The Denver Broncos have some issues they need to work through if they hope to win the AFC West for a sixth straight time or make any noise in the playoffs, provided they make it there.
A 30-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders made that clear enough Sunday night. The score was worse than it seemed. The Raiders smacked the Broncos in primetime.
Oakland now holds the upper hand in the AFC West. The Raiders are 7-2. The Chiefs are in second at 6-2. And the Broncos, losers of three of their last five games, are all of a sudden in third place at 6-3.
#BroncosTwitter spent a lot of the evening trying to diagnose what’s wrong with Denver. Is it quarterback Trevor Siemian? The running game? The run defense? Something else? Folks like to blame poor results on a single thing. The reality is it’s a confluence of all those things.
Let’s start with Denver’s running game.
The Broncos came in averaging a meager 3.9 yards per rush. That figure will only decrease after Denver managed 33 yards on 12 carries (2.8 yards per rush). Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs — who to be fair, did have a late 69-yard TD catch — couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Denver’s offensive line didn’t do either of them any favors either.
In my opinion, the ground game is Denver’s biggest issue. It sets up everything else in head coach Gary Kubiak’s play action-, bootleg-heavy offense. If Denver is rushing the ball well, opposing defenses can’t send as much pressure toward Siemian, who’s not blameless either….
The offense’s struggles largely fall on Siemian’s shoulders, too.
His line — 18 for 37 for 283 yards, two touchdowns and one interception — was misleading. Sixty-nine of those yards came on a dump off pass that Bibbs housed.
Siemian must start completing more balls deep down the field. He did give Emmanuel Sanders a decent shot on a bomb at the end of the first half that Sanders couldn’t quite come up with. But still, there are far too many instances where Siemian is throwing short of the sticks on third-and-medium. That must stop.
There was also this:
Denver’s offensive line was brutal. Add it all up, and the Denver offense isn’t getting it done lately against defenses that aren’t exactly world-beaters.
There is officially reason to worry about the Broncos’ defense’s ability to defend the run.
Criticizing the Broncos’ defense feels dirty. It’s so good, and it’s bailed the Broncos out so many times the last season and a half.
Its lone flaw is that it’s been below average defending the run this year. The Raiders recognized that scab and picked and picked and picked at it all night. Oakland finished with 218 rushing yards on 43 carries. The last time the Broncos gave up more than 200 yards rushing was Week 16 in 2014. They’ve got to tighten that up. One way they can? Well, getting healthy is a start…
Injuries looked like they caught up with the Broncos on Sunday.
This was Denver’s second straight game without running back C.J. Anderson and cornerback Aqib Talib. Anderson is probably out the entire season after meniscus surgery. Talib, who’s maybe been the best cornerback in football this season, should be back soon after dealing with back issues.
Add in injuries to cornerback Kayvon Webster, who missed the entire game, and linebacker Brandon Marshall and defensive end Derek Wolfe, who were limited throughout, and you start to see why the Denver defense showed some cracks. The Broncos need to get healthy. They have one more game against the Saints in New Orleans before their bye week.
They’ll need to get through that and recuperate. Denver has plenty to work on on both sides of the ball. Sunday night proved as much.
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