reserve to the tune of four catches for 77 yards on eight targets, including two big fourth-down conversions on the last drive of the game.
Drew Lock – Any time the Broncos starting quarterback is on the losing side of this article, Drew Lock will be a winner. Allen played seemingly well enough to win but fell short and the team couldn’t get the young signal-caller his second win in as many weeks.
Lock-watch will continue to intensify as the second-round pick continues to practice with the team. Drafting in 2020 is completely dependent on Drew Lock touching the football field and proving to be a competent player.
Brandon Allen – Obviously not getting a win, not scoring on the last possession, and throwing the red zone interception are all going to be things that make this loss hurt for Allen. He did throw for 240 yards and a touchdown, and carried the ball three times for 18 yards, and led the offense to score 23 points, which are more than Flacco had in back-to-back weeks. He ends up in the loser category mainly because of the loss, turnover and that last possession, plus his 44-percent completion percentage and his 22 incompletions.
Noah Fant – Fant failed to follow up on his four catches for 115 yards against the Browns before the bye week. He still managed four catches for 60 yards, which is a fine day, if he didn’t also have 11 targets and two incompletions in the end zone to win the game. The offense wants and needs Fant to be a consistent threat and to secure more than 35-percent of the balls that come his way. Not all the incompletions were his fault, but four catches on 11 targets feels bad.
Andy Janovich – Janovich had one carry, one yard, and a touchdown. He was a monster blocker that really enhanced the run game, and is one of the best special teams players on the roster. Janovich suffered a gruesome injury that appeared to be a broken arm that most likely will see the fullback miss the rest of the season. It’s a huge loss for Denver, but thankfully he re-signed before the injury and will be back for the future.
Colby Wadman – Personally, I’m over Colby Wadman. He’s the 28th-ranked punter out of 37 in the league when it comes to average yards per punt, and 32nd in the league for net yards per punt. He has the worst average and net average out of the other punters in the league with at least 50 attempts (8 other punters). Out of that same group, Wadman is the only punter surrendering a touchdown return, has the second-fewest punts inside the 20-yard line, the fewest inside the 10-yard line, and the most touchbacks by a large margin. He’s getting entirely too much use for a punter that is routinely underwhelming.
Justin Simmons – All the talk over the last few weeks about how great Simmons has been playing and the big plays he’s been making must’ve gone to his head. Simmons came back to earth this week with a two-tackle performance as well as being the over-the-top safety on all three big plays the second half.
Alexander Johnson – Johnson finished with just four tackles after being named the PFF player of the week, and dominating the previous four weeks after being inserted into the starting lineup. He’s a good player but just had a relatively low-impact week.