Ian St. Clair from The Mile High Report joins us for his latest article onDenverBroncosUK.com, ahead of the Broncos’ game against the Cleveland Browns.
After that three-game winning streak, it seemed the Denver Broncos had turned a corner. It seemed Vance Joseph was coming into his own as a head coach. Then Broncos Country was splashed with ice-cold water and we awoke to the same old nightmare — only we were shivering cold and soaking wet. I can’t and won’t speak for the fans, but to lose that game in that fashion was unacceptable.
What we’re seeing with Case Keenum is the psychology of a quarterback. No matter how experienced you are, when you play not to lose, that’s what you look like. When you play scared that you will turn the ball over, Keenum is what you look like. It’s a horrible spot for a quarterback to be in, regardless of who the offensive coordinator is and the plays called. However, a good coach is supposed to help the quarterback out of that funk by offering positive reinforcement. One mistake isn’t the end of the world. And that hasn’t happened, at least that we know of publicly. But at this point, given how Joseph handles this team in public (see Von Miller) it doesn’t give one confidence Joseph has done that. I think the bottom line with Keenum is that he is what he is — a middle to bottom tier quarterback who had a fluke season with the Minnesota Vikings.
The problem that never goes away…
Nothing shines a light on the incompetence of this team, coaching staff or franchise quite like the inability to cover a tight end. The Broncos did their best Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis impression in trying to cover George Kittle, and it was beyond embarrassing. But this doesn’t just fall on the players. It falls on the coaches for not using the game plan they used in the second half, though I think that was more of a reflection on Kyle Shanahan just going away from Kittle. It also falls on John Elway and his staff for not solving this issue and getting guys who can freaking cover a tight end and running back. This has been an issue for years, and yet here we are. Adam Malnati and I joke on the MHR Radio Podcast that a Denver defense hasn’t covered a tight end since the back-to-back Super Bowl years. This has to get addressed in the offseason.
Play calling issues
The fact Kittle finished five yards shy of breaking Shannon Sharpe’s all-time record for yards in a game by a tight end (214), is on Shanahan more than Joseph taking over the calls. Though if Joseph wants to do so for the rest of the season and it ensures he gets fired, yes I want him to do it.
The continued positive from this whole season is the play of the young guys and the rookies. Tim Patrick plays with the same heart and passion as Phillip Lindsay, Bradley Chubb and the rest of the 2018 class. The fact Patrick took advantage of his opportunity shouldn’t surprise people since he’s done it since training camp. While it sucks to lose a player like Emmanuel Sanders, it’s a positive in the sense the organization gets to see what they have for the future.
Can Brock provide a lift?
The only person who could help the Broncos Frequent Flyer Zone at this point is Champ Bailey. It certainly can’t hurt to have Tramaine Brock back against the Cleveland Browns, but he can’t cover a tight end and the Browns have a decent one in David Njoku. Given what we just saw, Njoku could go off in a big way. But as these things go with a horrible head coach and coaching staff, they’ll probably have Denver’s defense overcompensate for Njoku and leave Jarvis Landry wide open to go off.
The season’s on the line
It’s clear what the Broncos have to do to win Saturday’s game and keep their season/miniscule playoff hopes alive. It’s the same thing that allowed them to go on that three-game winning streak: Win despite Joseph and his staff. Denver was able to do that against the Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals. It didn’t do that against the San Francisco 49ers and we saw the result. The Broncos players will have to do that again versus Cleveland.
Some of the most historic moments in Denver’s franchise history have come against the Browns — The Drive and The Fumble. The Broncos haven’t lost to Cleveland since 1990. In the all-time regular-season series between these two teams, Denver is 20-5. Joseph has a knack for making (horrible) history as the head coach, and that continues on Saturday. Joseph becomes the first Broncos head coach to lose to Cleveland since Dan Reeves. And the Browns do it by the same score as The Fumble — 38-33.