Watching the defense dismantle the Bears reminded me of an episode of Oprah only instead of everyone getting a car: “You get a sack. You get a sack. Everybody gets a sack.”
The Bronco defense chalked up 7 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception in what was a flawless defensive showing on Thursday night.
Even without the aid of Von Miller, Demarcus Ware, Chris Harris Jr., and Aquib Talib, who sat this game out, the Broncos, literally rolled over the Bears.
The Bronco’s second and third string defense held the Bears to a mere 130 yards of total offense and only 8 first downs.
There are a few new names on the Broncos this year. Jared Crick, 6’4”, 285 lb. defensive end and human wrecking ball was in the Bear’s back field deeper and more often than Bear running backs. He disrupted Hoyer and Cutler constantly forcing bad throws and he picked up one sack.
Crick was drafted out of Nebraska in the fourth round of the 2012 draft by the Houston Texans. In his four years with the Texans, he had 5.5 sacks, 81 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 13 passes defended. He will be a great addition to the depth chart for the Broncos.
Another newby on defense this year is rookie line backer Vontarrius Dora. Dora goes 6’4” and 256 pounds, from Louisiana Tech. He was an undrafted free agent. Dora finished the game with 2 tackles, 2 sacks and 1 forced fumble in his first NFL action in his career. He was a name that many didn’t really know of prior to the game, but 2 sacks and 1 forced fumble will make fans learn your name quickly.
Special teams showed up big time too in this first preseason game. Bennie Fowler, my personal pick for break out player of the year this season, blocked a Bears punt, that was recovered by the Broncos Zaire Anderson, in the Bears end zone for 6. This is Fowler’s second year as a Bronco. He’s 6’1” and 212 lbs of hustle, both as a wide receiver and special teams man. He had 3 receptions for just 18 yards Thursday night, but nearly scored a touchdown on a perfectly thrown ball by Trevor Siemian that was knocked away by Bears cornerback Deiondre Hall in what I considered to be a missed pass interference call.
The bad news for Fowler is he suffered an elbow injury and will miss several weeks.
Punters Britton Colquitt and rookie Riley Dixon pretty much broke even on their competition for the punter’s job, but Colquitt did make one coffin corner punt that will give him a tenuous lead for the moment.
The Broncos have been looking for explosive kick and punt returners for a long time. They now have a couple of rookies who have the potential to be real assets in that department.
Kalif Raymond demonstrated quickness and shiftiness on his returns, and finished the night with a 10.7-yard average on three punt returns and a 26-yard kickoff return. Raymond showed good vision, and improved his fielding of kicks as the night progressed.
Fellow rookie Bralon Addison showed a nice burst to get outside of traffic on a punt return with 3:32 left in the third quarter that was nullified by an illegal block in the back. Addison finished with a 13.5-yard average on two punt returns and a 23-yard kickoff return. Addison also made a good decision to let a punt sail over his head for a touchback with 3:31 remaining in regulation.
The fly in the ointment on special teams was Brandon McMannus. The place kicker was only 2-4 on his field-goal attempts; one was blocked and his 46-yard attempt in the third quarter hit the right upright.
The oft questioned Bronco’s offensive line was busy Thursday night.
Darrion Weems in particular was a busy man; he started at right guard and then moved outside to tackle, keeping him on the field well into the fourth quarter. Michael Schofield, who started at left tackle, also remained in the game until the second quarter.
James Ferentz played from the first through the fourth quarter after dealing with knee swelling on Monday, and did a good job getting set and anchoring the line, but was called for unnecessary roughness, wiping out a 21-yard Lynch pass completion. Dillon Day, a practice-squad center last year, got a long look at left guard, replacing starter Max Garcia in the first quarter and remaining on the field well into Paxton Lynch’s stint.
The line did not surrender a first-half sack, although Lynch, Sanchez, and Siemian had to escape pressure. It did endure a spate of penalties on its next-to-last possession of the first half, with two holding calls — one of which was part of offsetting penalties — and a tripping infraction forcing the Broncos into long-yardage situations. But for the most part, it was a solid start.
And now what we’ve all been waiting for! The three way battle for the supreme honor of being the guy to replace NFL legend and pizza salesman Peyton Manning.
Mark Sanchez (AKA Butt fumble) started at quarterback for the Broncos on Thursday night.
For Mark Sanchez, the night was oh-so-close to being perfect.
Showing good poise under pressure, he diced up the Bears’ first-team defense during his first quarter of work. On his touchdown strike to Thomas, he diagnosed the gap in Chicago’s deep coverage and flung up a pass despite a crushing rush up the middle from former Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan. Sanchez hung tough under pressure.
But on the next possession, Sanchez was intercepted by Jerrell Freeman after trying to find Bennie Fowler in an area filled with three defenders. Sanchez rolled right, and Chicago’s defenders were waiting for a play that proved to be the difference between a 126.7 rating and the 91.5 rating with which he finished the night.
“I thought Mark was really good; he just had that one mistake with the football that were continuing to try and correct. He knows that,” Head Coach Gary Kubiak said
Sanchez ended the night 10-13, for 99 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.
Trevor Siemian’s second quarter saw some ups and downs. He was effective on short and underneath routes, as he is during practice. But he also couldn’t connect on three deep attempts up the left sideline. Chicago’s Deiondre Hall was there to prevent two of the completions.
“He put some deep balls in good places on plays we should have made for him,” Kubiak said.
But Siemian’s progress this summer was apparent later in the second quarter, when he successfully escaped pressure, rolled right and found Jordan Taylor for a 22-yard gain to set up a field-goal attempt. Siemian looked much better under pressure than he did during practice this week.
Siemian finished the night, 7-12, for 88 yards, no TDs and no INTs.
Paxton Lynch struggled early; on his first series, the offense went three-and-out as he tried to scramble out of a pass rush on both of his pass plays.
But he settled down, particularly under center, and showed more patience in the pocket as his time on the field progressed. Six minutes into the fourth quarter, he stood tall in the pocket and fired a 22-yard strike down the middle for Jordan Taylor; he also might have had another completion to Taylor up the right sideline two plays later if Chicago defensive back Joel Ross had not reached out and grabbed Taylor as the pass was fired, leading to a pass-interference penalty.
That drive eventually petered out, but Lynch showed another sign of progress later in the drive; as he rolled right under a heavy rush, he did a good job keeping his eyes downfield and motioning to get his receivers into better position.
“Paxton, for the first time out, I thought he was very solid. His reactions were good,” Kubiak said.
Lynch ended the night completing 6 of 7 passes for 74 yards. He took three sacks and was the only quarterback to not lead a scoring drive, but showed improvement.
Bottom line after one preseason game?
The Broncos need to score more than 1 offensive touchdown to have a chance to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
The quarterback position is most likely going to go to the guy with the most NFL experience, Mark Sanchez, unless and until he starts throwing bombs to the wrong team, in which case Siemian will be the starter.
Lynch showed some real promise and with some work could be ready to lead the team by next season.
The defense is going to break records this year. The only problem as of now, is that Aquib Talib will likely be suspended for at least 8 games for shooting himself in the leg during an incident at a bar this off season.
It’s only the first game of preseason. There’s a lot of football to be played yet, so let’s get this party started.