Like I said when they were 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, and 5-0, and 6-0…” I’m not buyin!”
The Broncos deserve a great deal of credit for beginning the season at 5-0. In the past two weeks, this solid team of newly-acquainted veterans has lost to the two teams that battled in the conference championship game in 2008. There is no shame in that, but it is clear that Denver has some work to do. The offense is mediocre and we know its not because of Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. They have played in a high-powered explosive offense before. The problem may not be Josh McDaniels either. He knows something about “matriculating the ball up and down the field.” Even Brandon Stokely has been part of an elite offensive unit. So who hasn’t been there and done that?
The man who threw 3 interceptions tonite against a team that refused to allow any men in orange jerseys to run the ball: Kyle Orton.
Frankly, I think the Broncos are on the verge of a collapse until they do some things differently. I thought they were fortunate to beat the Chargers in San Diego. For all of their success on defense, that game boiled down to a couple of returns by Eddie Royal. Only the 2007 Bears and Devin Hester can live that way. This Broncos team simply isn’t cut that way. The offense managed 3 points tonite — and that was due to Troy Polamalu’s defense on teammate William Gay.
Denver has to score more. They have to get Tony Scheffler involved in the offense. They have to get their running game untracked. If they don’t, that undersized defense will be forced to stay on the field as much as they did tonite. That defense can’t do it. The success of the defense is predicated on the speed of the front 7 and the savvy of the secondary. That formula was inverted tonite. The demise of the Broncos was due to the fatigue of the front 7 and the “experience” of the secondary. The Steelers made Champ Bailey look older than Ty Law. Did you see the hurdle?
The Broncos don’t have to collapse, they just have to adjust. I like the Chargers to find a way to win this division.
As for the Steelers, the offense is powerful but sloppy. Roethlisberger plays like he knows he is playing with house money. He plays as if he is unconcerned with the consequences of his actions. The Steelers defense is so ferocious that he is seldom taxed the way another passer might be by miscues. The Steelers could have scored 40 points if they did not turn the ball over. Rashard Mendenhall was spared the disgrace of a goal line fumble in the 4th quarter. And it wasn’t because he didn’t actually fumble — he did. The referees were probably still trying to make up for that blown call when Jerome Bettis called the coin toss in overtime vs. the Lions. Ben Roethlisberger had two turnovers: a blind-side fumble and a goal line interception. Both turnovers were committed when the Steelers were moving the ball with ease. The second half was a relative walk in the park. Bruce Arians appeared to have surrendered the play-calling to Ben as the team ran effortlessly without huddling.
Note 1: It was interesting to hear the announcers talk at the beginning of the 2nd half about how Denver’s frequent movement on defense was causing the Steelers to run the clock down to the final seconds. That was not the case. The Steelers were entirely in control based on the change in tempo. Roethlisberger took his time looking over the defense to maximize the quality of his pre-snap reads. There was no need to rush. The no-huddle limited defensive substitutions. Roethlisberger took his time. Game over.
Note 2: When Troy Polamalu is healthy, he makes plays all over the field. In the 4th quarter of this game (with about 9 minutes remaining), Polamalu stuffed a first down in the backfield with the Broncos pinned down in the own end. On the very next play, Kyle Orton tried to get some breathing room and the ball was intercepted by Polamalu about 20 yards downfield.
Note 3: The only guy who really gets open down field against Ike Taylor is Randy Moss (and he needs Tom Brady on the field). If you don’t have Randy Moss, don’t bother.
If Rashard Mendenhall can secure the ball, this team is going back to where they came from. Right now, the Colts, Bengals and Steelers (in that order) look to be the class of the AFC. I don’t know where to put the Patriots. It’s been so long since they played a quality opponent with a two-dimensional offense.
Closing Note: Last season, in Week 9, the Steelers played on the road against a team with a new “genius” coach that was oaded with veterans in the secondary, a young quarterback who had yet to throw an interception, a dynamic running game, apass-catching tight end, . Ben Roethlisberger was knocked out of that game by the Washington Redskins, but Jason Campbell threw his first interceptions of the season. The Redskins, like the Broncos, struggled mightily to score and lost 23-6.