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Broncos Game Grades: Blown out in Buffalo

Andre Simone Avatar
November 26, 2019

Throughout the entire 2019-20 season, DNVR 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-by-game basis.

In a never-in-doubt 20-3 defeat in windy Buffalo, the Broncos passing offense was clearly limited. On the defensive side, Denver utilized more man-coverage looks than usual to counter the Bills’ struggles in man, only to expose their lack of team speed.

Here’s who stood out good, bad and everything in between.

Standouts from the game

Justin Simmons: B+

Simmons was flying downhill and making some really nice plays over the middle of the field, including Denver’s lone turnover of the game. He could’ve been more present as the deep safety on John Brown’s touchdown but was otherwise flawless.

Von Miller: B+

Von was often close but never quite got the big, game-changing play. He did, however, get a sack, forced a holding penalty, hurried the quarterback twice and had two QB hits, all despite regularly facing added blockers. He was solid against the run too with two TFLs and a run stuff.

Alexander Johnson: B+

Johnson’s start was shaky as he was exploited in man coverage, missed an open-field tackle and was dragged for extra yardage defending the run. As the game wore on, he got strong, making tons of tough tackles in the open field, got home on key blitzes up the middle and playing stout run defense around the line of scrimmage.

Jeremiah Attaochu: B

Malik Reed might’ve started the game opposite Von, but No. 97 had a much greater impact and earned the majority of the snaps—57.5 percent to 47.5. Attaochu started off with back-to-back TFLs,  constantly in the backfield against the run and playing like he was shot out of a cannon in the first two series. He was able to create some pressure on the quarterback, as well.


Mike Purcell: D

Purcell’s most impactful play came as he was drawn into the neutral zone on a hard count to ice the game and allow the Bills to convert 4th-and-1. He started off with a wonderful run stuff but was constantly pushed around by Buffalo’s run blockers.

Shelby Harris: N/A

Shelby created penetration with a TFL and a run stuff but was also pushed around against the run. Injured early on, he didn’t play at all in the second half, Adam Gotsis (B) filled in nicely, batting a ball and breaking into the backfield on a few different occasions, with 1.5 run stuffs and a quarterback hurry. Gotsis was also washed downfield against the run but had an encouraging outing.

Derek Wolfe: D

Wolfe was largely absent, getting pushed around against the run and unable to really create pressure or any sort of impact around the line of scrimmage.

Todd Davis: D

Asked to play more man coverage, Davis was exploited underneath, getting targeted seven times for five receptions and 45 receiving yards. He was around the ball a good amount, though his impact stopping the run was lacking oomph. 

Chris Harris Jr.: C

Barely tested all day, Harris made some excellent tackles in space, showing off his fundamentals and toughness. After dominating all game, he was caught on a play-action throw as the lightning-quick Brown burned him for a back-breaking TD on a double move.

Kareem Jackson: C

Jackson played his worst game of the year, as he took bad angles, missed a few tackles, and allowed a few more receptions than usual. He wasn’t awful and was involved in stopping the run but wasn’t his usual tone-setting self.

Davontae Harris: C-

Harris got absolutely crossed over by Cole Beasley for a wide-open 18-yard score. He was solid otherwise. 

Other noteworthy defensive performances

Duke Dawson Jr. had an interception bounce off his hands but wasn’t tested in coverage despite appearing in 66 percent of the defensive snaps.

Dre’Mont Jones made a couple of good plays in pursuit but didn’t create as much pressure as his talent should warrant.


Garett Bolles: D-

Bolles was flagged for holding and missed his assignment allowing Shaq Lawson to get home unblocked on a sack. He allowed pressure and almost held his defender in his own end zone and allowed a run stop as well. Not good.

Dalton Risner: F

Risner was lost in this one despite a few nice run blocks. From a costly unnecessary roughness penalty to confusion with his center on who was blocking on a sack, to then getting bull-rushed by Ed Oliver on a big fourth-quarter sack, it was a sloppy, ugly day for the rookie.

Connor McGovern: D

As the line struggled with blocking assignments all game, McGovern was as lost as anyone in pass protection. He allowed penetration far too often in pass pro, though, he did do some nice things run blocking. 

Ron Leary: B

Leary had the most respectable game on Denver’s line, holding down the right side.

Elijah Wilkinson: C-

Wilkinson was overpowered a few times and beat for a TFL while allowing multiple pressures but held on longer than anyone on the left side of the line.

Noah Fant: C

With three receptions, Fant led all Denver receivers flashing a nice grab and even blocking well in space. In a tough game, he at least tried.

Courtland Sutton: C-

Sutton was mostly shut down as Buffalo dedicated extra attention to him, and Allen just couldn’t put the ball in his area code.

Tim Patrick: D+

A short grab and nothing else, as Patrick struggled to get open and track back to the ball. 

Royce Freeman: C

When Freeman had his chances to get downhill, he looked strong, but those opportunities were too few and far between. It would be nice if he could break a few more tackles, but without a head of steam, he’s greatly limited.

Phillip Lindsay: B

Lindsay made the best of a tough situation—often facing loaded boxes with the odds stacked against him—running hard up the middle and always gaining positive yardage, hitting the hole hard with great burst.

He accounted for 68 yards of offense—half the team’s yardage on the day—and only had one run of fewer than two yards, fighting for every inch he got. A drop on a quick third-down pass hurts his grade here too.

Brandon Allen: F

Allen’s day was Siemian, Keenum or even Tebowesque in how Denver never had a chance of converting anything on 3rd-and-long. He threw an interception and could’ve had at least two more. Struggling with pressure, he kept moving back on his throws and didn’t get any of his lower half involved on his passes as the game wore on, and his accuracy disappeared. 

Special Teams: C+

Brandon McManus made a clutch 45-yard field goal against the wind for the only real highlight from Tom McMahon’s unit.

Coaching: D

Vic Fangio‘s defensive plan was to challenge Josh Allen, who’s struggled against man coverage, with more man looks. While Allen didn’t light it up in the air, Denver’s back-seven had their worst game in a long time—which is more of an indictment on this roster than Fangio’s game plan.

The head coach did take a very odd timeout with two seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Rich Scangarello‘s offensive game plan seemed to really be affected by the weather as the passing game was inept, and there was no real attempt to create quick and easy completions. 

The breakdowns in protection from the line killed Denver and shouldn’t be occurring with their coaching staff having dealt with largely the same five starters all year. 

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