Tag Archives: Jamaal Charles

Denver’s Offensive Woes Continue As the Team Struggles to 3-5 Start

Steve Balestrieri
November 8, 2017 at 12:00 pm ET

The Broncos have lost four straight and are officially on the hot seat and can watch their hopes of making the postseason blow up with another loss on Sunday night to the Patriots. Denver is limping into this one at 3-5 and the reason they’re struggling has to do with the offense.

The defense has been holding up their end of the bargain despite last week’s anomaly in Philadelphia where everything that could go wrong did. But Denver’s offense has scored just 52 points during the current four-game losing streak. And 14 of those points came in garbage time when the game was already lost in Philly. That won’t win many games and the team is struggling to find the answers to right the ship.

Here are a few of our first impressions of the Broncos before Sunday night’s matchup.

Carousel Under Center: Quarterback Trevor Siemian has been benched and the team has turned to Brock Osweiler. Osweiler started in place of an injured and aging Peyton Manning in 2015 and played well. The highlight of his career could easily be the Sunday night game where he beat the Patriots in a thrilling overtime win. However, soon after Denver’s Super Bowl win, Osweiler bristled at GM John Elway’s waffling on whether to sign the young QB to an extension or to sign Manning to a one year deal.

Osweiler bolted to Houston for a big money contract, who could blame him? But he quickly flamed out with the Texans and with them drafting DeShaun Watson, they shipped Osweiler to the Cleveland Browns. And he couldn’t make the team there, despite the woes of the QB position in Cleveland. With the injury to QB Paxton Lynch, he’s was brought back full circle to the Broncos.

He didn’t play well in Philadelphia last week, but neither did any of the other players. Now the team is hoping he can catch lightning in a bottle twice against the Patriots and hold the season together (with their defense) until they know what they have in Lynch, who Elway spent a first-round draft pick on in 2016. He’s getting healthier and if Osweiler doesn’t want to be replaced again in Denver, Sunday night is a big one.

Running Game Needs to be the Focus on Sunday: In Denver’s first few games of the 2017 season, they ran the ball down the throat of their opposition and jumped out to a 3-1 start and people were already pencilling them in for a long playoff run, thanks in no small part to their dominant defense.

A big part of their quick start was the running game. Running back C.J. Anderson was averaging 82.5 yards per game, (nearly 100 in their three wins). But during the four-game losing streak, Anderson’s production has plummeted. He’s gotten only 152 yards the past four weeks with 78 of them coming against the Giants.

But don’t dismiss the Denver running game, or in case you need a refresher for your memory, think back to that snowy game in 2015. Anderson ran for 113 of Denver’s 179 yards and that running game opened up a big game for Osweiler who passed for 272 yards.

Denver as a team are averaging 4.2 yards per rush, which is exactly what Anderson is averaging. Jamaal Charles is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and Devontae Booker is tops with a 4.6 yard per carry average. Defensively for the Patriots here is where the game will be won or lost.

The Patriots aren’t doing a great job of stopping the run and with Malcolm Brown and Dont’a Hightower out, it will make the running game a harder option to stop. When Denver has run well, they’ve won. When they haven’t, their quarterback play has suffered and they’ve lost. It isn’t hard to see where the Patriots defensive focus will be this week.

Turnovers Have Plagued the Team During Recent Skid: Like everyone else with an offense that is struggling, the Broncos can’t afford turnovers and that is exactly what they’ve been doing during the recent losing streak. Denver right now is woeful -12 in the turnover department. One of the reasons that Siemian was benched was turnovers. In the seven games that he started, he turned the ball over 15 times with 10 interceptions and five fumbles.

On the flip side of that, the Denver defense will be looking to feed off of the normally raucous crowd of their home field and force a couple of turnovers of their own. They are feeling a bit salty after allowing 51 points in Philly and the Patriots are always Public Enemy #1 for them.

Again, going back to that 2015 game, what turned the tide? A turnover. Chris Harper muffed a punt in the second half and the Patriots went from having a double-digit lead to quickly being down and having to force an overtime. Turnovers will be key to both teams this week.

Don’t Expect Defensive Meltdown At Home: Pundits are entirely too quick to throw dirt on this Broncos team, especially the defense. Even many Broncos fans on social media have been quick to predict gloom and doom this week as the two teams will meet on primetime Sunday night.

Besides giving up the 51 points last week, particularly galling for members of the defense was HOW they gave them up. Philadelphia had over 400 yards of offense but 197 of them were on the ground. Entering the game last week, Denver had allowed just 510 yards rushing or 72.8 yards per game.

Von Miller spoke about that game and how the team was approaching the rest of the season this week to ESPN.  “We are where we are right now,” Miller said. “Right now, [Sunday] … we’re not a good football team.

“We still have time. We still have time to be great,” he continued. “We’re not a great football team right now, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a great football team within us. But [Sunday], we’re not a good football team, offensively, defensively, special teams, whatever. We’re just not good right now.”

Don’t expect to see Dion Lewis running wild this week. Look for the Broncos to be much better and back to their normal selves on Sunday night.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots 2015 Playoff Opponents, 5 First Impressions of the Chiefs

Steve Balestrieri
January 11, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

The Patriots season in essence begins on Saturday as they take their first step in attempting to repeat as Super Bowl champions. Their opponent in the Divisional Round of the Playoffs are the Kansas City Chiefs. The game is scheduled for 4:35 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.

The game will be televised by CBS with their announcing crew of Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts and Evan Washburn on the call. The game can also be heard on the Patriots flagship radio station of 98.5 the Sports Hub with the voice of the Pats Bob Socci on the call with Scott Zolak.

The Patriots (12-4), as the AFC’s #2 seed faces the highest remaining seed which are the Chiefs while Denver faces the lowest remaining seed, the Pittsburgh Steelers in Denver.

Kansas City (11-5), is the NFL’s hottest team having run off 11 wins in a row and on Saturday thrashed the Houston Texans on the road 30-0. They haven’t dropped a game since a road loss to the Vikings left them for dead at 1-5. The two teams have never met in the postseason but the Chiefs curb-stomped the Patriots in Arrowhead last year 41-14 on MNF.

Here are our Five First Impressions of the Chiefs:

Defense is Excellent Across the Board: When looking at the Chiefs defense, they play the classic 3-4 with three big down linemen and have an outstanding linebacking core. During the 11-game winning streak, they allowed an average of 11.6 points per game.

The Chiefs have outstanding bookend pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston although both are a bit dinged up right now. But the Chiefs registered 47 sacks on the season and most came from the (pardon the wrestling pun), the Triple H’s; with Houston (7.5 sacks), Hali (6.5 sacks) and Howard with 5.5. The pass rush against Houston was particularly effective up the middle with Dontari Powe and Jaye Howard pushing the pocket back in Brian Hoyer’s face.

Powe and Howard are outstanding at the point of attack; they can take on double-teams and stuff the run or allow inside line backers Josh Mauga and Derrick Johnson to make plays. Their active and are good laterally as well.

The Chiefs secondary is outstanding with corners Sean Smith and rookie Marcus Peters who had eight picks this season. Opposing QBs targeting Peters had a 67.7 passer rating this season. Safety Eric Berry is recovered from his cancer treatment and plays down in the box and is very active. Many Patriots fans will remember S Hussain Abdulla from the pick-six he returned against Tom Brady a year ago.

Maclin’s Absence Could be Key: Chiefs top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered an injury during the Texans game and it was initially thought to be an ACL injury but he’s been cleared for that. He did suffer a high ankle sprain which may keep him out of this weekend’s game.

Even if he does play, an ankle sprain may limit his effectiveness and Maclin has been their most productive WR by far in 2015.  He’s caught 87 passes for 1088 yards with eight touchdowns for KC this season. The next most productive wide receiver is Albert Wilson with 35 catches for 451 yards and two touchdowns.

If Maclin can’t go it would put more pressure on QB Alex Smith to find their excellent tight end Travis Kelce in the passing game as their best option. Maclin’s either limited status or absence will probably put Kelce on the Patriots radar as the player they most have to take away.

Smith Leads a Varied Offense: The Chiefs offense may be one of the most balanced that the Patriots see this season. They’re almost 50/50 with runs and passes with 473 passes attempted and 436 runs.  Last season their offensive line dominated up front and the KC rushing attack gashed the Patriots for 207 rushing yards.

With the dangerous Jamaal Charles on IR, the Chiefs turned to Charcandrick West, who averaged 4.0 yards per carry while racking up 634 yards and four scores as well as Spencer Ware who averaged an impressive 5.6 yards per carry while gaining 402 yards as well on the ground. They use some three tight end packages as well. But Andy Reid will mix it up; you’re as likely to see a run from the 3-4 WR spread as you are a pass from the 3-TE sets.

Smith is a very mobile quarterback who can hurt you with his legs as he was the Chiefs 2nd leading rusher this season with 498 yards. Knile Davis had only 28 carries this season but gashed New England for 102 yards on 16 carries last year.

Smith won’t throw the ball deep much or try to take many chances with low percentage throws, he’s careful with protecting it and had only seven interceptions this season. Besides Maclin, their biggest target is Kelce who is used in much the same manner that the Patriots use Rob Gronkowski.

Kelce will line up in-line, in the slot or split wide. He’s very good at generating yards after catch and will attack the seams. He had an impressive day against Houston with eight catches for 128 yards. On the season he caught 72 passes for 875 yards and five touchdowns. Kelce will undoubtedly draw the lion’s share of attention from the Patriots defense and he’ll be a handful, much like Gronkowski is.

They like to use secondary wide receiver Wilson in the running game, they’ll put him in motion and run the Jet Sweep and try to catch the defense over-committing. Rookie WR Chris Conley chipped in with 17 catches for 199 yards and a touchdown. West was effective out of the backfield with 20 catches and a 10.7 yard average per reception.

Turnover Battle Will Be Tough to Win: The Chiefs are outstanding at forcing turnovers. During the current 11-game winning streak, they’ve generated 28 turnovers and have a +20 turnover differential during that time.

They’re remarkably solid at not turning the ball over via fumble or interception and have been outstanding at generating them. With an offense that doesn’t generate a ton of big plays in the passing game, they feast on opponents’ mistakes and making them pay.

The Patriots are also one of the stingier teams in the league in regards to turnovers as they once again led the league with the least amount of fumbles in 2015. Tom Brady also threw only seven interceptions on the season as well. So one wouldn’t expect a lot of turnovers in this game and any generated by either team would be big.

Special Teams Will Bear Watching: As we witnessed on Saturday afternoon, the Chiefs special teams units can strike quickly. Knile Davis took the opening kickoff back 106 yards for a touchdown which quickly took the crowd out of the game and put the Texans firmly on the hot seat.

The Patriots special teams have had their issues in the second half of the season and the last thing they need is to give up a quick score to turn momentum or give the Chiefs a short field. With the injuries to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, the Patriots punt return unit hasn’t been as effective as they’ve been in the past. The Chiefs punt coverage unit has been solid, allowing only six and half yards per return.

Half of Dustin Colquitt’s 75 punts have been downed inside the 20-yard line this season and he had only five touchbacks. Cairo Santos missed seven field goal attempts this season and was only 4 of 8 from 50 yards and beyond.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.