An explosive play followed by a loss of yardage. A chunk gain followed by an incompletion. A first-and-10 followed by a second-and-10 … or longer.
One of the many hiccups for the Broncos’ offense is they haven’t been able to answer a big play with another big play or even a positive gain. As quickly as the momentum appears, it vanishes.
In Sunday’s 34-27 loss at Atlanta, the Broncos had nine plays that gained at least 10 yards. On the ensuing snaps, the Broncos gained a total of 19 yards. Just like that, the offense is chasing to keep a drive alive.
Three examples stand out:
- On the Broncos’ second play, quarterback Drew Lock threw 32 yards to tight end Noah Fant, to the Falcons’ 45. But the following snap was a five-yard loss by running back Phillip Lindsay when defensive tackle Grady Jarrett got by center Lloyd Cushenberry. The Broncos punted.
- On the Broncos’ second drive (already down 10-0), receiver KJ Hamler gained 15 yards on an end-round. But Lock followed with an under-pressure incompletion. The Broncos kicked a field goal after reaching the Falcons’ 25.
- And down 27-13 in the fourth quarter, Hamler started the drive with a 36-yard completion. But Lock threw incomplete on three of the next four plays.
The average play count for the Broncos on their scoring drives was eight plays — not ideal when in comeback mode and quick scores are required.
Here is the rest of our Broncos-Falcons review:
Lock under siege. Lock was sacked only once, but the Falcons totaled 18 disruptions (one sack, eight knockdowns and nine pressures), the Broncos’ second-highest total allowed this year (24 by Pittsburgh in Week 2). The Falcons rushed five or more players on eight of Lock’s 57 drop-backs (14.0%). Lock was 2-of-7 passing for 68 yards against extra rushers. Atlanta rushed three men on eight drop-backs — Lock was 7 of 7 for 62 yards and a 10-yard touchdown run. Lindsay was booked for the only sack (2.25 seconds).
Unblocked issues. Why weren’t the Broncos more on-point about blocking people? Atlanta had four quarterback knockdowns, two pressures and two “bad” rushes credited to unblocked defenders. Only offensive line coach Mike Munchak knows what the play call was and what the communication should be, but the Broncos were too leaky blocking the middle.
Going downfield. Lock was 1-of-9 passing for 41 yards (completion to Jeudy) on attempts that traveled at least 16 “air” yards. The Broncos did their best work post-catch — Fant (32 yards/28 post-catch), Jeudy (24 yards/nine post-catch) and Hamler (36 yards/21 post-catch).
Jeudy’s day. Jeudy had seven catches for 125 yards — receptions of 18, 12, 3, 7, 24, 20 and 41 yards. His 20-yard touchdown was a well-run route, selling the ‘Go’ to the end zone and then hitting the brakes to catch Lock’s pass at the 6-yard line and score. His first two catches were on shallow crosses when Lock rolled out of the pocket. Jeudy also drew two defensive pass interference penalties.
Hamler heavily involved. As the season progresses, the Broncos’ coaches are getting a better idea for what Hamler does well. Their consensus — he does a lot well. He had six catches for 75 yards (long of 36) and carried once for 15 yards. The end-around carry was well-blocked as Hamler received blocks from Fant, Cushenberry and receiver Tim Patrick. Hamler had a dropped pass that was followed by a helmet-to-helmet hit by safety Keanu Neal that should have been a penalty and should result in a fine.
Time management. A picking nits of how the Broncos handled the clock features two situations. Late in the first half, they had second down at the 48-yard line, but called a run play (Melvin Gordon 1-yard gain) that forced coach Vic Fangio to use his final timeout. And at the end of the third quarter, the Broncos let the final 25 seconds expire without calling a play. A difference maker in the game? Maybe not, but down 27-6, more urgency was required.
Ryan feasts on blitz. The Broncos rushed at least five players on 13 of Matt Ryan’s 38 drop-backs (34.2%). Against a five-man rush, Ryan was 7-of-7 passing for 45 yards and two drawn penalties. The Broncos totaled 11 disruptions — two sacks, five knockdowns and four pressures. Defensive ends Dre’Mont Jones (3.70 seconds) and DeMarcus Walker (4.71 seconds) had the sacks. Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb was shut out for the first time since Week 2 at Pittsburgh.
Contesting routes. A point made by safety Justin Simmons about the Broncos not contesting routes was crystal clear on video. The Broncos’ cornerbacks did not have a pass break-up. The passes defensed came from Jones (deflection), defensive lineman McTelvin Agim (deflection) and Simmons (a deflection and interception). In man coverage, the Falcons were 5 of 7 for 43 yards against Michael Ojemudia, 2 of 13 for 13 yards against Essang Bassey, 3 of 5 for 100 yards against Davontae Harris and 1 of 1 for 21 yards against Kevin Toliver. Ojemudia also had three more missed tackles, giving him seven in the last three games.
Controlling run game. A week after the Broncos gave up a season-high 210 rushing yards to the Chargers, Atlanta gained only 92 on 32 carries (2.9 average). The Broncos had seven run “stuffs” (gain or one or fewer yards).
Rookie highs and lows. Agim played 19 snaps and his first pressure/pass bat down will be memorable because Falcons center Alex Mack had a different snap count than his linemen so Agim had a free run at Ryan. … Julio Jones beat Ojemudia for a 21-yard touchdown when he ran the post corner, turning Ojemudia around. … Bassey stormed in from the slot unblocked for two run “stuffs.”
Martin solid again. Punter Sam Martin averaged 42.4 yards on five attempts (45-yard gross average) and posted an impressive average hang-time of 4.39 seconds. His longest punt was 64 yards with a 51-yard net.
Cleveland keeps busy. In the era of touchbacks, it’s rare to be as busy as rookie Tyrie Cleveland was Sunday. He returned five kickoffs for a 24.2-yard average. He had returns of 21, 24, 27, 19 and 39 yards. Cleveland made good decisions because he was in a form of no man’s land — all three kicks he took out of the end zone were 1 or 2 yards deep.