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Broncos Game Grades: Complimentary football, finally

Andre Simone Avatar
November 4, 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.

With almost half of the starting lineup made up of reserves (eight starters to be exact), including the quarterback position, the Denver Broncos hit their stride in a 24-19 win over the Cleveland Browns in a true showing of complementary football.

Here’s who stood out, good, bad and beyond.

Standouts from the game

Derek Wolfe: A

When Wolfe is playing like this—commanding double teams and consistently disrupting the pocket—the Broncos front is a different animal. Wolfe had a massive sack, two more hurries, a TFL, a QB hit, and a big deflection at the line. You couldn’t ask for anything more.

Few have benefitted more from Fangio’s defense as Wolfe now has five sacks and six QB hits in the last four games.

Noah Fant: A-

Fant had a huge performance, showcasing his smooth hands, tracking the ball well mid-air, and creating separation before the catch. His touchdown run put his YAC ability on full display, and while his blocking left a bit to be desired, he had his flashes there too.

Justin Simmons: A

Simmons had another flawless performance with clutch open-field tackling, two big momentum-killing TFLs against the run, and perfect play in coverage.

Courtland Sutton: A

Sutton bullied Denzel Ward and came down with one of the most acrobatic TD grabs you’ll see all year. Yet another ‘man among boys’ type of performance for No. 14 who could’ve had an even bigger day had Allen been more accurate.


Mike Purcell: C

Purcell was flagged on a costly personal foul and couldn’t bring down star running back Nick Chubb on what should’ve been a tackle for a loss. In a game where he played strong run defense, his two blemishes left the biggest impact, but his presence was important in stifling Cleveland’s attack. 

Shelby Harris: B

Quietly, Harris was a key asset in stopping the run as he was quick off his blocks and stayed disciplined defending his gaps. He might not have done much against the pass, but his run defense was essential.

Von Miller: C

Playing in a season-low 79 percent of the defensive snaps, Von was solid defending the run early and then began to create pressure with two hurries. Nothing special for his lofty standards. 

Alexander Johnson: B+

Johnson played a key role in closing down the run, hammering through running lanes and showing great effort in pursuit. He was up to the task in coverage as well in a game where he was in all the right places, even if he didn’t make a ton of big plays. 

Todd Davis: B

Davis had his best moment stopping Baker Mayfield on his fourth-down run. Outside of that play, he was solid in all phases. 

Malik Reed: B

Reed might’ve played his best game as a Bronco, with a strong effort against the run, a nice showing in coverage, and even creating a couple of hurries. 

Chris Harris Jr.: D+

Locking down OBJ for most of the game, Harris lost out on two 50-50 balls that went for huge gains. He finished the day conceding four receptions for 81 yards on six targets, a tough outing despite playing close to perfect coverage. Had Mayfield hit OBJ on a go route down the sideline on fourth down, his game could’ve been disastrous.

Kareem Jackson: B

Jackson whiffed on an open field tackle which opened up space for Antonio Callaway’s 41-yard reception. Outside of that, Jackson hit everything that moved, putting tight end Ricky Seals-Jones out of commission and making some nice plays on the ball when flying downhill.

Davontae Harris: C-

Harris fought hard all day long, making some nice plays on the ball but also getting beat on a touchdown and not reacting quickly enough on a bubble screen that went for 41 yards. At the end of the day, he allowed seven receptions for 89 yards on 10 targets but also had two pass deflections and 1.5 TFLs, as he was a factor defending the run too.

Other noteworthy defensive performances

Justin Hollins had a nice sack off the edge, staying committed in pursuit and bringing the QB down. He added a hurry later on in a game where his impact rushing the passer was felt.

Duke Dawson Jr. came up with a key third-down run stuff on a corner blitz and played solid coverage, though he too allowed five receptions for 50 yards on seven targets.


Garett Bolles: D-

Bolles just had too many negative plays in a game in which he was flagged for a false start and then holding two plays later. He also allowed plenty of pressure, was beat on a TFL, conceded a QB hit and was too slow reacting to a stunt which led to a Browns’ sack.

Dalton Risner: C-

Risner had a few nice pull blocks on some of the biggest runs of the game but also allowed too much pressure and wasn’t consistent enough run blocking. 

Connor McGovern: C-

McGovern had his issues stopping penetration early, allowing two TFLs and then getting stood up by Larry Ogunjobi, who swatted a pass at the line. While he looked outmatched against the Browns talented defensive tackles, he did just enough to survive.

Ron Leary: B

Leary looked slow the first series of the game but locked things down after allowing a run stop in an underrated outing. 

Elijah Wilkinson: A

Wilkinson had his best game of the season in a masterful showing in pass protection. As a run blocker, he created push and got to the second level on a couple of key runs.

Diontae Spencer: D+

Spencer had a bad fumble and suffered a knee injury but stayed in the game and almost had Ward beat on a go-route where Allen just missed him. He led the way on Lindsay’s TD run with a key block as well.

Royce Freeman: D-

Freeman’s biggest contribution was negative, as he was abused by Mack Wilson on an A-gap blitz resulting in a sack. As a runner, he was uninspiring. 

Phillip Lindsay: A-

On just nine runs, Lindsay rushed for 92 yards and a TD. His burst was incredible, taking the slightest amount of daylight and creating big, game-changing plays.

Brandon Allen: B

In his first-ever NFL start, Allen was in control with a confident performance. He took his shots, allowing his teammates to make plays, and they did. 

His ball placement left a little to be desired, but he looked great on the move and was aggressive against pressure. Even though he left some plays on the field, you couldn’t ask for much more in a winning performance. 

Other noteworthy offensive performances

Andy Janovich opened up a highway for Phil to run through on his TD run but was also beat for a run stop.

DaeSean Hamilton actually saw the field more than Spencer but was invisible, as he just wasn’t creating separation underneath.

Troy Fumagalli caught a pass but was also flagged for holding. 

Special Teams: C-

Colby Wadman‘s poor punt midway through the third quarter set the Browns up in great field position and outside of a nice return from Spencer, which set Denver up on their first TD drive, the special teams unit didn’t leave a mark.

Coaching: B

There was a stark difference between the two rookie head coaches in this one, as the Browns just couldn’t get out of their own way, while Vic Fangio managed to win despite a noticeable talent gap between the Browns edge rushers and the Broncos tackles or Cleveland’s receveivers and Denver’s corners. 

Rich Scangarello had a fine game plan to get Allen to succeed, as they simplified things and manufactured big plays, just what the doctor ordered.  

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