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Broncos Game Grades: The future is now

Andre Simone Avatar
December 24, 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.

Denver found how easy life can be against a weaker opponent on both sides of the trenches, with an equally as inexperienced quarterback, as the flu-riddled Orange and Blue outlasted the Detroit Lions 27-17 at home.

In a game that truly tested the Broncos’ depth, here’s who stood out, good, bad and everything in between.

Standouts from the game

Dre’Mont Jones: A

Despite missing the last few games and not being 100 percent, Jones played a season-high 52 percent of the snaps. He was an assassin on pass-rushing downs, dominating his one-on-one opportunities to create two sacks, an assist on another and generating a QB pressure. 

He made it look too easy, showing some real glimpses of the massive potential he has as an interior penetrator.

Phillip Lindsay: A

Phil was back in full force, running with power and breaking plenty of tackles. What put his performance over the top was his vision, patience, and lateral quickness to slice defenders up in the open field in a vintage performance. 

Von Miller: A

Despite not generating a sack, Von was a force, impacting the game’s outcome as much as anyone with some key pressures on third down. He ended the evening with four quarterback hurries, swatting a pass at the line, notching a QB hit and a hurry that forced David Blough right into Jones for his second sack.

As if that wasn’t enough, Miller used his incredible bend to break into the backfield and force a run stop as well. A true example for all.

Garett Bolles: B+

Bolles couldn’t have started off more shakily, with a holding penalty and a sloppy third down where he didn’t get out of his stance in time. After that early series, No. 72 was solid, reaching his spots against the run, getting to the second level or delivering nice blocks on pulls and never truly getting tested in pass protection. 

He looked the part, showing his mobility and finishing ability, a really encouraging outing despite the easy competition.


Mike Purcell: B+

Purcell played 64 percent of the snaps on defense and was a force against the run, affecting four different runs behind or around the line of scrimmage. He was overpowering, out leveraging and penetrating the Lions‘ line with regularity as his career year continues.

Shelby Harris: C+

Harris was on the field for 78 percent of the snaps and had a big pass deflection at the line. He didn’t have a massive impact but played his part. 

Alexander Johnson: B

Johnson wasn’t ultra disruptive, but then again, he didn’t really have to be, as he was barely tested in coverage and the front four were able to create pressure without needing added blitzers. He did disrupt a couple runs with penetration up the middle.

Todd Davis: B

Davis was as solid as ever, getting into the backfield to share two run stops with Purcell and playing disciplined defense in coverage.

Jeremiah Attaochu: B+

Attaochu was relentless, coming through with the game’s first sack after beating extra blockers. He had another hurry and QB hit as his blend of power, quickness and motor were enough to affect the Lions passing game. 

Will Parks: B

Parks was barely tested in coverage, shadowing everyone from Danny Amendola to Kenny Golladay in the slot. He could’ve been faster reacting on Detroit’s lone offensive touchdown, a quick-screen, but was flawless otherwise.

Chris Harris Jr.: B

Harris played great coverage on Golladay most of the day, forcing a pass deflection and only allowing two receptions for 14 yards on four targets. He misplayed a deep ball where he and Marshall ran into each other and got lucky that Golladay dropped the pass. 

Justin Simmons: B

Simmons seemed more involved defending the run, creating penetration and playing closer to the line of scrimmage. He only allowed three grabs for 29 yards on the day. 

Trey Marshall: C

Marshall was picked on early in coverage but made up for it with some great run defense, coming downhill and lowering his shoulder on several occasions. He was fairly reliable in deep coverage though he also ran into Harris and almost allowed a big play. A work in progress.

Isaac Yiadom: B

Yiadom handled the Lions second receivers without issue, allowing two grabs for 20 yards on five targets. Granted, it wasn’t an elite level test but he did his job.

Other noteworthy defensive performances

Malik Reed got a sack early on but was quiet otherwise only appearing in eight snaps. 


Dalton Risner: N/A

Risner got beat inside on a swim move forcing a third-down incompletion in the red zone. He had to bow out shortly after as he was dealing with the flu on top of the injury he’s battled the last month. 

Patrick Morris (C+) took his place and did a fine job, though he was slow on a pull block leading to a TFL and allowed another run stop as he wasn’t the most fleet-footed of the bunch. 

Connor McGovern: D

By the end of the game, three-fifths of the line was made up of backups or third stringers and McGovern was easily the worst of the group.

Denver’s starting center struggled to anchor against power and was sloppy on the move, he ended the game allowing two run stops and a TFL.

Austin Schlottman: B

Schlottman was as steady as can be, with a quietly efficient game in all phases. His grade isn’t higher only because he wasn’t tested by elite pass rusher and the Broncos didn’t run behind him much.

Elijah Wilkinson: D

Wilkinson drew two holding penalties and then got injured forcing third-string tackle, Jake Rodgers (B-) in at right tackle. Rodgers allowed some penetration but moved well, though he wasn’t overpowering anyone. He sealed the edge and got to the second level to close out the game on Lindsay’s final run.

Noah Fant: C

Fant had a nice reception early underneath but a quiet game otherwise, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He made an impact as a blocker late in the game as Denver’s run game got going. 

Courtland Sutton: C-

On 10 targets, Sutton ended the game with five receptions for 41 yards as he battled Darius Slay who for the most part kept him at bay. Sutton did draw a key PI on 3rd-and-long while the Broncos were down four but didn’t create consistent enough separation throughout.

Tim Patrick: C

Patrick was a safe outlet for Lock on the move, hauling in all but one of his six targets. He too wasn’t creating consistent separation.

Royce Freeman: C+

Freeman’s production was quite pedestrian on 11 touches but he did show a bit more juice, powering through on a score at the goal line and showing quickness with some added pop in his legs to break tackles.

Drew Lock: B-

Lock showed maturity taking what the defense gave him, though he lacked some flash on deep balls and tight window attempts in the red zone, where his ball placement wasn’t immaculate.

He was at his best on the move, showing nice touch and easy cheese. He was slippery under pressure, extending plays with his feet and keeping his eyes downfield without allowing a single sack.

His most impressive throws came over the middle of the field where he had to thread the needle in tight windows. His eye manipulation wasn’t great but he kept the chains moving and was able to slowly put up more than enough points to win. Completing 75-percent of his throws was nice but his 33-percent third-down conversion rate was underwhelming. 

Other noteworthy offensive performances

DaeSean Hamilton was targeted early and did a good job of creating yards after the catch. He’s expanded his route tree and is becoming a valuable target on intermediate routes.

Andrew Beck had a nice run up the gut and a huge option pass on 4th-and-1. His effort blocking for the run was crucial as well.

Special Teams: F

Coach Fangio was visibly upset with special teams coach Tom McMahon on the sideline after Colby Wadman punted right into a TD to put the Broncos in a 10-0 hole and then Fred Brown drew an offsides penalty. Luckily, Diontae Spencer had a very nice 47-yard return to start off the second half in an otherwise ugly outing. 

Coaching: B-

Vic Fangio‘s team came out a bit slow with far too many penalties but fought their way back in the game and clearly outplayed the Lions despite being down to backups in several spots. Defensively, they handled Detriot’s beat-up offense without issue, mixing up coverages and getting pressure on the quarterback.  

Rich Scangarello‘s offensive play calling didn’t work great when working on the script but it got going after a few adjustments to top 24 points against a weak opponent.


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