Question: What happened on the blocked punt early in the game?
Answer: Talk about starting with a special teams snafu. Three things happened — Patrick O’Connor used a quick get-off to gain outside leverage on long snapper Jacob Bobenmoyer. One Broncos player, Malik Reed, flared outside to start covering. Another Broncos player, Trey Marshall, flared inside to start covering. That left O’Connor with a free run at Sam Martin to block the punt. Tampa Bay had third-and-goal from the 10-yard line after the blocked punt. One more stop and the Broncos would have forced a field goal. But there appeared to be miscommunication in who was covering Chris Godwin. Our guess is cornerback Essang Bassey thought he had a different assignment. That allowed Godwin to catch Tom Brady’s pass at the 4 and score the touchdown.
Q: The Broncos were 29th on third down entering the game and went 5-of-14 on Sunday. What was the biggest issue?
A: The Broncos weren’t good enough on first and second downs, creating long third-down situations. In the first half, the Broncos needed seven, 10, 11, eight, 15, 13 and 20 yards on third down. They converted a third-and-7 (nine-yard Jeff Driskel scramble) and a third-and-20 (27-yard Tim Patrick catch). Poor production on first and second downs is usually due to a poor running game. The Broncos’ first-half designed run plays gained 4, 2, -2, -1, 2 and 9 yards. Hurry back, Phillip Lindsay.
Q: How bad was the start of the second half offensively after finishing the first half with a touchdown to get within 23-10?
A: Awful. First drive: Tight end Noah Fant dropped pass, right guard Graham Glasgow holding penalty, Fant dropped pass and safety by Buccaneers outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett. Second drive: Batted down pass, eight-yard rush by Melvin Gordon and batted down pass.
Q: Was Vic Fangio’s decision to bench Jeff Driskel a surprise?
A: I was surprised because Tampa Bay was cruising along with an 18-point lead and Brett Rypien had never played an NFL regular-season snap. But Fangio gave Rypien the Broncos’ final offensive possession. I think it was a test drive to see if Rypien is capable of playing Thursday against the Jets. The other theory is Fangio saw Driskel taking a ton of punishment and wanted to keep him healthy for Thursday. I’ll go with Rypien getting an audition. He was 8-of-8 passing for 53 yards before his fourth-down interception. The coaches obviously felt Driskel was holding onto the football too long and wanted to change things up.
Q: No lineup changes on a short week, right, except for quarterback?
A: Probably so. The Broncos won’t practice Monday and will have walk-throughs on Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s it. But if the Broncos drop to 0-4 by losing to the New York Jets or even if they muddle along in a win, the mini-bye weekend will be a chance for the coaching staff to examine every part of the depth chart.