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Broncos Game Grades: Analyzing the individual performances in a loss to the Texans

Andre Simone Avatar
November 7, 2018

Throughout the entire 2018-19 season, BSN Denver will be giving you game grades from every Denver Broncos contest. Evaluating all the starters and beyond to give you a better look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses on a game-to-game basis.

Against a hot team that leads the AFC South, the Broncos played a great game, falling just short in some key moments to the Houston Texans 19-17. We break it all down.

Standouts from the game:

Jeff Heuerman: A-

  • Heuerman was a star, creating YAC regularly in big moments all game long, transforming quick dump offs into key plays to extend drives.
  • Had a strong performance blocking as well against a stout defensive front.
  • Scored a TD on a tough grab in traffic, and made one of the plays of the game by converting 3rd-and-4 on a quick dump off, juking his defender to get past the sticks.
  • Converted 4th-and-1, as well, getting open on a block and release.
  • Dropped a 3rd-and-3 rub route that was set up perfectly, but was phenomenal otherwise.

Bradley Chubb: A

  • Chubb was impactful against the run, did a nice job in coverage, and was the Broncos most consistent pass rusher. He just keeps on raising his level of play.
  • Produced two quarterback hurries, three TFLs, and a sack.
  • He’s played much faster coming off the edge, producing a 4th-and-1 TFL and hurrying Watson to force Wolfe’s third-down sack.
  • His ability in pursuit and motor keep standing out, a big reason he got his 3rd-and-9 sack.
  • He’s been more disciplined playing contain outside which has made him a much better run defender.

Case Keenum: A

  • Keenum easily had his best game as a Bronco, leading the team on big drives, converting two fourth downs in the clutch, and coming up with a couple big third-and-long completions including a red zone TD.
  • This was the first game Keenum was able to overcome his line’s mistakes, making big plays with pressure in his face or when behind on the down and distance.
  • Had some bad luck with a tipped 3rd-and-9 pass and facing three third downs of over 10 yards.
  • Barely missed a deep ball to Courtland Sutton that could’ve been a momentum-swinging TD grab and overthrew Emmanuel Sanders on his other deep attempt.
  • Produced more tight window completions than we’ve seen all season long, and threw an absolutely gutsy 4th-and-8 pass with perfect timing and placement as he was being tossed to the ground.
  • Avoided turnovers and was only sacked twice against a really good front that produced seven QB hits.

Von Miller: A

  • Von was consistent against the run with two TFLs, and did a nice job creating pressure off the edge with two hurries and a sack.
  • He was essential in containing Deshaun Watson in the pocket, too, leading to a second down incompletion and a DeMarcus Walker sack.
  • His sack was tremendous, as he came screaming off the edge getting into the backfield sideways with his elite bend.


Domata Peko: B-

  • Peko barely had any impact plays but was strong up the middle against the run.
  • Combined with Wolfe for a run stuff in a solid game.

Derek Wolfe: B+

  • Wolfe had a strong performance getting a sack, a run stuff, and another tackle for loss.
  • Did a great job stuffing the run on a 2nd-and-2 on the opening drive.
  • Was relentless in pursuit, busting through the middle on 3rd-and-10 to force a three-and-out sack.
  • Played stout against the run all game, standing lineman up and picking his gaps to do damage.

Adam Gotsis: A-

  • When rewatching the tape, Gotsis was dominant in his 27 snaps (43.5 percent of the defensive snaps.)
  • A true presence against the run, the Aussie created three run stuffs by simply out-leveraging his blockers and closing ferociously on opposing backs. 
  • Made an amazing play in pursuit running DeAndre Hopkins down on the backside of a screen, taking down the powerful receiver like it was nothing.
  • Played a big part in the Broncos 4th-and-1 stop, closing the A-gap and forcing the RB outside where Chubb was there to stop him.
  • Even drew a holding penalty on another potential run stuff, setting Houston back in the second half.
  • His only blemish came on the opening run of the game, as a double team plowed him out the way opening up a massive hole, but he was outstanding outside of that. 

Josey Jewell: C

  • Jewell was fairly stout against the run, and considering some of the tough assignments he had in coverage, he played admirably but was also exploited at points.
  • His worst play came in the red zone, as he was beat by TE Jordan Thomas for a touchdown while playing pretty good coverage.
  • Allowed four receptions on five targets for 39 yards.  
  • Was strong when covering Hopkins out the slot—something Houston did a lot of—and wrapping up tackles when he did allow a reception. 
  • Created great penetration leading to a TFL against the run, and was solid tackling up the middle.
  • Gambled on a potential safety by letting the RB go, deciding to chase the QB down and allowing an easy completion that converted 1st-and-15, getting Houston out of danger.

Todd Davis: B

  • Davis was strong against the run and had one of his best games of the year defending the pass. 
  • Produced two run stuffs, a TFL, and was solid chasing down Watson on scrambles.
  • Was a presence up the middle of the second level, shooting gaps regularly and rarely guessing incorrectly.
  • The two times he was targeted in coverage on tight ends, he had a pass deflection in the red zone, and ran downfield with Ryan Griffin on another incomplete throw.
  • Struggled to close down on Lamar Miller in space on 3rd-and-1 after an option pass and couldn’t close down a blitz up the middle, running into Miller.

Will Parks: A-

  • Parks was superb in coverage and a presence against the run, producing a run stuff playing close to the line.
  • The one reception he allowed was to Hopkins where Parks closed downhill in a hurry and almost knocked the ball out as he corralled the receiver to the ground.
  • After initial penetration from Su’a Cravens, came in to clean up the tackle and get a TFL as well.

Justin Simmons: C-

  • Simmons had a quiet game as far as big plays were concerned but was solid in coverage, despite one bad mistake.
  • His major mistake came in coverage on the front side of Hopkins, taking a bad angle on the Texans second TD.
  • Produced two nice pressures, one on 3rd-and-11 forcing Watson out the pocket for a three-and-out stop. 

Chris Harris Jr.: A-

  • Appearing in 98 percent of the defensive snaps, Harris was only targeted three times, conceding three receptions for 18 yards.
  • Hopkins got him two of those times, converting 3rd-and-1 on a tough play for the CB to stop. 
  • All in all, Watson stayed away from No. 25 who was in lockdown mode in this game. 

Adam Jones: B+

  • Listed as the starter, Jones only appeared in 37 percent of the defensive snaps but locked Hopkins down in stretches, including a masterful pass deflection on 3rd-and-9 giving the Broncos the ball back on their final defensive stand.  
  • His one mishap came on a screen pass to Hopkins that went for 16 yards as Jones was blocked out the picture.
  • When targeted downfield on Hopkins, he was terrific, and would have had a higher grade if he saw more snaps. 

Other noteworthy defensive performances:

Tremaine Brock: D

  • Brock saw a lot of defensive snaps—appearing in over 85 percent—and got picked on a lot.
  • On five targets, he allowed four receptions for 76 yards, allowing some big grabs to DT early. 
  • He lost Hopkins towards the sideline for an easy first down gain as well. A rough outing. 

Su’a Cravens: C

  • Cravens played well rushing the passer, generating a hurry inside on an overload blitz that forced Watson out the pocket.
  • Created the initial penetration leading to a TFL, as well, and had a great play plugging the gap on another run leading to Jewell’s TFL.
  • He was flagged for holding, gifting a 3rd-and-11 conversion that nullified a stop, and allowed two receptions for 20 yards, but was solid playing close to the line.

DeMarcus Walker: B

  • Walker had his best game as a pro, forcing a clutch hold on third down as he broke into the backfield, and generating a sack by staying strong in pursuit. 


Garett Bolles: D

  • Statistically, Bolles had one of his better games, allowing just one tackle for a loss, a run stop, and only drawing one false start penalty, but the tape told a different story.
  • The LT struggled with pressure from Houston’s talented edge rushers, who hurried Keenum regularly off his side, including on the 4th-and-8 throw with the game on the line.
  • Where Bolles stood out positively was on outside runs where he got out in space and mauled.

Max Garcia: D-

  • Garcia struggled mightily in the game, allowing a sack and conceding two run stops while also getting called for a hold.
  • Was dominated by Jadeveon Clowney for a 3rd-and-5 sack on a really costly play.
  • As a run blocker, he had his moments, including leading the way for Booker’s TD on a pull block

Matt Paradis: B-

  • Playing in only 39 percent of the snaps, Paradis was his solid self against a tough D-line. 
  • He was blown up on the opening run combining with Bolles to allow a TFL but was solid after that. 

Connor McGovern: C

  • McGovern struggled to hold the point of attack, a big reason why the run game didn’t perform at the highest level in this game.
  • He was solid at center and didn’t have any major blemishes.

Jared Veldheer: D

  • Veldheer was given the tough task of limiting J.J. Watt, and he struggled, as Watt generated several QB hits and pressures on his side.
  • The veteran RT was also flagged twice for false starts, including one on the Broncos decisive final drive.
  • Denver didn’t run to the right side much, and Veldheer struggled as a run blocker, despite a couple good plays. 
  • Given the tough task he had, Veldheer battled, but he had a hard time in this one. 

Phillip Lindsay: B- 

  • Lindsay didn’t get much help from his line early on, but he also struggled to make CB Kareem Jackson miss in space in clear one-on-one opportunities on the perimeter that could’ve led to big gains. Jackson was outstanding in this one.
  • Ran tough up the middle and started to get in a rhythm, breaking multiple tackles and converting a tough 3rd-and-1.
  • Made some highlight-reel-worthy runs on outside receptions, pitches, and runs up the middle in the second half, generating tons of yards after contact.

Emmanuel Sanders: C

  • Sanders had a quiet game, hauling in six receptions on nine targets with the second lowest average yards per reception on the Broncos.
  • Stood out on plays at the end of the half and in the final drive—including an incredible acrobatic grab on 4th-and-8.
  • Beat the corner deep but was overthrown by Keenum on what should’ve been a huge play for the offense. 
  • His worst play was a drop on 2nd-and-8 during the final drive.

Courtland Sutton: C

  • Sutton was a big-play weapon, generating chunk plays and finding holes in coverage to come up with big third-down conversions.
  • Was flagged for an illegal block in the back and had a huge potential TD knocked out of his hands on a deep ball. 

Other noteworthy offensive performances:

Devontae Booker: F

  • Booker had an absolutely awful fumble on a screen that looked promising, a terrible, terrible play.
  • He was completely stopped in his tracks twice on short-runs, first on 2nd-and-1 and then on 3rd-and-1.
  • Fell down on a wheel route over the middle leaving Keenum without his check down.
  • Went down on a short reception where it seemed he was untouched and could’ve run for more yards.
  • Ran in a touchdown untouched but was disappointing in so many ways otherwise.

Elijah Wilkinson: C-

  • Wilkinson was thrust into the lineup at RG with Paradis out, and McGovern moved to center. He played okay but was also a bit lost.
  • Let Angelo Blackston slip by—combined with Veldheer—to allow a run stop.
  • Was dominated on an inside stunt by Watt for a massive seven-yard sack. 

Matt LaCosse: D

  • LaCosse caught a wide open pass and scampered down the sideline for 44 yards.
  • Otherwise, he really struggled to block. He was completely beat by Whitney Mercilus on 1st-and-goal, forcing Keenum to throw the ball away, and then was destroyed on the very next play allowing a TFL on an outside run.

Special Teams: D-

When you miss the game-winning kick without producing anything in the return game, you’re doomed to have a poor grade. 

Not only did Brandon McManus miss the final 51-yard field goal attempt, but the kick was also poorly executed with a high snap.

Punter Colby Wadman had a good day, with his best punt coming in the fourth quarter as he pinned the Texans inside their own 10-yard line. He salvaged the special teams’ grade. 

Coaching: F

With a banged up group, Bill Musgrave made the best of things with a solid game plan, staying committed to running the ball and making a patchwork group of receivers work. 

Joe Woods’ ‘D’ played great, but it’s inexplicable how they keep conceding TDs on busted coverages with poor communication. 

Vance Joseph had some really questionable game managing decisions on the two field goal attempts that went wide at the end of the first half and end of the fourth quarter. Those decisions cost Denver the victory.


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