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Broncos Game Grades: Defensive Domination

Andre Simone Avatar
October 14, 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 a defensive performance for the ages in a 16-0 shutout, the grades this week reflected that dominance with all four standouts coming from that side of the ball. On the offensive side, even passable grades were hard to come by in a lopsided win. 

Here’s how everyone faired on a day the Tennesee Titans won’t soon forget.

Standouts from the game

DeMarcus Walker: A-

Motor and deadly finishing ability. Finally, Walker showed what all the fuss was about with a career game two years in the making. His hustle was on full display as he ran down screens and was all over the place. No. 57 was a pest rushing the passer as Marcus Mariota held onto the ball too long and did a decent enough job against the run.

Derek Wolfe: A+

Wolfe turned back the clock and was eating up one-on-one blocks playing a spectacular game as a pass rusher with two sacks and a big pressure on Mariota’s second interception. He was stout against the run too in a dominant outing.

Alexander Johnson: A

Johnson wasn’t tested as much in coverage and used more as a blitzer, making some big plays in the Titans backfield. He lived around the line of scrimmage with a tone-setting performance that showcased the full array of his skills.

Chris Harris Jr.: A

Targeted five times and allowing three receptions for 36 yards, Harris had himself a day with an interception, a forced fumble, and a big-time pass deflection in the red zone. 

Defense

Mike Purcell: B+

Purcell dominated and not just as a gap stuffer, he was breaking into the backfield and chasing runs down laterally, a huge asset against the run.

His grade would have been even higher had he played more than 30 percent of the snaps.

Shelby Harris: A

Harris’ position switch has made all the difference as he got into the backfield for a sack, knocked a pass down at the line of scrimmage and played stout run defense.

Von Miller: B+

Von got half a sack and pressured Ryan Tannehill on the game’s final interception. No. 58 also managed a pair of quarterback hurries and three quarterback hits. So while we might not have seen a sack dance, his impact was constant throughout. 

Todd Davis: B

Davis did a nice job in coverage, allowing three short receptions on five targets and banging his body around against the run with seven tackles on the day. With a few more high-impact plays against the run, his grade could’ve been even higher.

Malik Reed: B-

Reed was efficient once again, especially against the run, and did enough to collapse the pocket on his side. His performance did lack a splash play rushing the passer, but he was solid and benefited from the Titans QBs holding onto the ball for too long.

Justin Simmons: A

Simmons was tested once in coverage and intercepted that pass. Against the run, he flew in to force a run stuff and was once again flawless in a season that’s been close to perfect for the free safety.

Kareem Jackson: A

Jackson was similarly perfect, producing a tackle for a loss and making his share of impact plays around the line of scrimmage. He also batted down a pass and iced the game with a pick while never truly tested in coverage.

Davontae Harris: B+

Harris had a big task as the starting No. 2 corner and was targeted early and often, holding his own the entire game. He did get called for early contact on a pass interference and was helped by the Titans struggling quarterbacks but used the sideline to his advantage and was sticky in coverage, allowing three grabs for 27 yards despite getting thrown to nine times.

Other noteworthy defensive performances:

Dre’Mont Jones’ impact was felt as he created plenty of penetration and moved Tennesee’s QBs off their spots, forcing errant throws on multiple occasions. 

Will Parks wasn’t great in underneath coverage, losing his man a couple of times and getting bailed out by bad throws. He was the only true liability on defense on the day and will have to be significantly sharper in just a matter of days.

Jeremiah Attaochu showed flashes in limited snaps, creating pressure off the edge. A very encouraging outing.

Offense

Garett Bolles: B-

Bolles wasn’t perfect as he misread a blitz, allowed an unblocked rusher to get in Flacco’s face, and was flagged for a holding on a run block. His run blocking, in general, hasn’t been otherworldy, but his play in pass protection was very impressive.

Dalton Risner: C

Risner is part of the reason why Bolles was almost flawless in pass pro, and the same could be said about the rookie left guard. Where Risner struggled was as a run blocker, getting beat twice on run stops that put the offense behind schedule.

Connor McGovern: C

McGovern’s bad third-down shotgun snap lead to a sack and could’ve been much worse as the starting center didn’t create consistent push for the run either, getting overpowered a few times. It didn’t always look pretty, but McGovern got the job done and kept Flacco fairly clean for the majority of the game. 

Ron Leary: D-

Leary made too many mistakes and didn’t produce enough big-time blocks to make up for his holding and false start penalties. He was also fooled on a delayed blitz letting a rusher through on the Titans lone sack.

Elijah Wilkinson: D+

Wilkinson struggled, allowing pressure on a blown-up screen and again getting beat in pass pro on a third-down hurry. He was also called for holding and beat on a run stop. He had some flashes getting to the second level but needs to clean things up to stick at tackle. 

Jeff Heuerman: D

Heuerman didn’t make much of an impact as a blocker and was a guilty party on at least a couple run stops. His impact as a pass-catcher was nonexistent.

Courtland Sutton: B+

Sutton was the go-to guy in big moments and made just enough plays to keep the defense off the field and extend drives for the win. The way in which he’s added branches to his route tree and getting open has been very impressive.

Emmanuel Sanders: N/A

Sanders was barely noticeable in a one catch performance for zero yards before getting sidelined and leaving the game.

DaeSean Hamilton took over for No. 10 and got open underneath on a pair of comebacks and struggled as a run blocker in a pretty underwhelming performance.

Royce Freeman: C-

Freeman was again more impactful as a receiver than he was as a runner, playing a safety-valve role but still not missing enough tackles to take his game to the next level.

Phillip Lindsay: B-

Lindsay ran tough and picked his spots to push runs outside and get 75 total yards and a touchdown in a rough day for the entire offense. He had an uncharacteristic drop and wasn’t his usual dynamic self but still put in a key performance for the offense to pull off the win. 

Joe Flacco: D+

To his credit, Flacco continued to take shots deep, though he wasn’t particularly efficient and did fall incredibly short on his interception. More concerning has been Flacco’s imprecision on throws to the sidelines in key situations. While the Broncos as a whole have gotten better the last few weeks, their veteran QB is on the decline and missing far too many throws.

Other noteworthy offensive performances

Andy Janovich‘s impact as a blocker was a bit lacking as he was guilty on at least one run stop. 

Noah Fant was more of a decoy than an actual weapon in the passing game and struggled at times blocking. His best play should’ve come on the interception that was painfully underthrown.

Special Teams: A

With the defense, this game was won by the special teams as Brandon McManus was money. Diontae Spencer had a nice 42-yard return to set the Broncos up for their score on the opening drive, and even Colby Wadman and the punt unit did a fine job in an all-around strong performance.

Coaching: B

Vic Fangio‘s defense seems to be hitting its stride despite some big injuries to Bradley Chubb and the starting cornerbacks. How they’ve coached up the reserves to fill in has been very impressive.

Rich Scangarello and the offense struggled to dial-up many big plays as the approach on offense seems to be getting progressively more conservative. 

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