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Broncos Game Grades: Analyzing the individual performances in a win over the Bengals

Andre Simone Avatar
December 4, 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.

The Denver Broncos took care of business on the road against the down-and-out Cincinnati Bengals, winning their third-consecutive game 24-17.

A group of spectacular rookies carried the load for Denver, with one earning the first grade above A+ of the year, in an epic performance.

Here’s how everyone fared.

Standouts from the game:

Phillip Lindsay: A++

  • Lindsay was unstoppable, gashing the Bengals defense regularly on outside runs. His speed was just too much to handle for any perimeter defender who tried to beat No. 30 to the corner.
  • His first touchdown run was special, showing incredible patience and stunning vision, stopping in his tracks once he saw his lane outside was closed, and cutting it back inside for the score.
  • The second TD was even better, as he exploded on an outside toss and was off to the races, going 65-yards untouched.
  • On a season-high 19 carries, he ran tough up the middle, converting multiple short down and distance runs.

Bradley Chubb: A

  • Chubb was tremendous in all phases and had the game-sealing play with a monstrous strip sack, abusing LT Cordy Glenn off the edge and tomahawking the ball out.
  • Stayed disciplined against RPOs, forcing a run stuff on a QB keeper and harassing Jeff Driskel on a throw out of the same look to force an incompletion.
  • Played well in coverage, getting targeted twice to the flats and only allowing one four-yard reception.
  • Added a strong tackle in pursuit, chasing a WR screen down.
  • He had another QB pressure and was just about perfect aside from losing contain on a Joe Mixon run.

Courtland Sutton: A-

  • Sutton started off slow, only to dominate in flashes, as Keenum threw it up for grabs and the big rookie took full advantage, bullying defenders on contested balls.
  • Made a beautiful TD grab, coming back to the ball, climbing the latter and hauling in the 30-yard pass.
  • Shortly afterward, No. 14 dominated on a 3rd-and-6, back-shoulder throw down the sideline, making the contested 17-yard grab look easy.
  • Maybe his best play of the game was his 27-yard grab on 3rd-and-7 late in the fourth, coming back to the ball and rolling to the ground to pull in a low throw behind him.
  • Sutton did a good job blocking for the run, too, both on crackbacks and outside against DBs.
  • He wasn’t perfect, with an unnecessary roughness penalty, and struggled to get open underneath, while also allowing a tackle for a loss on a block gone wrong.

Von Miller: A

  • Miller had some insane flashes, getting 1.5 sacks and adding a QB hit that led to an intentional grounding flag.
  • Was flagged for illegal hands to the face—a dubious penalty to say the least—on a highlight move, flattening the offensive tackle by jamming him in the chest.
  • Created a ton of pressure and pushed the Bengals’ tackles into the backfield on a regular basis, he got a sack in the fourth quarter, staying disciplined and then hunting the QB with great finishing ability.
  • Drew a double team that made Chubb’s strip sack possible.


Domata Peko: D

  • Peko played in 50-percent of the defensive snaps and his impact wasn’t felt against the run.
  • His biggest contribution came on an encroachment penalty.

Derek Wolfe: N/A

  • Wolfe had one flash play; a fine run stuff off the strong side, where he swallowed up the RB as he ran through his gap.
  • Injured a rib which limited him to only 26.5-percent of the snaps.

Adam Gotsis: B+

  • Gotsis was a pest early, penetrating inside twice for big run stuffs as his blockers couldn’t keep him off his spot.
  • Created pressure up the middle on a stunt tipping the ball on 3rd-and-17 to start the second half.
  • Got in Driskel’s face, forcing a rushed, errant throw on Justin Simmons’ interception.
  • The flash plays he made had a big impact.

Josey Jewell: N/A

  • Jewell whiffed on the Mixon up the middle leading to a huge gain, he injured his ankle after that which ended his game—see Joseph Jones’ grade who took over for Jewell.

Todd Davis: B+

  • Davis was strong against the run, showing some impressive sideline-to-sideline mobility and sharp instincts.
  • Made a significant impact against the run with three TFLs and two run stuffs, flying through gaps and chasing down outside runs consistently.
  • Was targeted a lot in the passing game, conducting himself well on 11 targets, allowing nine receptions for 69 yards.
  • Missed a pair of tackles on a target to the flats and another underneath but was solid overall.

Darian Stewart: C

  • Stewart had a couple highlight plays over the middle; first delivering a monster hit on Tyler Boyd after a 20-yard catch, and then getting his hands on an overthrown pass, but he was unable to haul in the pick.
  • Made a couple strong tackles in space on Mixon when the RB broke through.
  • Missed two costly tackles, one on Mixon to the flats and the other on Cincy’s lone TD as the WR bounced off him on his way to the end zone.

Justin Simmons: B-

  • With Chris Harris Jr. injured early, Simmons was forced to play a lot of coverage in the slot and made the best of a tough assignment, allowing six grabs for 75 yards on eight targets.
  • Locked down throws up the seam. Even when Boyd made a great play on the ball, Simmons was right there.
  • Struggled some defending crossing routes.
  • Playing as the high-safety, he had a pick thrown right at him and was strong against the run when needed.

Chris Harris Jr.: N/A

  • Harris made one simple tackle, and that was it for him. Rookie Isaac Yiadom took over for No. 25.

Bradley Roby: C

  • Roby locked down his side for most of the game, jumping routes and forcing a PBU while only allowing two receptions on four targets despite playing in 98.5 percent of the defensive snaps.
  • Problem is he allowed the Bengals lone TD, playing too soft, getting turned around, and whiffing on the tackle after the reception was made.

Other noteworthy defensive performances:

Joseph Jones: B

  • The special teams’ star took over for Jewell and played fast, flying to his spots and making tough tackles in space, including a nice stop in the red zone to hold Mixon short of the goal line.
  • Set the tone early with a run stuff; bursting up the middle to shut down the running lane.
  • Played strong coverage to the flats, holding Bengals’ TE’s to two-yards on the lone target that came his way on 35 percent of the snaps. 

Shelby Harris: B+

  • Harris was, once again, a crucial player in creating pressure for Denver up the middle, producing a terrific sack on a swim move and another half sack in pursuit.

Isaac Yiadom: C+

  • Yiadom took over for Harris, playing in 85 percent of the snaps.
  • Played fast in pursuit on an end around, chasing John Ross across the formation to get a run stuff.
  • Was lucky to have some drops to his side as he played too soft and didn’t react quickly to close on receivers as they broke on their routes.
  • Allowed only one reception for 11 yards on four targets. Was flagged for a personal foul on a helmet to helmet tackle although it was a questionable call.

Sua Cravens: C+

  • Cravens played in 50 percent of the snaps and was targeted three times allowing two receptions for 31 yards.
  • Took a few bad angles and whiffed on a Giovanni Bernard 3rd-and-7 screen pass but played decent coverage most of the game and was a steady force against the run game.


Garett Bolles: B-

  • Bolles’ highlight was getting out in space on a pull and sealing off the perimeter for Lindsay’s incredible 65-yard TD run.
  • Was strong run blocking and sealing the edge on outside runs.
  • Held his own in pass protection but also allowed a QB hit and a pressure off the edge that flushed Keenum out the pocket.
  • Allowed a sack in pursuit on 3rd-and-7, as Keenum was forced to scramble after Billy Turner was beat up the middle and Sam Hubbard—Bolles’ defender—pulled the QB down.
  • Not perfect, but another solid outing.

Billy Turner: C-

  • Turner’s ability to block on the move on pulls played a big part in the running game’s success.
  • He struggled blocking Geno Atkins getting beat up the middle on 3rd-and-7, forcing Keenum right into a sack.
  • Was beat three times on TFLs, one in particular by Carlos Dunlap who smoked him off his inside shoulder on 3rd-and-2.
  • Wasn’t always the most agile getting out in space, slipping a few times and allowing negative plays. A mixed bag.

Connor McGovern: D+

  • McGovern looked shaky, often getting stood up and pushed back into the backfield, leading to two run stuffs.
  • Atkins gave him trouble, too, beating him on a swim and getting into the backfield to force Keenum to throw the ball away on 3rd-and-8.
  • The center struggled on shotgun snaps early but found his groove later on.
  • Despite his struggles, McGovern managed to avoid major mistakes.

Elijah Wilkinson: C-

  • Wilkinson had issues with Atkins, too, who at one point dominated the right guard flushing Keenum out the pocket on a nine-yard scramble.
  • Struggled late to create push in obvious running situations, but got to the second level on key chunk plays by Lindsay most of the game.
  • Wasn’t always perfect, but held his own as a run blocker and pass protector.

Jared Veldheer: A

  • Veldheer was rock solid with a great block for Lindsay in the fourth quarter, pushing a defender 10-yards downfield and opening up a huge hole.
  • Got to the second level consistently and did a terrific job run blocking all game.
  • Had a close to flawless performance in pass protection.

Emmanuel Sanders: C-

  • Everything was hard for Sanders in this one, as he struggled to find any sort of daylight.
  • Ran a perfect route on a quick out to the sideline to convert 3rd-and-3, showing off mesmerizing footwork and hands.
  • Struggled to wiggle free on a screen and later on a reverse run where he didn’t have blocks set up downfield.
  • His best play might’ve come s a blocker on Lindsay’s big TD run, taking out CB Darquez Dennard.
  • Got loose a few times deep but Keenum didn’t see him or have the pocket to step into the throw and make a play.

Matt LaCosse: C-

  • Targeted only once in the passing game, LaCosse held his own as a blocker and made sure Jeff Heuerman wasn’t missed too much.

Case Keenum: B-

  • Keenum got the ball out quickly and really picked his spots, playing conservative at first and then capitalizing on turnovers with vertical throws to Sutton.
  • Had his best performance of the year on third down, converting 4-of-7 attempts, one of which was a special play on 3rd-and-10, recovering a low snap and throwing a dart on the run.
  • Best throws were on deep passes to Sutton, getting the ball out quickly and hitting the rookie despite off ball placement.
  • Didn’t see or have protection on a few deep routes by Sanders, playing overly conservative at times.
  • Ball placement wasn’t always on point, but he did enough to win.

Other noteworthy offensive performances:

Devontae Booker: C

  • Booker did some nice things as a receiver, especially when flexed out wide where he converted 3rd-and-10 for 30 yards.
  • Proved to be a valuable safety blanket in the red zone as a receiver.
  • His only blemish came in pass protection with a poor effort on Jordan Willis who was barely touched on his way to a sack.

Royce Freeman: C

  • Freeman looked the best he’s been since returning from injury, playing with better vision and patience and showing off his power to finish runs.
  • Was disciplined following his blocks and didn’t unnecessarily push any runs outside.
  • Had only one negative run and did a nice job running between the tackles, bringing a different element to the ground game when Lindsay was on the sideline.

Special Teams: B+

Punter Colby Wadman had another great day, nailing four of his six punts into the opposing 20-yard line, one within the five.

The punting unit had an extraordinary game, recovering a muffed punt and consistently flipping the field.

Brandon McManus missed a 50-yard field goal that could’ve given the Broncos the early lead. 

Special teams’ only other mishap was a block in the back flag on a punt return.

Coaching: A

Bill Musgrave finally fed Lindsay the rock more than 15 times, and it paid off in a major way. The offense unleashed some creative play-action bootlegs with guards pulling the opposite way to really sell the run, nothing came of it, but it was nice to see a creative wrinkle.

Joe Woods had a tough task with Harris’ injury and countered it by using Simmons in the slot a bunch. The emphasis on stopping the run worked well enough, though coverage was still too soft outside.

Vance Joseph’s most debatable decision was punting with four minutes reaming in the contest instead of attempting a 50-plus yard field goal, a good call, which led to Chubb’s strip sack two plays later.

His game management was good throughout, and the team played hard, disciplined football on the road, in what might’ve been Joseph’s best coaching job of the year.


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