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Broncos Game Grades: That slipping feeling

Andre Simone Avatar
November 18, 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.

Up 20-0 at the half in Minnesota against the 7-3 Vikings, the Broncos looked like a different team until everything came crashing down on them.

In a game that had it all, here’s who stood out, good, bad and beyond.

Standouts from the game

Shelby Harris: A-

Harris might not have been dominant but had an extremely productive outing, showing good hustle on his three sacks and forcing a fumble on the first one. He had some big plays against the run as well, taking advantage of every opportunity that came his way and proving crucial as the defense shut down Minnesota for the first three quarters.

Courtland Sutton: A

Sutton made tough catches all day, as Xavier Rhodes, one of the NFL’s premier cornerbacks, couldn’t handle him. It was another defining moment on how hard No. 14 has become to stop. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Sutton might’ve had the prettiest throw of the game on a big play to Tim Patrick and was effective on direct runs, too.

Todd Davis: B+

Davis was everywhere, until the very end, gliding to his spots and smothering whatever came his way. His instincts were almost flawless. He did allow a costly 21-yard dump off on the Vikings final touchdown drive but was close to perfect the rest of the day, playing a key role against the run and pass. 

Ron Leary: A-

Leary was stout and efficient, allowing just one run stop towards the end of the game. His anchor and power at the point of attack were incredibly effective.


Mike Purcell: B

Purcell did a nice job of not just stuffing gaps against the run but penetrating the backfield and creating negative plays. His effort was slowed down as the game wore on as he only saw 40-percent of the defensive snaps but had a solid impact when on the field.

Derek Wolfe: C-

Wolfe had a very quiet outing despite playing 73npercent of the defensive snaps. As the defense wore down late, his lack of impact was, well, lacking.

Von Miller: B

Von made three big plays, shutting down a quick throw to the flats for a third-down stop, hustling for a sack off the edge, and then hurrying Kirk Cousins out the pocket and right into another sack.

He was solid against the run and had his flash plays rushing the passer, even though he was still fairly quiet for his standards.

Alexander Johnson: B

Johnson was masterful ramming gaps on 3rd-and-short and forcing two different stops with his power and quick reactions to blow up running lanes.

He wasn’t effective enough as a blitzer as Denver struggled to manufacture pressure late. He also allowed three receptions for 34 yards on four targets and was helped by Davis’ strong outing.

Malik Reed: D

Reed didn’t see the field nearly as much, as he was rotated more and saw the field on 65-percent of the defensive snaps. He got beat trying to contain the edge as Dalvin Cook outran him down on the goal line for a touchdown. His impact as a pass rusher was completely lacking. 

Chris Harris Jr.: C-

Harris wasn’t thrown to until late in the third quarter and only allowed one reception on his watch. Problem is, that reception was a back-breaking 56-yard touchdown, and even though Chris was expecting safety help over the top, he still was burned deep for the key score.

Justin Simmons: C-

Simmons wasn’t as efficient as he’s been all year, still only allowing two grabs fro 19 yards but lacking his usual impact in all phases. More importantly, he was a big culprit on another bomb to Stefon Diggs for 44 yards, where he wasn’t able to close the play down as a deep safety.

Kareem Jackson: C

Jackson didn’t react quickly enough as a single-high safety on Diggs’ 56-yard score, his most impactful play. He did have a couple of nice tackles over the middle of the field and made his presence felt against the run but still lacked a bit of the playmaking impact we’re used to seeing from No. 22.

Davontae Harris: D

Harris was picked on all game long getting thrown to 12 times and conceding nine receptions for 96 yards. Despite all that, he battled and outran Bisi Johnson with a potential interception slipping through his finger.

Other noteworthy defensive performances

Justin Hollins burst into the backfield only to whiff on a potential TFL that resulted in a 5-yard run.

Duke Dawson Jr. fought hard but was picked on plenty and gave up a crucial pass interference penalty on third down. He ended his day, allowing 51 receiving yards on four receptions.

Dre’Mont Jones had a nice sack and created penetration on another run stuff. 

Jeremiah Attaochu drew a key holding penalty on left tackle Riley Reiff playing a season-high 18 percent of the snaps. 


Garett Bolles: B

Bolles was stood out for his run blocking, regularly getting to the second level while handling a tough assignment like Everson Griffen in pass protection. He still was flagged for holding and a false start but was clean otherwise.

Dalton Risner: D

At one point sidelined with an injury and bloodied, Risner was put through the wringer as he was beaten on a sack as Allen scrambled, allowed two TFLs, and was a bit slow on a couple pull blocks. He did open up some holes and battled in the trenches but was far from his best. 

Connor McGovern: B+

McGovern was ultra-clean despite getting out leveraged on a run stop in a short-yardage situation. He was close to perfect the rest of the day.

Elijah Wilkinson: B-

Wilkinson struggled a bit in pass protection against Danielle Hunter, holding him sackless but allowing two quarterback hits that forced the ball out of Allen’s hand on incompletions. He didn’t stand out as a run blocker either but handled tough circumstances admirably. 

Noah Fant: D+

Fant was heavily featured and seemed to play a big role on most of the defining plays of the game, not always positively. His work effort as a blocker stood out, but he was far from perfect, he also struggled on direct handoffs and was the main culprit for Denver’s ugly red-zone interception. He did make some nice plays as a receiver but made too many negative plays in other areas to salvage his grade. 

Tim Patrick: B-

Patrick dominated on 50-50 balls, showing himself to be a valuable deep target with his combination of size and speed. He didn’t always create much separation but had a nice first game back. 

Royce Freeman: C

Freeman ran tough and without any thrills, doing the dirty work admirably. He was crucial on Denver’s final drive grinding out the extra yards to convert 3rd-and-13.

Phillip Lindsay: C-

Phil didn’t miss nearly enough tackles in space and wasn’t gaining extra yardage due to his power either. His burst, vision, and quickness in space didn’t stand out despite a fairly productive day with 67 rushing yards on 16 carries. 

Brandon Allen: D+

Allen’s 43-percent completion percentage was ugly as he missed some key throws. As the game wore on, he lacked the juice to squeeze balls into tight windows with timing. He began to throw off his back foot too often and struggled to throw accurately on the move.

While his interception wasn’t all on him, he almost threw another forcing a pass into double coverage. His confidence in throwing it up for his receivers saved him, and when he threw with anticipation, he made some key plays but struggled overall. 

Other noteworthy offensive performances:

Andy Janovich‘s impact as a blocker was truly felt when he had to leave the game, and his strong effort fighting to score a rushing touchdown was impressive.

Andrew Beck looked lost, missing a couple of costly blocking assignments and making Jano’s departure that much more heartbreaking.  

Troy Fumagalli had a nice outing getting open for a touchdown and looking like he belonged. 

Special Teams: C

Special teams proved huge on Will Parks‘ forced fumble off a kick return, and then with Brandon McManus‘ missed 43-yard field goal, they fell back to earth.

Add that to Colby Wadman‘s average punt only traveling 35-yards per kick, and the special teams unit had a pretty average day. 

Coaching: D+

It’s hard to criticize a coaching staff that gave a very good team all they could handle on the road, but there were far too many opportunities to close this one out left on the table.

Vic Fangio‘s defense was too basic in the second half and struggled to manufacture pressure. Picking on the second and third corners was too easy, and the defensive front began to wear down.

The head coach also lost a pass interference challenge on the final drive that cost the team a crucial timeout.

On offense, Rich Scangarello got way too cute, running it out of shotgun down on the goal line, going empty backfield down in the red zone, and continually forcing runs with Fant on key downs. 

While the play calling deserves plenty of praise for getting up big early, the inability to score more than three points in the second half is really why the Broncos lost.


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