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Broncos Game Grades: Javonte Williams puts together his best performance of the season in 19-8 loss to the Chiefs

Henry Chisholm Avatar
October 18, 2023

Here we are again.

The Broncos fell 19-8 to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Thursday. Denver is now 1-5 on the season and tied for the second-worst record in the NFL. They’ve lost 16 consecutive games to Kansas City.

Here’s how the Broncos graded out…

Offense

Quarterbacks

Russell Wilson: D — The Broncos’ quarterback turned in his worst performance of the season on Sunday, completing 13 of 22 passes for 95 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

Two types of mistakes stood out for Wilson. The first was that he was missing open receivers. This was a problem in 2022, but for the most part, he had corrected it this season. Not seeing a couple of open receivers throughout the game is typical for a quarterback, but for Wilson it felt like he had somebody open on half of his incompletions on Thursday. For example, he could have hit Jerry Jeudy on third or fourth down on the first drive.

Wilson was also late on a couple of throws. The most obvious example was when Jeudy came open on a deep dig, but Wilson was a step late, which allowed a linebacker to undercut the play for an interception.

Wilson was solid running the ball, carrying the rock four times for 31 yards. Three of those runs picked up a first down.

But, overall, Wilson didn’t give the Broncos what they needed for the first time this season.

Running Backs

Jaleel McLaughlin: C — The Broncos’ undrafted rookie didn’t provide much of a spark on Thursday, which is a surprise given his start to the season. He picked up 30 yards on seven carries and another 12 yards on two catches. He had opportunities to do more and probably cut the wrong way on a pair of runs. 

Javonte Williams: A — Williams didn’t get the start on Thursday, but he earned most of the workload in the Broncos backfield. He hit holes hard. He broke tackles. He finished with 52 yards on 10 carries, and he also converted a crucial two-point conversion.

Samaje Perine: F — The fumble at the end of the game didn’t affect the outcome, but Perine played single-digit snaps for the first time this season, so there isn’t much else to grade. 

Michael Burton: B+ — The Broncos’ fullback was on the field for 12 plays. The increased workload probably has something to do with Nate Adkins being a healthy scratch. Burton had a three-yard run on 2nd & 2. He also made a great lead block in the hole to start the second drive, helping create an 18-yard run.

Wide Receivers

Courtland Sutton: B — Sutton’s stat line—four catches for 46 yards—isn’t awe-inspiring, but when you factor in a 17-yard pass interference penalty he drew and that he scored the only touchdown of the game for the Broncos, it looks a little better. Sutton dropped a pass in the fourth quarter that cost the Broncos six yards, but he also made some important blocks, including on the first play of the game.

Jerry Jeudy: D+ — Jeudy only played 65% of the snaps on Thursday, but he was on the field for 28 of the Broncos’ 31 passes. That probably says something about what the Broncos think of Jeudy as a blocker. But that’s not really the point of Game Grades.

Jeudy gave the Broncos 14 yards on three catches, a lackluster performance. Two of the catches were on screens that were doomed from the start. His big catch, a 13-yarder, came from out of the backfield. He was open on third and fourth down at the end of the first drive, but neither was a big window. He had a chance to make a big play on a deep ball to the end zone in the fourth quarter but didn’t come close to reeling in the contested grab.

Marvin Mims Jr.: B+ — If we only graded offensive contributions, Mims’ grade would be much lower. He didn’t catch a ball. He also saw the lightest workload of his career, so the blame lies mostly on the coaching staff. Still, zero catches on 12 snaps is a weak rate in a small sample size.

But Mims had two good punt returns. One went for 18 yards. The other went for 12. And given the light offensive workload, that means Mims gave the Broncos a good return on opportunities on Thursday.

Brandon Johnson: D — Despite playing 16 snaps, Brandon Johnson didn’t have a catch on Thursday. He was targeted twice but couldn’t bring in either pass. He was open for a first down on the third drive of the game, but Russell Wilson was looking the other way.

Tight Ends

Adam Trautman: C — Trautman’s had plenty of highs and plenty of lows, and it all averages out to a middling grade. He was active in the run game and made a bunch of good blocks, including a great pull. He also made a heads-up play to release his block and serve as an outlet for Russell Wilson and put the Broncos in position to attempt a fourth-down conversion. But he gave up a pressure on the fourth down, and he struggled in pass protection in general. He had a chance to bring in a ball deep up the middle when the Broncos were desperate at the end of the game, but it was a tough play, and it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

Greg Dulcich: D+ — The second-year tight end played less than a dozen snaps before he reinjured his hamstring. He picked up a few yards off of a sidearm flick from Russell Wilson. He also misjudged a tipped ball that resulted in an interception. It was a weird play, but the Broncos needed him to contest the catch, which he was in prime position to do.

Chris Manhertz: B+ — Manhertz made several good blocks in the running game. He helped the Broncos to their first first down of the game. He made a key block on 3rd & Short in the fourth quarter. He made a couple of nice blocks downfield and pinched edge defenders inside. His man blew up a run after the Chiefs’ failed fake field goal, but the good easily outweighs the bad.

Offensive Linemen

Garett Bolles: B- — Bolles didn’t make much noise on Thursday, but that’s usually a good thing for an offensive lineman. He almost gave up a sack on a 3rd & 7 on the first drive, but Russell Wilson dropped deep in the pocket, giving him a tough angle, and then converted the first down with a scramble anyway. Bolles sealed the back side of a five-yard cutback run later in the first half, but didn’t have much for highlights.

Ben Powers: B- — Powers didn’t do anything flashy, but he got his job done. He probably had the best downfield block of his season on a screen. He gave up a tackle for loss to start a drive late in the third, but it was a solid—if unspectacular—outing for the big guy.

Lloyd Cushenberry III: C — For the most part, Cushenberry did his job on Thursday. It wasn’t flashy. He didn’t get much push but stayed between his defender and the ball. He made a good block downfield on a screen before halftime but missed a similar block later in the game.

Quinn Meinerz: B — For this grade, it’s important to remember that there are no bonus points for drawing a tough assignment. The question is whether or not a player did his job, regardless of who he lined up against. For most of the game, Meinerz lined up across from Chris Jones, and he held his own.

Jones beat him a few times. The most notable example was when Jones pushed Meinerz backward on a toss, disrupting the play and stuffing the run. On a couple of outside zone runs, Meinerz couldn’t overtake Jones, and the running back cut back behind him instead of continuing toward the boundary. For the most part, though, Meinerz was playing Jones to a draw and beating up anybody else he faced. He pulled and sealed the edge, he penetrated and created a lane on a QB sneak, and he blew open a couple of holes for solid gains on the first drive alone.

Considering he was playing Chris Jones for most of the game, you could give Meinerz an A+ if you wanted.

Mike McGlinchey: F — McGlinchey had another tough outing on Thursday. Here’s what went wrong: The Broncos allowed eight pressures, and McGlinchey was responsible for five of them. They gave up one sack and one quarterback hit, and McGlinchey gave both up.

The Broncos’ right tackle had his moments, like a fourth-down pancake and a great block to blow open a massive hole for an 18-yard run to start the second drive. But for the most part, it was an ugly night. He missed a block on a third-down Michael Burton run that forced a punt. Chris Jones hit him with a swim move and stuffed a run in the fourth quarter.

Defense

Defensive Linemen

Zach Allen: A- — Allen’s big play was a third-down sack near the end of the game that extended the Chiefs’ game-sealing field goal to 52 yards. He made a couple of other plays, like a 3rd & Goal pressure before the half.

Jonathan Harris: D+ — Harris started off slowly—he was pancaked on the first run of the night—but he made a couple of plays. The best was when he chased a running back downfield to make a tackle on a long run.

Mike Purcell: C- — Purcell held his ground against a double team on the first play of the game but was pushed back easier than you’d like for the most part. He chased a couple of plays downfield, showing some heart, but his only real highlight was a batted ball to set up a fourth down on the first drive of the game.

Outside Linebackers

Nik Bonitto: C+ — Bonitto has had a great start to the season, but he was quiet on Thursday. He blew up a run right after halftime and had a tackle for loss on a third-quarter third down. That was about it, though. Not a bad day, but not up to the lofty standards he’s set in the past month.

Jonathon Cooper: A — Cooper showed off his all-around game on Thursday. He penetrated on a sweep but didn’t get enough help to prevent a first down. He tipped the ball on Justin Simmons’ interception. He ditched his man in coverage to hit Patrick Mahomes short of the sticks after the Broncos’ touchdown. He had a pressure that forced a throw away. And he chased Mahomes out of bounds for a sack.

Ronnie Perkins: C- — Perkins took a step forward in his second career game. He drew a holding penalty. He penetrated to help set up a fourth-quarter tackle for loss. Patrick Mahomes toyed with him a little on a naked boot but Perkins did enough to force a throw away. 

Perkins made a couple of mistakes. He cost the Broncos five yards with a missed tackle. The bigger mistake was when he gave up a free first down by jumping offsides on a 3rd & 5.

Inside Linebackers

Alex Singleton: B+ — Singleton got better as the game wore on. He plugged up a hole perfectly in the fourth quarter. He helped out with a 3rd & 1 tackle for loss in the third. Early in the game, he got caught in traffic on a run and might have been able to force a third down if he’d been able to flow cleanly. He also missed a tackle that cost a few yards.

Josey Jewell: B- — When the Chiefs completed passes, they were mostly in the middle of the field. With Travis Kelce on the roster, that isn’t a surprise. Jewell was a step away from a third-down PBU against Rashee Rice, but couldn’t quite get there and the play went for 28 yards. In the running game, Jewell was as solid as you’d expect.

Cornerbacks

Pat Surtain: A- — Surtain may have drifted too far from Travis Kelce on a third down, but the responsibilities on the play are tough to decipher. He gave up a 19-yard catch to Kelce later on. He was in great position but couldn’t get the ball away. He also got a TFL on a corner blitz.

Damarri Mathis: C- — The weirdest play of the game was when Mathis decided to take on a blocker instead of cutting inside to hit Patrick Mahomes on a third-down scramble.

Here’s what I think happened: In those situations, the responsibility of the defender on the edge is to take on the blocker and make sure the runner can’t bounce outside. After a month of missed assignments on defense and coaches stressing “do your job” instead of trying to make plays, Mathis forced Mahomes to his help. But sometimes players need to make plays, and it sure looked like Mathis had a chance to stop Mahomes short of the sticks. 

Mathis helped out on Justin Simmons’ interception by locking up the intended receiver and creating a free lane for Simmons to make the play. He also got called for a pass interference that negated a Kareem Jackson interception. His pass breakup on the next play was his highlight for the day.

Ja’Quan McMillian: B+ — If not for two plays, McMillian would have posted a great grade. One was when Rashee Rice beat him on a slant for a 23-yard gain after halftime. The other is when he was picked at the goal line, and the receiver got an angle outside to catch a touchdown, which is a tough play to make. There might have been a third mistake if a batted ball from Mike Purcell hadn’t bailed him out.

Outside of those plays, McMillian was great. He was physical in the running game. The Broncos had seven tackles for loss and McMillian had three of them. Only two cornerbacks, Antoine Winfield and Richard Marshall, have had more than three TFLs in a game since 2000. One was when he blew up a jet sweep. Another came when he popped a back behind the line of scrimmage in the fourth quarter. McMillian also had a great pass breakup on the first drive. He took a perfect angle and just about picked off the pass.

Safeties

Justin Simmons: A+ — The interception is enough for this grade. The tackle for loss is just the icing on the cake. Arguably the best safety in the league looked like there shouldn’t be an argument on Thursday.

Kareem Jackson: B+ — The Broncos’ veteran safety played a great game on Thursday, coming away with five tackles. He almost had an interception, but a penalty negated it.

Special Teams

Riley Dixon: D — Dixon had a couple of 50-yard punts, but his ugly kick stole the show. With 22 seconds left in the half, Dixon punted a ball 29 yards to Kansas City 34. Two plays later, the Chiefs kicked a field goal as time expired. Giving up that sort of field position in that situation is unacceptable.

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