Originally posted on BroncoTalk  |  Last updated 1/15/13
Jacoby Jones burns the Denver Broncos defense for the game tying touchdown. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) On Friday January 11th, 2013, a caller called into 104.3′s The Drive. During his call the man had a simple request, that the home crowd needed to be loud… He went on to say that he hadn’t heard noise coming out of Mile High in weeks. The Denver Broncos own home crowd had in this caller’s opinion been very quite over the past few weeks as Denver cruised through the last few weeks that capped off an eleven game winning streak. The Drive host D-Mac immediately shut the caller down, nearly cutting him off completely as he disagreed, defending the deafening voice that makes up one of the greatest home field advantages in all of sport. It is likely that the fan had likely been watching the game from somewhere outside of the blue stands that coat the interior of Sports Authority Field at Mile High. It is better to bite your tongue and be thought of as an idiot, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. Trindon Holliday proved that saying true as the Baltimore Ravens punted him the ball after their first possession and nothing short of the voice of God boomed from inside to outside Mile High and catalyzed Holliday’s prolific day. And the blame was everywhere… Fans grumbled immediately as Joe Flacco answered right back targeting the Broncos’ shut down corner Champ Bailey on a 2nd and 2 for a 41-yard touchdown to Torrey Smith. Fans were all over the place… Bailey has lost a step, he’s too slow now, et cetera… The reality is that at ten minutes and forty two seconds in the first quarter the ball was snapped, the ball landed at ten minutes and thirty two seconds (that’s ten seconds later). If you watch the highlight you will see not one, but two safeties trailing Bailey and Smith into the end zone. That is why they are called safeties, they have the corner’s back over the top. However, without having the luxury of knowing exactly what was called, it is impossible to point fingers. A little logic and a shallow knowledge of defense would point to the fact that Bailey likely should not have been all alone fifty plus yards from where the ball was snapped. Maybe it was Peyton Manning’s fault… Although Eric Decker would take the blame for this one post game; on the following series Manning passed to Decker on 3rd and 7 from the Broncos own 29 yard line and the ball was intercepted by Baltimore’s Corey Graham, then returned for a touchdown. What most fans saw was that Decker was in fact having his arm held back by corner Chykie Brown as the ball traveled to him, allowing for the pass to bounce off of Decker into the arms of Graham. This after a questionable pass interference call on Denver’s Tony Carter to set up the Ravens previous touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. Denver 0, pass interference ( both called and uncalled) 2. Then again, it couldn’t have been Manning’s fault… Some like to call Peyton, ‘The Sheriff’, I like to call him, ‘The Artist’ and not because he makes black and white silent movies that go on to win Best Picture. Manning orchestrated an 11 play drive that went 84 yards from the right side to the left side of your dial. Surprisingly Denver was only called for one penalty on that series, a five yarder on Manning for illegal pass downfield. There were no more points until deep into the second quarter, but there were three more penalties, two on Denver (remember Elvis Dumervil being ‘offsides’?) and one on Baltimore. The points came via a spectacular connection between Manning and Knowshon Moreno that was made possible via a 32 yard completion to Decker. Of course there was Matt Prater’s field goal miss with one minute and twenty-one seconds left in the first half. Three points would have prevented the tying situation that happened at the end of the game, but no, it isn’t Prater’s fault that the Broncos lost either. Prater’s miss ultimately turned a three point loss into a ten point loss On a short field Flacco went again at Bailey, connected with Anquan Boldin for an 11 yard pass before connecting with Smith again (also covered by Bailey) a play later for a 32 yard touchdown with safety Mike Adams lurking. Denver got the ball back, but with thirty-six seconds left, three time outs, one of the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL history and the ball back after the half– they ran the ball once and left the field. Holliday was not done for the day though… Coming out of halftime Heart Attack Holliday struck again, this time with a 104 yard kickoff return for a touchdown. More penalties– another Dumervil sack negated, offsides on number 92. The referees could not contest the fact that Flacco fumbled on at Denver’s 43 and Keith Brooking recovered. Could be Kuper’s fault… Denver would fumble themselves and after a pass interference play that went against Baltimore (netting three whole yards), a Chris Kuper holding penalty (ten yards) it happened– Manning fumbled, but that too was negated by two illegal use of hands by the Ravens defense. Despite the fact that penalties finally seemed to be going Denver’s way the team ran Jacob Hester up the middle on third and five. Then punted. Manning later would take credit for this call, saying that he audibled to it. It was Manning’s fault… After a back-and-forth of nothingness, the ‘Tuck Rule’ once again reared its ugly head when Manning pumped, lost the ball as he was hit and it was ruled a fumble. The replay official called for a replay, but the fumble that was called on the field stood. This play and call will have more implications than just contributing to a Denver loss, the referee essentially negated a rule that sent Tom Brady’s New England Patriots to the Super Bowl in 2001. No, it was the Broncos’ defenses fault… Five straight Ray Rice rushes later, the game was tied at 28-28. Could the referees be conspiring against Denver… It was more than seven and a half minutes into the fourth quarter before the Broncos scored again. As Manning lobbed the ball to Demaryius Thomas, who through sheer will power and the brilliant collective blocking of the Denver offense made the score 35-28 Broncos. On the following series, Flacco and Boldin would connect twice for a total of 36 yards, Rice ran for 13 yards and Jacoby Jones and Dennis Pitta dropped crucial passes to force a turnover on downs at the Broncos’ 31 yard line. What did Hillman get all diva about carrying the team? He could have at least ran six times in a row… With three minutes twelve seconds left and Baltimore possessing only two more time outs rookie Ronnie Hillman’s number was called not once, not twice, not three or four, but five times in a row before Britton Colquitt punted with one minute and fifteen seconds left in the game. I like Quinton Carter moore anyway… The Ravens took over with one minute and nine seconds left, an incomplete pass to Pitta, a Flacco scamper for seven yards and then it happened– with 41 seconds left in the game Flacco went deep to Jones. This time Jones would hold onto the ball as Rahim Moore jumped for a pass that was far over his head and came up with nothing but air. Lost in all the self blame by Moore is the fact that covering Jones was Tony Carter, who despite playing seven yards off of Jones was beat five yards later and was never able to come more than six yards within Jones after getting beat. Also lost is the fact that the Broncos defense was in a three deep prevent defense and had eight men in coverage. Prevent defense always works… Dave Logan the voice of the Denver Broncos and local high school football coaching legend explained on Monday during one Broncos Huddle segment that ten times out of ten a three deep prevent defense prevents a touchdown. Adding credence to the defensive play call. It was simply a fluke, an exception, a once in a lifetime happening that just so happened to go against the Broncos. So it’s history’s fault… Let’s go back though, let’s go back to Week 9, the first time Denver employed a similar ‘wait and let the defense stop them’ strategy. This was against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Broncos won. Week 11 against the San Diego Chargers Denver employs the same strategy, Broncos win 30-23. The next week in Kansas City against the Chiefs, the Broncos employ the same strategy, Denver wins 17-9. Week 13 this time against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Broncos again let the defense win the game for them and the defense does, this time it is 31-23. So you can’t really fault John Fox for not going for more of a home run hit prior to the Ravens getting the ball back, it did work the four out of four times the Broncos had used the strategy. The numbers were in Fox’s corner and if it ain’t broke, play Foxball. What happened after the Ravens scored though is what had Denver fans up in arms and calling for Mike Shanahan’s return. With thirty one seconds left and two time outs to spend Fox called for the team to kneel on the ball and send it to overtime. Fox would cite that the Broncos appeared to be shell shocked from the previous 70 yard touchdown and he did not feel comfortable having the offense attempt to score, liking the team to a punch drunk boxer. I have never been a boxing manager, though I do not think that Fox has either, so we are equally qualified on this… If you have a punch drunk boxer the last thing that you do is send him out for another round, never would you take a risk at the brain damage that would be inflicted by what turned out to be several rounds. Drunk or not… This is the playoffs and fortune favors the bold. Yet, despite all of this rational Fox was supposedly implementing; it is feeling like negative ten degrees outside at this point, the packed crowd is still somehow engaged and if percentages were being called in I would be willing to guess that the likelihood of taking several shots at the end zone outweighed the likelihood of going into overtime and winning. Heck if Fox was worried about a possible turnover, I guarantee the Ravens would have gone for broke and tried to score on their opportunity with less than twenty seconds left and no touchdowns… It is called the victory formation, because that is what you do when you are winning… I am not blaming Fox and despite their being two times more penalties in this game than any other playoff game last weekend (18 penalties in the Baltimore-Denver game to nine being the most in any other), I don’t know that you can blame it solely on the penalties either. What the team is going to have to do out of necessity from this point forward is out fox Fox and win despite itself. There is a really young team that will only get better by next season, but the leaders of this team are starting to show their age. There is no one draft pick, no single position that anyone can point to and say here, fix this. The Broncos will have to fix their head, their decision making; this means their drafting, this means their statistics and percentages. Speaking of statistics, how many times have you heard coaches say that you can skew statistics any way you please, why then credit them for bad mistakes? The drafting errors… Denver passed on an enormous amount of talent last April, trading back and not grabbing Dont’a Hightower or Doug Martin, grabbing Derek Wolfe over Janoris Jenkins, taking Brock Osweiler when Russell Wilson was available (I know that I am going to get killed for that one). The fact is that from the last two drafts, the Broncos have four starters (if you count Wolfe). In trades this off season, both Asante Samuel and Maurice Jones Drew could have been wearing orange for next to nothing, neither did, both ended up playing positions that Denver found themselves in need of this year. Last year prior to the game against the New England Patriots Dennis Allen was allowed to interview with the Oakland Raiders, the Broncos lost. This season Mike McCoy was allowed to interview with a plethora of teams prior to the Ravens game, the Broncos lost. Now, I know that teams can’t stop position coaches from interviewing for a head coaching position, but look how other teams have handled it. There is nothing cutthroat about this team anymore, which is usually okay and has worked out for Denver every time that it has not been necessary. Now look at the times that it has been necessary, the times when it was absolutely necessary for Denver to step on an opponents throat… Those times have left us in times like these. The Broncos had the iron jawline to start Tim Tebow, they had the marbles to trade him last off season, but went soft at the end and left Peter Tebow laughing. So as the players work this off season and will inevitably get better I hope that the organization and those that run it will also get better. You want some hope fans? Peyton Manning had this to say about his cold weather performance on Sunday, “Next year, the Super Bowl’s in New York. So that was a good hurdle for me to be effective in those type of conditions.” He’s already preparing for Super Bowl XLVII, let’s hope that John Elway and John Fox are on board and I think that they are on their way. Monday the Broncos picked up the option on Manning’s contract that will extend him for the next two seasons.
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