Throughout the entire 2017-18 season, BSN Denver will be giving you game grades from every Denver Broncos contest. Evaluating all of the starters and beyond to give you a better look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses on a game-to-game basis.
The Broncos looked like themselves again against the Indianapolis Colts with a strong 25-13 away win, with some of the unlikeliest protagonist on the team coming up big on Thursday night.
Domata Peko: C
In his return from injury, Peko only appeared in 49 percent of the defensive snaps. It was nice to see him back, and he made a few plays early against the run, but generally speaking, didn’t have a good game.
On Jacoby Brissett’s touchdown run, Peko couldn’t get to him as he was blocked out of the play, allowing the quarterback to take off up the middle. He was also flagged for defensive holding and was muscled out on a 3rd-and-1 run up the gut for a Colts first down conversion. His worst game of the season.
Zach Kerr: B
Kerr played one less snap than Peko splitting time with Shelby Harris (covered below). He did his best Peko imitation coming up with a couple of good stops up the middle.
In limited time, his run defense was stout.
Adam Gotsis: A-
Gotsis really played well in the first half and was less of a factor after that as the Colts were forced to pass the ball more.
Gotsis was strong at the point of attack and came up with five tackles in the first half. He ended up with six tackles in the game, which was second on the defense. He burst through the line to get a tackle for a loss in the second quarter and took Brissett down as he scrambled. He got another quarterback hit in the second half coming off the line and taking advantage of a double team on Von Miller.
This was one of Gotsis’ best outings of the season, especially since his hot first month. He was featured in 75 percent of the defense's snaps and played great.
Von Miller: A
Give him a lead and Miller harasses quarterbacks and disrupts pockets like no one else. That was on display against Indianapolis.
As the game wore on, Von was crashing the pocket off the edges with consistency and was extremely close to getting a sack several times. He even got into the quarterback's face with a spectacular spin move that completely crashed the play, missed the tackle, and still came up with the closeout by chasing Brissett and tackling him at the line of scrimmage.
He had a pass deflection early on and had a nice tackle against the run coming around the edge to bring the runner down. He was relentless in his run defense as well, chasing down runners to the opposite sideline for crucial third down stops, as he did on Brissett at the end of the first half.
Todd Davis: B-
Appearing in 53 percent of snaps, Davis didn’t stand out for much, good or bad. He did close down on a run after a seven-yard gain early on. Little else to note after that as he was mostly a factor defending the run in the early part of the game.
Brandon Marshall: B-
Marshall let a few plays slip in the early going but turned it on after that.
On the negative side, he couldn’t get off his block on Frank Gore’s big screen. He also let tight end Jack Doyle get open for an eight-yard completion down in the red zone. He took a bad angle in coverage, too, allowing Gore to get open underneath for an easy completion and first down conversion to start the second half.
On the positive side, Marshall got into the backfield for a tackle for a loss on a big third-down stop in the third quarter. He was also a factor in coverage where he played soundly aside from his two hiccups.
Shane Ray: B+
Ray didn’t produce much statistically but he, too, was creating good pressure off the edge by the second half as the Broncos took the lead.
He ran down Brissett to get a third-down stop and force the Colts to settle for a field goal in the second quarter. No. 56 then flushed the quarterback out of the pocket, forcing an incompletion on the two-minute drill at the end of the opening half.
He then forced Brissett out the pocket again, running him down as he scrambled to the right. He was a factor against the run and when asked to drop in coverage was just fine.
Ultimately, Ray’s job description is to harass the quarterback consistently, and he certainly did that.
Darian Stewart: B
Stewart played nicely as a steady presence on the back end. He was the man to bring down Gore on his big opening screen run and almost had an interception creeping towards the box as the quarterback didn’t see him.
No. 26 also added four tackles and was a reliable last line of defense with the less experienced Will Parks by his side.
Will Parks: B
In his first start of the season, Parks played a good game, not perfect, but with no major mishaps and he led the team in tackles with seven. He was also competent in coverage even when put out in the slot and did a nice job stepping up to make plays against the run.
He had a spectacular tackle on Doyle out to the sideline knocking him out of bounds to hold him short of the sticks on 3rd-and-3 and had several nice tackles like that.
Parks’ coverage on Doyle and on the running backs was flawless, only conceding a few short gains. The young secondary players have played well the last few games, and Parks is continuing that trend.
Chris Harris Jr.: A-
Harris allowed four completions to his side for 42 yards out of seven targets. The biggest of those was an opening post that T.Y. Hilton caught on the sideline with Harris right there. He also allowed Doyle to get open for the opening first down of the second half.
Harris blanketed receivers the rest of the time and had a tremendous pass deflection while defending the sideline deep in the early part of the second quarter. No. 25 even had himself a great pressure on a blitz on 3rd-and-10 forcing Brissett out the pocket and into an incompletion.
Another high-end performance.
Aqib Talib: A
Even better than Harris, Talib only allowed two completions for eight yards on three targets. The veteran corner also was a factor tackling against the run down the sideline and coming in to help on underneath completions finishing up with five tackles. The best of which was a tackle running down Brissett to the other side of the formation to stop him short of the sticks on third down, to get the ball back to Denver with a minute left in the half.
He did get called for holding, but was essentially flawless and shut down all receivers to his side.
Other noteworthy defensive performances:
Shelby Harris actually appeared in over 50-percent of snaps and had his usual two splash plays. First, he ran down Gore in the red zone for a stop at the line and also got pressure on Brissett up the middle. It’s no wonder he was on the field more than both Kerr and Peko.
Bradley Roby played nice coverage down on the sideline on 3rd-and-10 making a play on the ball.
Garett Bolles: C+
The first half wasn’t great for the rookie who’s lapses of inconsistency remained. Bolles' early struggles were highlighted by a 3rd-and-goal pressure he conceded off the edge flushing Trevor Siemian out of the pocket and leading to him getting injured with a bad hit to his shoulder. Shortly afterward, the left tackle was flagged for an obvious hold that annulled Devontae Booker’s amazing hurdling touchdown run. Those were two big negative plays.
After that, Bolles was solid playing error-free and doing a bit of damage in the run game as well.
With more runs to the strong side, he wasn’t as impactful in the ground game like the rest of his lines mates (as you’ll read below). A solid game, just on a day where the rest of the line played very well he was the worst of the five.
Max Garcia: B+
McGovern got most of the praise during the broadcast, but Garcia was opening up holes in the run game also showing some big-time power. Especially once the fourth quarter started and the Broncos began to run it down their throats, Garcia imposed his will.
His pass protection was actually good for the most part as he’s kept on developing over the last month.
Garcia did take a bad angle and got overpowered by Johnathan Hankins on 3rd-and-1 conceding inside penetration for a tackle for loss.
Matt Paradis: B+
This was a great day for the line, and Paradis was active in pass protection. He also did a good job opening up holes and setting the tone for the ground game, even getting in a bit of a scuffle after slamming a defender down and losing his helmet. Once the run game got rolling in the second half, Paradis played with an edge tossing people out the way.
At the point of attack, Paradis isn't always the most powerful and was blown over on 3rd-and-2 by Hankins forcing a stop. However, he battled his tail off and had a nice outing.
Connor McGovern: A
McGovern had himself a game, creating tons of push and opening up holes by simply overpowering his direct opponent, giving C.J. Anderson lanes to run through at will. He imposed himself coming downhill and playing nasty.
In pass protection, he was solid handling one on one duties. He was basically flawless aside from the false start he was called for at the beginning of the fourth quarter. After getting a baptism by fire with Ndamukong Suh in his first start, he was the catalyst on the ground in Denver’s best performance for the big uglies all year.
Donald Stephenson: B-
This was a fine outing by the backup right tackle who was a major asset as a run blocker, playing with great leverage and moving defenders with regularity. The right side was a gold mine for Anderson to run towards in this game.
It didn’t always look pretty in pass protection, and Stephenson benefited from some added help from the tight ends early on. Yes, he allowed a third-down pressure—where he oddly looked inside, away from his defender—and was called for a hold at the end of the first half. But after that, he got the job done even in spread looks with no added help.
C.J. Anderson: A
Without a single highlight run—his longest gain was 16 yards—Anderson killed the Colts, taking full advantage of some solid blocking up front.
Especially in the fourth quarter, he turned it on, allowing the Broncos to milk the clock and finish off the Colts. His vision was great, and he ran it with patience, constantly gaining positive yardage, seeing his lanes and making good one-cut runs. He also finished runs off with power, churning out extra yardage and trucking guys over.
He was a workhorse with 30 carries and finished with his best outing of the season for 158 yards.
Demaryius Thomas: B+
For both quarterbacks, Thomas was a trustworthy target the entire game. He also got good depth on his routes, averaging 14 yards per catch and really got the offense going. He did a good job setting up defenders on routes.
He also drew a holding penalty on 4th-and-1 to get the first down and keep Denver alive in the opening drive of the second half, which led to Cody Latimer’s touchdown a few plays later.
Emmanuel Sanders: B
Sanders had to leave early coming up limp with an ankle injury that's bugged him all year. In the early going, after dropping his first target, he did a nice job getting open underneath and making a few clutch grabs to extend drives.
He did a nice job getting open towards the sidelines, with a big 17-yard completion on a crosser on 3rd-and-long. He also made a fine back-shoulder grab.
In limited time, he had a solid outing.
Virgil Green: B
Green suffered a neck injury in the second half and didn’t return. He did a nice job as a run blocker and added pass protector on the strong side. His one target was wide on a short route to the flats.
Jeff Heuerman replaced Green and made a beautiful catch and run on his 54-yard touchdown, getting loose, breaking one tackle and then outrunning the final defender to the end zone. He should also be lauded for outrunning the coverage and finding daylight for Brock to throw to. By far the young tight end's best play as a Bronco.
He also filled in nicely and did a good job run blocking in the final quarter where the Broncos imposed their will on the Colts. He was flagged for a face mask but did a nice job in relief.
Trevor Siemian: C
Siemian had the chains moving making a couple of tough sideline passes. He also threw a bad interception—a combination of a forced throw and terrible ball placement—and wasn’t able to execute down in the red zone, before getting injured.
Brock Osweiler came in and looked ready to seize the opportunity, which is exactly what he did. When he was thrown in, he had to settle for a punt, but after that, it was on with the quarterback seeming in control and pulling off some impressive throws.
He kept things together in the first half, relying on his veteran receivers, staring down pressure and making some accurate passes with good zip. He got Denver onto the scoreboard with a 3rd-and-8, 18-yard touchdown run stretching out to get the score in the process.
In the second half, he let it rip and made some big-time throws, starting off with his touchdown to Latimer where he made a tough contested throw putting the ball it in the right spot for the receiver to make an impressive grab. Shortly afterward, Brock looked off the safety then came back to his left to hit Heuerman for a 54-yard touchdown with great touch and on point ball placement, allowing the tight end to take it and run for the score.
The QB did what he was asked in relief duty and more. This was an A performance for sure, as he also converted both fourth down attempts and played turnover-free, getting sacked only once for two yards.
Other noteworthy offensive performances:
Devontae Booker had the highlight of the game with his amazing hurdle and touchdown scamper down the sideline, even though it got called back for a hold. He trucked over a defender in the second half too and was pretty impressive the few touches he got.
Cody Latimer made a great contested grab on his touchdown with the defender draped all over him. He played extraordinarily well as he replaced Sanders appearing in 60-percent of the offense's snaps.
Special Teams: C+
The unit as a whole was fine in this one with no major big plays. The not so great grade comes from kicker Brandon McManus missing a 40-yard field goal after getting flagged for a delay of game, in a dome nonetheless.
The rest of the unit played clean football.
As the Broncos got in an early hole it was easy to think “here we go again” but the team was resilient and credit to the coaching staff for getting a win with the backup quarterback.
Vance Joseph had so much confidence in Osweiler’s play that he even called a timeout with just over a minute remaining to stop the clock and force the Colts to punt before the half ended. We haven’t seen that much this year.
Lots of credit in the win should go to Bill Musgrave, who had the offensive line playing at an all-time best and Brock feeling it. He’s done a good job of getting Thomas and Sanders involved early on and establishing the run with balanced play calling. Denver only had to punt it once and if not for a missed field goal and interception could’ve reached 30 on this day. It was interesting to see Musgrave call two pass plays on the two 4th-and-short attempts by the Broncos.
Joe Woods’ play calling defensively was good, and he’s done a nice job adjusting to injuries and suspensions in the secondary.
What's holding the grade down then? 12 penalties for 80 yards which are still far too many to beat a winning team on the road.
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