I don’t know exactly when someone coined the moniker “Doom and Gloom” to refer to the combination of Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, but if Saturday night is any indication of what the dynamic duo is capable of, then you can be sure we’ll be hearing that nickname a lot more.
Yes, there was a relatively extended Tim Tebow sighting when the Broncos faced the Seahawks at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, but if the second year quarterback’s work was anything more than a footnote in your perception of this game, you need de-programming.
Anyone else excited about Miller & Dumervil? Anyone? (personal photo)
The main event Saturday was a glimpse of what could be the biggest rebuilding block the Broncos will find for several years: Doom and Gloom. Blindfolds may no longer be needed when the Denver defense takes the field.
Dumervil and Miller combined for 3.5 sacks Saturday night (Elvis had 1.5, Von 2). In a little more than two quarters, the duo walloped Tarvaris Jackson, hitting the flustered Seahawks quarterbacking six times. Mind you, these numbers were for basically half a game. Multiple replays showed the best-case-scenario that must have been rolling through the minds of EFX in the Broncos draft night war room; a quarterback trying to turn away from a surging Von Miller only to realize a bull-rushing Elvis Dumervil had cutoff the escape route. Blitzes may mean something again in Denver with that kind of sustained pressure from just two men.
Outside pass-rushing tandems are sought-after in the NFL. Freeney-Mathis is about the only notable one left, and it can be lethal when both men start rolling. If Dumervil and Miller start giving quarterbacks only 2-3 second windows to get the ball out…well…it could be a much more fruitful year for Champ Bailey and Co.
Seattle hoped to calm the pass-rushing storm with a running game. That didn’t happen with the Seahawks first team offense posting 13 yards rushing in the first half. The only defensive concern in Denver Saturday night had to be injuries to linebacker D.J. Williams and defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley. Bunkley’s knee injury could be the most concerning simply because the Broncos are already lean at the position with Ty Warren likely out for the majority of the season.
On a night owned by Denver’s defense, the worry inevitably shifted to the offense. Tebow was able to gobble up yardage in one minute to allow Steven Hauschka to boot a 51-yard game winning field goal as time expired in a meaningless preseason game. Based on the dominance of Denver’s first team defense, there’s absolutely no reason a game-winning field goal should have been needed.
By the third quarter it felt like the first half of the 2010 Broncos season had returned. If the offense was playing at the same level as the defense, the Broncos should’ve taken at least a 24-3 lead into halftime. Instead the Kyle Orton-led offense took a 10-3 lead into halftime. Again, we saw Orton’s stats for the game, and heard commentators talk about his “solid” outing. Again, I was sitting there thinking about that large chasm of perception that exists between Orton’s statistics, and what those statistics actually look like when translated into gameplay.
Orton stats: 16/23, 236 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 99.2 Rating.
Orton Offensive series: Punt, INT, Punt, TD, Punt, FG, Downs, Missed FG, TD.
Think it’ll take Phillip Rivers and the Chargers offense 4 drives to put points on the board? To be a playoff team you need to capitalize, and in the NFL capitalization means everyone shows up. Last night the defense showed up. The offense did not. During the McDaniels era the Broncos found plenty of ways to lose. Sometimes they lost when the offense put up a good amount of points, but the defense allowed their opponent to put up more. Other times they lost when the defense stepped up and made scoring difficult for their opponent, but the Broncos offense had even more difficulty getting onto the scoreboard.
Willis McGahee (above) and Knowshon Moreno combined for 84 yards. (personal photo)
Sure, offensive ineptitude is not entirely Kyle Orton’s fault. The running game was mildly effective last night (Moreno and McGahee combined for 84 yards), but not great. If you’re going to only have a mildly effective running game, you better have a passing game that is straight up dangerous. Most importantly, this Denver team will not fare well if it must wait until its fourth offensive drive to score each week. A team’s chances of winning increase greatly if two of its first four offensive drives result in touchdowns.
If Saturday is an indicator, the Broncos offense still has some serious work to do.
Finally, a special note on special teams. Perhaps Denver is banking on the new kickoff rule making returns obsolete at Sports Authority Field. Whatever the case, giving up a 105-yard kickoff return is bad news. Lapses on special teams can be insanely costly. Just ask the San Diego Chargers who led the league in total offense and total defense last year, but missed the playoffs because special teams were atrocious. As we’ve established, the score of last night’s game shouldn’t have been remotely close to the 23-20 contest that resulted. It wouldn’t have been either if not for the kickoff lapse. Any players on that coverage team who are on the roster cusp should be a bit nervous.
To conclude: Defense looked scary good up front. It’ll be interesting to see how that translates against stronger opponents. Offense looks like the 2011 Colorado Rockies…enough talent to make noise, but not jelling when needed. Special teams needs to hope Matt Prater keeps kicking really, really hard.
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