ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It's a short week for the Broncos as they have already turned their attention to the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos can go a long way toward clinching the AFC West title with a win -- they will clinch if the Kansas City Chiefs lose Sunday -- and Denver is still on the inside lane for homefield advantage in the AFC.
But there are still some things to glean from Sunday's win over the Tennessee Titans and after a long look at the video from Sunday night's loss, here are some thoughts on how things went:
For an offense that has scored so many points -- they lead the league with 515 -- and has run the ball so effectively inside the opponents' 20-yard line, the Broncos had plenty of trouble on the doorstep of the end zone Sunday despite 51 points. They ran a staggering 11 plays in the game from the Titans' 1-yard line or 12 percent of the Broncos' total. The Broncos had a pass for no gain, two runs for no gain, four incomplete passes, a defensive penalty on the Titans to go with two touchdown plays -- one run, one pass. It all still resulted in 17 points -- two touchdowns and a 19-yard field goal -- but it was a lot of energy expended down in close from an offense that has scored in a wide variety of ways by a long list of players. They threw on seven of the plays, both out of a two-tight end look and three wide-receiver set, and ran on just four. Montee Ball was stopped for no gain twice while Knowshon Moreno scored on a 1-yard run among those rushing attempts. It all needs at least some attention because a lost opportunity at the 1-yard line in the postseason is exactly the kind of thing the Broncos would think about all through an offseason that doesn't end with confetti around them.
Broncos rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster is big enough, fast enough and confident enough to step up and play NFL receivers in press coverage. But he still can't let his technique get away from him. Webster “opened the gate'' as the coaches say when he didn't maintain his position on Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter on a 57-yard pass play up the left sideline in the first quarter Sunday. Webster played too far toward Hunter's inside shoulder right from the snap and when he turned to move out of the backpedal to run with Hunter, he essentially surrendered the outside lane. At last February's scouting combine Webster clocked a slightly faster 40-yard dash time than Hunter did. Webster came in at 4.34 while Hunter was at 4.36. That's top-shelf speed for both, but Webster negated his when he didn't maintain his positioning. Once Hunter got the step, Webster could not make up the ground. It's all part of the learning curve for the Broncos rookie and why quarterbacks have taken their shots at him as will Philip Rivers Thursday night. Webster has shown the kind of bounce-back ability that is a priority for a young cornerback, but he should be ready for action down the stretch and into the postseason.
The Titans found some room to work in the run game against both the Broncos' short-yardage package as well as the base defense. The Titans scored three times against the Broncos short-yardage package -- one of the places defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson's absence will be felt -- and the Titans also converted a fourth-and-1 against. On the conversion the Titans put quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on the move and hit running back Chris Johnson for a 25-yard catch-and-run around the right side. The Broncos got pinned inside and linebacker Danny Trevathan couldn't make up the ground to track Johnson down. On the next snap, against the Broncos base defense, Titans tight end Taylor Thompson fired out to get middle linebacker Paris Lenon and fullback Quinn Johnson pushed safety Mike Adams out of the play and Shonn Greene went for 23 yards. The Broncos have usually prevented, by virtue of their own high-scoring ways, teams from simply pounding away at their defense out of a power-first profile. Those teams who can hang in long enough to do it, could create some issues for the Broncos.
Last season the Broncos special teams units had just one “illegal block above the waist,'' or block in the back as it is often referred to on game day. This season they have had eight, including three in Sunday's game alone -- by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Steven Johnson and Webster. Webster's negated what would have been a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Andre Caldwell.
After going 3-of-3 in fourth-down conversions Sunday, the Broncos are now 7-of-7 on fourth down for the season.
After this weekend's games, there are 21 players who have scored at least 60 points this season. Five are Broncos. Kicker Matt Prater is second in the league in scoring with 119 points, Knowshon Moreno is 18th with 72 points, Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas are tied at 19th with 66 points while Wes Welker is 21st with 60 points.