Broncos will be fine
Is it time to adjust our sights?
Have we been firing too high?
Denver Broncos as Super Bowl favorite?
A 40-10 thumping at the hands of the Seahawks in Seattle on Saturday night would suggest this team may not be as good as we were thinking.
The scary spinal injury to second-year defensive lineman Derek Wolfe added to the bad vibes, as did the fact that star cornerback Champ Bailey was seen after the loss on crutches and in a walking boot.
And we can’t forget the tidbit that All-Pro linebacker Von Miller could be suspended as many as six games by the NFL. The revelation that he had been arrested last week for missing a court date, while not subject to NFL discipline on its own, was bad timing at the very least.
So, is it time to panic, adjust sights downward, hope for another AFC West title and maybe, just maybe, a playoff win at long last?
Hold on, Kemo Sabe. I think we can get out of this mess.
First, let us remember this pounding didn’t take place in the regular season and, luckily, the Broncos won’t have to play another game in Seattle, undoubtedly the loudest venue in the league. If the Broncos are to play the Seahawks again, it will be in the Super Bowl, and it will be in New York.
Let us also be thankful that Wolfe, immobilized and carted off the field in an ambulance and taken to a hospital, returned back home on the flight with the team. Medical tests showed no serious injury, and while he will be evaluated ad nauseam this week in Denver, he should be back on the field in the not-so-distant future.
And X-rays showed no break of Bailey’s foot, suggesting he may miss some time with a sprain, but there are still almost three weeks to go before the regular season.
Let’s find more silver lining in Peyton Manning running the hurry-hurry offense in fine form, faster than ever seen last season. Had it not been for fumbles by tight end Julius Thomas and running back Ronnie Hillman (he had two, recovering one but losing the other as he was just getting ready to score a touchdown), it was perfection early. Fumbles can be addressed in a variety of ways, one of which is simply to bench the fumbler.
Manning and the offense will be just fine, thank you. Oh, and by the way, welcome Wes Welker. You, as Robert De Niro would say, are good.
Other positives on the night individually included Julius Thomas being targeted four times and coming up with four receptions from Manning. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was sought out five times, catching three. Both Thomases averaged more than 17 yards per catch. Little Trindon Holliday had a 73-yard punt return and no fumbles in seven touches.
Defensively, linebacker Danny Trevathan led the team with seven tackles and was repeatedly in the action. Third-round draft pick Kayvon Webster, moving up the depth chart, also made a good impression with six tackles.
Two things reared their ugly heads on Saturday and may be concerns down the road: One is the overall effort by the defense, the other the play of the special teams.
Special teams play at this point is not a big worry because many of the players on those teams will not be on the roster when the games count. There is just too much experimenting now to worry about what will be down the road.
The defense, however, may be a legit concern.
There was little pressure on Seattle QB Russell Wilson, and the Seahawks moved the ball well against Denver’s first-team defense. And that was with Miller on the field and before Wolfe and Bailey went down.
While Denver is deep defensively, there is that gnawing feeling there have to be big plays made more often — more pressure, more sacks, more turnovers. And right now, those big plays are not being made.
All of which means Manning & Co. on offense are going to have to put up big numbers on a regular basis.
That’s the way it looks right now. Things may, of course, look vastly different after Saturday’s full-dress rehearsal at New Mile High against the Rams, a rapidly improving team now in Jeff Fisher’s regime.
With a little more good news repeatedly on the injury front, maybe some good news on the defensive side of the ball and a sack or two, everything will turn rosy again, and those sights can remain high.
Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.