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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.
In a gut-wrenching 27-23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos fought hard until the very end, lacking the killer instinct to close out the win. It was a game that had plenty of heroes and some obvious duds.
Here’s how it broke down.
Standouts from the game
Royce Freeman: A
- Freeman ran with an impressive combination of power, patience, and light feet, coming up with some of Denver’s best offensive plays.
- His 20-yard touchdown set the tone as he broke multiple tackles, showed patience following his blocks, and made a nice jump cut, dragging linebacker Anthony Hitchens into the end zone with him.
- Did a nice job getting outside and consistently making defenders miss.
- Finished runs with authority an displayed impressive power.
- Ended the game with a monstrous 8.4 yards per carry on only eight carries.
Bradley Roby: A-
- Roby was much better in what was a huge test, playing faster coming downhill in off-coverage, closing down on receivers, and doing an admirable job on Tyreek Hill.
- Ran step for step with Hill on an overthrown pass downfield.
- Made a huge play on the ball with a deflection on third down while covering Sammy Watkins, tipping it up in the air and nearly intercepting the pass.
- Was bailed out by a few drops but played well overall, allowing three receptions on eight targets for 22 yards.
Andy Janovich: A
- Jano was terrific opening up big holes for the run game and bulling over defenders in the open field.
- Did a great job picking up the blitz and allowing Courtland Sutton’s big 42-yard reception.
- Lead the way for Emmanuel Sanders on his 18-yard reverse.
- Hauled in the longest reception of his career.
- A terrific game for the unheralded fullback.
Adam Jones: A
- Jones too was especially impressive in coverage on Hill, allowing only short completions for 13 yards on four receptions.
- Made a great play on the ball on third-and-goal, forcing an incompletion after a Mahomes scramble.
- Tackled Hill, flying in to stop him short of the sticks, and then did so again, going across the formation to tackle him for a loss of yards on a 2nd-and-1 screen.
Domata Peko: C+
- Peko’s best play was running Hill—possibly one of the five fastest athletes in the world—down to the flats, tackling him at the sticks.
- Had another play busting through the line to get a stop against the run holding KC to a short gain.
- Aside from those two plays, he didn’t have the most impactful outing while playing only 46-percent of the defensive snaps.
Derek Wolfe: B+
- Wolfe played a strong game, creating pressure and penetrating against the run.
- Played stout in two-gap situations and created a nice run stuff up the middle on 3rd-and-1.
- Finished the game with two run stuffs and another assisted run stop, leading all Broncos defenders.
- Stopped Kareem Hunt down in the red zone for a short gain.
- Created pressure on Mahomes with two quarterback hurries and two hits in his best game creating pressure against the pass.
- Forced an incompletion by penetrating up the middle on third down and forever early on, but couldn’t bring the QB down on 3rd-and-11 down in the red zone, as Patrick Mahomes threw across his body.
- He had another pressure on third down leading to an incompletion and forcing a punt.
Adam Gotsis: C
- Gotsis was flagged for grabbing a face mask on the opening drive.
- Struggled to get off a block on a big Hunt run early on.
- In flashes, he was able to create pressure on the interior and was a presence against the run; he just wasn’t consistent enough in this one.
Bradley Chubb: B-
- Chubb forced an intentional grounding penalty that was equivalent to a sack, beating Travis Kelce outside and then coming back inside to hit the QB.
- No. 55 also managed to not get exploited in coverage this game.
- Did overrun the edge allowing Hunt to cut inside his gap on a big run early on.
- KC ran it to his side for a first down conversion on second-and-short.
- There where times where he struggled to create pressure, especially on stunts inside, his bread and butter.
- Broke into the backfield unblocked, beating Eric Fisher off the snap, but couldn’t close the play in the backfield as Mahomes escaped.
- Jumped offsides in the second quarter on 1st-and-10.
Brandon Marshall: B-
- Marshall was strong in coverage underneath on Kelce early, forcing a couple incompletions on the TE and deflecting a pass.
- Did a nice job running down speedster D’Anthony Thomas on a pass out the backfield forcing a short gain.
- Despite tackling Hunt for short gains, 54 was overpowered by the RB a couple times.
- His worst play came as he lost Kelce on a big 1st-and-20 completion.
- In great coverage down in the red zone, he couldn’t knock the ball out as Kelce made a tough grab and broke Marshall’s tackle for a nine-yard gain.
Todd Davis: C+
- Davis did a nice job creating pressure up the middle on a couple blitzes, with a QB hurry and Denver’s lone sack.
- Though he missed one costly tackle on a big gainer by Hunt, he did have several plays against the run despite not getting a single run stuff.
- His biggest mishap came on a 4th-and-1 conversion as he slipped and lost Hunt in the passing game allowing an easy reception.
- Combined with Josey Jewell to miss a tackle on Hunt’s touchdown run down on the goal line.
- Allowed two receptions for 26 yards on two targets.
Von Miller: B-
- Von was inches away several times, creating five QB pressures with three hurries and two QB hits, but just couldn’t bring Mahomes down for a crucial sack.
- Struggled to create pressure rushing from the strong-side, as right tackle Mitchell Schwartz contained him.
- Targeted to the flats on 3rd-and-10 as Mahomes scrambled, Von took off to go after the QB and left the TE wide open.
- His best play of the game came down on the goal line as he set a strong edge and got a tackle for a loss.
Darian Stewart: C+
- Stewart made a monster hit on Kelce in the end zone, knocking him out of bounds to save a TD with an absolutely devastating hit.
- Took a bad angle on Mahomes’ TD run, allowing him to enter the end zone untouched.
- Was one of many to whiff on Hunt as he took off down the sideline for his biggest gain.
- Created pressure on a blitz down in the red zone, making life difficult on Mahomes but couldn’t get the sack.
- Had a great shoestring tackle on Kelce coming across the middle.
Justin Simmons: B-
- No. 31 played great in coverage on Kelce on a third down.
- Was run over by Hunt in the open field but brought him down as he hit the ground.
- Played decent coverage on WR Demarcus Robinson, though he couldn’t force the incompletion on a crosser.
- Came from afar to tackle Hunt on the sideline, making an athletic play in pursuit.
Chris Harris Jr.: A-
- Harris did a great job in coverage, was physical with Kelce and fought hard even as Mahomes extended plays.
- Made a phenomenal play on the ball with a deflection on a quick throw to Kelce off an RPO.
- Fought through blocks and played well defending screens.
- Was a sure tackler outside, not allowing YAC to his receivers.
- Conceded 47- receiving yards on six receptions for an average of 7.8 yards per reception.
- His biggest blemishes came on a quick slant to Hill where there was nothing he could do but tackle the speedster after the catch.
- Did a nice job on the blitz busting through the line and forcing a holding penalty, nullifying a third down completion.
Other noteworthy defensive performances:
Shaquil Barrett: B+
- The Chiefs made a point of attacking the Broncos edge rushers in coverage, and Barrett was the best of the bunch, playing tight coverage on tight ends and even receivers.
- There was one glaring exception, as Mahomes extended a 3rd-and-7 play and Shaq lost Demetrius Harris downfield.
- Made one of the plays of the game running Harris down and knocking the ball out the air on 3rd-and-1 on an amazing play.
- Did a great job fighting through a block to rundown a screen pass for no gain.
- Broke into the backfield for a run stuff.
- Had a big impact despite only playing 34 percent of the snaps.
Will Parks: B
- Parks came on a blitz forcing the ball out quickly.
- One of the underrated plays of the game was Parks’ coverage on RB Spencer Ware down in the red zone, forcing Mahomes to go to another option, running the target down across the formation.
Josey Jewell: C
- Jewell was bulled over on a pull block allowing a run up the middle for a first down.
- Did a good job gang tackling and pushing Hunt back on a three-yard run.
Garett Bolles: C-
- Bolles fell apart in an early stretch, first getting beat off his outside shoulder on a Justin Houston sack.
- The very next play on third down, he was flagged for holding while allowing pressure again. Things will avalanche on Bolles, and he’ll fall apart mentally after a poor play, his biggest issue.
- He wasn’t the cleanest but had a decent game pass blocking after that and was pretty good getting to the second level as a run blocker.
Ron Leary: C+
- Leary was beat up the middle off his inside shoulder on third down, allowing the QB to get pressured and forcing an incompletion.
- Linebacker Reggie Ragland beat the LG up the middle forcing a run stop for no gain.
- Leary didn’t look his best but played a fairly clean game outside of those two poor plays.
Matt Paradis: B-
- Paradis was overpowered up the middle on a Phil Lindsay third-quarter run that went nowhere.
- Struggled at the point of attack at times but was clean in pass protection.
Connor McGovern: C+
- McGovern struggled in pass protection allowing two separate pressures on third down that hurt.
- While he wasn’t always clean in pass pro, he consistently got to the second level and was a strong blocker for the ground game.
Jared Veldheer: N/A
- In only 26.7 percent of the snaps, Veldheer allowed a pressure on 3rd-and-5, forcing the ball out quickly for an incompletion.
- He didn’t play enough to get a grade (see Billy Turner below).
Emmanuel Sanders: B-
- Sanders came up with some big plays, getting open at key moments and breaking off a big run on a reverse that went for 18 yards.
- His best play was on 4th-and-11 on the final drive, as he wiggled free on his route and was able to make a tough grab on a high pass to the sideline.
- Made at least one tough grab, rolling to the ground and maintaining possession.
- Could’ve been targeted more often in a rough game for the passing attack.
Demaryius Thomas: C-
- DT had a quiet game and wasn’t able to make defenders miss on some of the short targets he received.
- In tight coverage, he made a tough catch on a quick pass on 4th-and-1, fighting for extra yards to get the first down.
Courtland Sutton: B-
- The big rook was targeted six times, mostly on one-on-one shots down the sideline, creating solid separation, though he didn’t always receive catchable passes.
- Made a big 42-yard grab coming back to the football and making a tough contested reception.
- Came down with a great catch on 3rd-and-10 for a first down gain
- His biggest issue was his toss to Sanders at the very end on the hook and ladder attempt.
Jeff Heuerman: C
- Heuerman led the Broncos in receptions but wasn’t able to make very many meaningful gains, with a lot of open dump-off catches.
- His worst play of the game was on the interception as the smaller Eric Murray outmuscled him for the ball. An unacceptable outcome for the big tight end who needs to do a better job coming back to the ball.
- Missed a block on an outside blitz. It was a tough play, but it allowed a 10-yard sack in the clutch.
Case Keenum: D
- Keenum was outplayed by Mahomes in the clutch, ultimately missing a wide-open Thomas for what could’ve been the winning TD at the death.
- Played conservative but took what the ‘D’ gave him, settling for open targets and not forcing many passes.
- Missed a few opportunities deep on one-on-one shots to Sutton downfield.
- Struggled on third down, completing only one of eight attempts, settling for too many safe passes short of the sticks.
- Was strong on fourth down, converting all three of his opportunities, including a tough 4th-and-1 pass at the end of the half with no one open.
- Completed a crazy deep pass to Heuerman as he was falling to the ground with pressure all over him, keeping Denver alive at the end.
- Almost threw a pick two plays later on an out to the sideline.
- Wasn’t reading the blitz well or getting the ball out quickly. Looked unimpressive pre-snap reading pressure.
- Accuracy weaned on tighter window throws, missing Sutton on some one-on-one opportunities and throwing a pick to Heuerman due to poor ball placement.
Other noteworthy offensive performances:
Phillip Lindsay: B
- Lindsay was explosive, busting through the hole for nice gains early, flashing his great feat on some electric jump cuts.
- Showed off his speed on a great outside run for 15-plus yards, and broke off a few big runs.
- Worst play of the game came on a sack from Dee Ford where Lindsay was outmatched blocking one-on-one in the backfield conceding the sack.
- Showed off some power down on the goal line, keeping his feet churning and fighting through contact to get a crucial touchdown.
Billy Turner: A
- Filling in for Veldheer from the second quarter on and appearing in 73 percent of the offensive snaps, Turner played a terrific game.
- Did a nice job getting to the second level on a big gain by Lindsay and was solid sealing off the edge on outside scampers.
- Was strong in the running game and was clean in pass protection.
Special Teams: C+
Marquette King did not do a good job. Wasn’t flipping the field consistently and allowed a huge return by Hill on the very first punt. He hasn’t been an asset thus far.
Brandon McManus did a great job going three for three.
Bill Musgrave‘s game plan was good early on, getting receivers open for easy completions. He had a dubious call going for play action on the first play of the final drive, leading to a sack off the blitz as the Chiefs defense wasn’t fooled.
The most debatable decision of the night was attempting a hook and ladder play when they had Sutton catch the ball at the sticks.
Joe Woods essentially wrote the book on how to limit Mahomes and the Chefs explosive offense with a great game plan, as cornerbacks played fast in off-coverage outside and pressed in the slot, applying constant pressure. Woods’ bend-don’t-break philosophy worked out in this one.
His big issue was being overly aggressive in the final stretch, playing man coverage on 2nd-and-30 for example. Though, in fairness to Woods, his all-world pass rushers need to get a sack for him.
Vance Joseph made some debatable calls despite putting together a good game plan and eliminating most of the penalties from a week ago.
The head coach showed guts going for it on 4th-and-1 at end of the first half in field goal position and was rewarded with a conversion, though Denver wasn’t able to get a touchdown.
Coming out of a timeout down on the goal line, the defense didn’t look prepared on Kelce’s short TD. Later, on the goal line, Joseph decided to burn a timeout to give his defense a rest, that timeout would’ve been valuable on offense in their final drive.
Clock management at the end wasn’t great, but the preparation and execution were goof for the most part, as there were few breakdowns and very few undisciplined plays.