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Broncos Game Grades: Analyzing the individual performances in the loss to the Browns

Andre Simone Avatar
December 18, 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 Broncos hopes of making the playoffs were dashed in a 17-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns, getting outplayed offensively and coming up short in key moments. We break it all down with only two standouts and a whole lot more.

Standouts from the game:

Adam Gotsis: A-

  • Gotsis had the two biggest plays for Denver with a huge strip sack to completely flip momentum and then gave the team new life on a 4th-and-1 TFL at the death, firing through the line to make a perfect tackle.
  • Added a key pass deflection to end the first half.
  • Combined with Peko for a strong run stuff at the end of the game.
  • His one negative play came on a Nick Chubb 40-yard run late in the fourth as he was unable to get off his block and close on the play.

Will Parks: A-

  • Parks was all over the place, playing instinctual coverage as the deep safety and reacting quickly to close on plays downhill in underneath coverage.
  • His highlight of the game was a masterful pass deflection on a deep target as the high safety, flying over the top of the receiver to tip the ball in the nick of time.
  • Was beat by David Njoku on a crosser and forced to hold allowing the 4th-and-3 conversion despite being pretty close to making a play on the ball.
  • Tackled soundly against the run.


Domata Peko: C+

  • Peko was more active against the run than he’s been in the past month, stuffing the run regularly with two run stuffs and another assist—with two of those coming late in the fourth quarter as the Browns tried to milk the clock. 
  • He was also guilty on a few broken arm tackles as Chubb busted through his gap for big gains.
  • Flagged for holding.
  • In a game where the run defense wasn’t the stoutest, he had his flash plays but was also part of the issue, moving a bit slowly laterally and allowing some big gains through his gaps.

Derek Wolfe: C

  • Dealing with a nagging rib injury, Wolfe should be commended for playing 62 percent of the snaps and having an impact against the run with two stuffs, playing stout in the first half.
  • Struggled to win the leverage battle as the game wore on and wasn’t as impactful in the second half.
  • Had little impact against the pass.

Bradley Chubb: C

  • Chubb started off strong with some big plays against the run, setting a strong edge and closing down runs.
  • Disciplined in his gaps, he managed to get a stuff on Chubb, standing up his cousin in the hole for no gain.
  • Produced a huge 3rd-and-5 pressure coming off the edge, dominating Njoku and bull rushing him into the QB to force an incompletion.
  • Couldn’t contain Baker Mayfield on a scramble to his side, whiffing on the tackle as the QB beat him for a nine-yard gain.
  • Produced another hurry on Mayfield, though the QB still completed a pass in an evening where No. 55 wasn’t his best rushing the passer.
  • Struggled against the run later in the game, missing two separate tackles that led to big gains as he couldn’t set a strong edge.

Josey Jewell: C+

  • Jewell got the start but saw fewer snaps with Brandon Marshall back in the lineup, which limited his impact.
  • Did a decent job against the run but also had a missed tackle up the middle as Chubb got loose for a huge gain up the gut.
  • Tackled well in space when targeted in the passing game with a strong stop on a Chubb quick slant.

Todd Davis: C-

  • In part due to Marshall’s return, Davis didn’t play as much—71 percent of snaps—and while he wasn’t tested in the passing game, his impact against the run was fairly limited.
  • Missed a tackle on a Chubb run up the middle conceding the first-round gain.
  • Was flagged for holding in coverage on Njoku, on what looked like a great PD.
  • Got a key QB hit on a blitz up the middle that stalled out a Browns drive at the end of the half, and added a great TFL bursting up the A-gap to force the stop on 3rd-and-13 on a botched RPO handoff.

Von Miller: C

  • Von got his record sack off a stunt for a third-down stop when the Broncos needed it most with several corners out.
  • Couldn’t get through on 3rd-and-13. Focused more on maintaining contain than getting after the QB.
  • Forced a nice QB hit on a quicks pass but Peko was flagged for holding, nullifying the play.
  • A limited impact in a game that was on the line until the very end.

Darian Stewart: C

  • Stewart did a nice job flying downhill and breaking into the backfield to assist Peko on a run stuff.
  • Was flagged for holding on offsetting penalties that didn’t hurt the team.
  • Didn’t always react the quickest in underneath coverage, allowing two receptions for 31 yards but managed to not let any big plays get past him.

Justin Simmons: B-

  • Simmons was targeted eight times, conceding five receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown as Antonio Callaway beat him on a quick slant on the goal line.
  • Tackled well in space, consistently putting an end to long gains.
  • Produced a great sideline tackle down in the red zone on Njoku stopping him short of the sticks on third down.
  • Played well in coverage in the first half, winning inside leverage and forcing receivers to go where he wanted, forcing the Dymonte Thomas pick as well.
  • Was called for holding on a double move nullifying a sack and completely lost Jarvis Landry on a fake screen for a big gain early.
  • Though far from perfect, Simmons had a strong performance playing coverage all over.

Tremaine Brock: B-

  • Brock allowed four receptions for 59 yards off nine targets but played a really good game aside from the touchdown he allowed, where he was still in pretty good coverage.
  • Got beaten deep on 3rd-and-9 conceding the opening TD to Breshad Perriman as he couldn’t get turned around to make a play on the ball as the pass went right over his outstretched hand. 
  • Played sticky and physical in coverage down the sideline most of the game with only 50 percent of his targets resulting in a reception.

Bradley Roby: B+

  • Roby had a quiet game on four targets only allowing one catch for 12 yards.
  • Made a nice play on the ball resulting in a PBU on a throw that was behind Landry to the sideline.
  • Allowed the 3rd-and-1 conversion on a Callaway crosser as the ball flew inches above his outstretched fingers, but was clean otherwise. 

Other noteworthy defensive performances:

Brandon Marshall: B-

  • Appearing in 53 percent of the defensive snaps, Marshall played strong coverage in his return allowing two catches for 10 yards as his reaction underneath closed up a lot of easy routes.
  • Was beat on a run up the middle picking the wrong lane as Duke Johnson took off for 15-yards,  but was solid all considered.

Shelby Harris: D+

  • Harris wasn’t his best against the run, struggling to beat double teams that sealed the edge opening up huge holes. 

  • Showed great pursuit to close down a screen on the backside with a violent tackle to force a short gain.

Zach Kerr: B

  • Kerr had some really nice moments like a key deflection on 3rd-and-10, and slipping through a block on a run stuff to start the third quarter.
  • Couldn’t get the 3rd-and-1 stop on a QB sneak, falling just short on a tackle attempt but produced a lot more good plays than bad.

Dymonte Thomas: B

  • With three corners sidelined throughout the game, Thomas appeared in a season-high 23 snaps playing tough coverage and coming through with the pick on a deep throw, showing sound instincts as the deep safety.

Jeff Holland: B

  • Holland produced a nice pressure up the middle and came off the edge for a strong run stuff.
  • A big impact on only 21 snaps.


Garett Bolles: C-

  • Bolles had his struggles blocking for the ground game, conceding a run stop as he got overpowered outside.
  • Didn’t allow a sack or get penalized but did allow plenty of pressure, including on the first interception on 3rd-and-10 off of a delayed blitz.
  • Was beat off the edge on a QB pressure that forced an incompletion.
  • Myles Garrett rocked him into Keenum forcing the ball out early.
  • Not the smoothest game but he handled a tough assignment fairly well.

Billy Turner: D+

  • Turner struggled run blocking as he was too often overpowered at the point of attack allowing a team-high three run stops.
  • Was beaten by Larry Ogunjobi who just outmuscled him with his strong hands forcing a run stop on a Lindsay 2-yard run.
  •  Got tossed in the backfield on 3rd-and-1 trying to move laterally and instead got overpowered to allow penetration up the middle.

Connor McGovern: C-

  • McGovern held his own in pass pro but struggled run blocking.
  • Allowed half a TFL and two run stops, getting blown up by NT Trevon Cooney down in the red area on a Freeman run that went for no gain.
  • Ogunjobi gave him issues too, absolutely dominating the center at the point of attack, tossing him back to get a run stop on Lindsay for no gain.

Elijah Wilkinson: D

  • Wilkinson was the sloppiest of the interior lineman and was put on skates a few times allowing a sack and a TFL.
  • Looked slow laterally and was weak at the point of attack.
  • Beat for the sack on a stunt that he was slow to react to up the middle. 

Jared Veldheer: D

  • Typically the steadying presence on the line, Veldheer had his issues allowing two run stops and getting flagged for tripping, all while conceding plenty of pressure.
  • Allowed a QB hit on a stunt forcing Keenum out the pocket and leading to a third-down incompletion.
  • His “leg whip” penalty was off a ridiculous cut block, falling to the ground and making zero impact in slowing down the defender.
  • Allowed a QB hit by Garrett on 3rd-and-10 in the final drive forcing Keenum out the pocket to throw it away; struggled all game in pass pro allowing another 3rd-and-6 pressure. 
  • His best play came blocking on the move for the rare positive Lindsay run on a toss down in the red zone.

Phillip Lindsay: C-

  • Lindsay had a rough day on outside runs due to little help from his blockers who struggled out on the edge and regularly allowed penetration up the middle.
  • Dropped a quick wheel route to the sideline after a short gain.
  • Was better running up the middle with his best play up the gut for 11 yards.
  • Converted 2nd-and-3 trucking his way forward through contact.
  • Had a decent impact in the passing game with four receptions for 20 yards, exploding on a quick dump off for 16.
  • Couldn’t convert 3rd-and-1 down in the red zone with the run stuffed outside.

Courtland Sutton: C

  • Sutton wasn’t spectacular but fought all game, forcing a PI flag in the end zone off a back shoulder throw that set Denver up on the goal line, and fighting for extra yards on short throws.
  • Made a strong play taking a quick curl and muscling his way forward for the first down on a nine-yard reception.
  • Converted 3rd-and-3 on a well-executed rub route with Hamilton, making a smooth catch to the sideline.
  • Everything was short and he struggled to create separation in a game where he battled to no end.

DaeSean Hamilton: B-

  • Hamilton got open consistently in his best game as a route runner, converting third-and-long right at the sticks and setting the Broncos up close to the red zone, while operating nicely on routes towards the sideline.
  • Could’ve had an even better game had Keenum seen him on a potential TD in the first half.
  • Fought his way to the sticks to convert 3rd-and-9 on an out route to turn the corner.
  • Struggled blocking allowing a TFL as the defender just blew by him, was tackled for negative yards on a reverse run, and got stopped short of the sticks on a quick pass on 3rd-and-2, but played a sound game otherwise.

Matt LaCosse: C

  • LaCosse did a nice job as a receiver fighting for YAC to convert 3rd-and-10 on a quick dump off.
  • Ran a nice dig route to get a first down on 1st-and-10, and made a tough grab over the middle for 14 yards.
  • Wasn’t spectacular blocking but had his best game as a receiver.

Case Keenum: D-

  • Keenum settled on short throws all day long aside from two rare deep shots and a few wide open passes over the middle.
  • Converted only 4-of-12 third-down opportunities and faced a lot of pressure including on the final fourth down where he was sacked to end the game.
  • Scrambled on the Broncos’ opening TD making the best of a busted play-action fake.
  • Showed better zip and willingness to throw it over the middle and got in a rhythm on a few drives but just wasn’t consistent enough.
  • Missed some open receivers and threw two bad interceptions, tossing up dangerous off-balance passes that had no chance of succeeding.

Other noteworthy offensive performances:

Tim Patrick: B

  • Patrick was the one dangerous weapon in the passing game, flashing speed and getting the Broncos few big plays offensively.
  • Made a clutch reception with great footwork to the sideline on a tough back-shoulder throw to set the Broncos up in Browns territory on 3rd-and-6.
  • Had a couple costly drops, one on a target off a Keenum scramble that could’ve gone for big yardage with nothing but real estate in front of him.
  • Fought tough after the catch, lowering his shoulder and avoiding initial contact to extend plays.
  • Did a nice job run blocking.

Special Teams: C-

Colby Wadman had a few ugly punts, the worst of which was a 37-yard blooper that went nowhere.

Brandon McManus was efficient from close range, making all three field goal attempts and his one extra point.

Coaching: D

Bill Musgrave‘s offense couldn’t have had a worse start and never quite adjusted to the all-out blitzes on cover-0 looks or the eight defenders in the box against the run. 

Joe Woods did a nice job scheming blitzes, confusing Mayfield with disguises. He did a nice job making a patchwork secondary work in zone coverage while preventing big plays.

Vance Joseph‘s team looked unprepared early in the midst of a horrible start and never found ways to adjust.

Joseph finally won a challenge, though his team was penalized late in the game for having 12 men on the field as substitutes were being cycled in.

The big decision of the game came as he decided to settle for a field goal on 4th-and-1 down at the Browns six-yard line while only down four points. It was an overly conservative decision that played a big part in the loss.

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