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Upon Further Review: Broncos vs. Jaguars

Posted Oct 15, 2013

Independent Analyst Andrew Mason takes a second look at the Broncos 35-19 win against the Jaguars on Sunday.

DENVER -- Sunday's 35-19 win was important in and of itself, but as is often the case, the value of what the Broncos did at times isn't simply in the result of that play, but what it sets up for future games.

A TALE OF TWO FAKES

The Jaguars' ill-fated fake-punt call at the end of their first possession revealed just how steep they felt the mountain was. The timing and field position made this a shaky call, and the decision to try and gain four yards with fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou plowing toward the inside was a bit curious. From where he was lined up at the Jacksonville 21, he had to plow nine yards through an area of the field in which 11 players were compressed to reach the line to gain. 

The play was high-risk, but it was not high-reward; Ta'ufo'ou's lack of breakaway speed ensured that the only chance of success rested on him bulling his way through. And against a special-teams unit that was on guard for the fake, it was doomed from the start.

"We saw the wings crash," said Broncos special-teams captain David Bruton. "We were alert for it because a similar situation in regards to point spreads happened with the Colts and Titans."

This was a 2004 game in which the Titans, then 4-7, reached deep into their satchel for any piece of trickery they could find to defuse the 8-3 Colts, who had averaged 39.4 points a game in the previous five weeks.

"The Titans were just trying to onside kick it, fake punts; they had three onside kicks in the first quarter," Bruton recalled. "So we were just prepared for it, talked about watching the fake and just being prepared for all the gimmicks just so that they could steal a possession."

The play also demonstrated Jacob Tamme's growing value on the special teams. Even though his playing time on offense has decreased, he's become one of the mainstays on kickoffs, punts and the coverage thereof. He jumped on Ta'ufo'ou from the backside, and ensured that he wouldn't gain a first down without carrying the sixth-year veteran tight end. Ta'ufo'ou is strong -- but not that strong.

Contrast all that with Denver's fake-punt call in the third quarter.

Unlike Jacksonville's call, the Broncos' fake was low-risk (a failure would not have put the Jaguars in field-goal position immediately) and high-reward (because of Bruton's raw speed; he remains among the fastest players on the team).

"We had the field position where we wanted to, and they gave us the look," said Bruton. "Any time we can swing momentum our way, it's been huge, and that's definitely a big thing with our special teams this year -- we've always had a play, some way, that's definitely swung the momentum in our favor in a huge way."

The Broncos had the manpower on that side to take care of every Jaguars rusher one-on-one; the Jaguars had two men opposite Broncos gunner Andre Caldwell, but it would have been impossible for either of them to reach Bruton in time to prevent the first down -- and in fact, it was 25 yards before either one was in a position to potentially impact the play.

The long-term consequence of this play is that the Broncos might not see as many teams devote two men to their gunners, opting to keep an extra man or two closer to the inside. A freer release for Caldwell and Mike Adams should allow them to get downfield quicker and should improve the Broncos' overall punt coverage, which has only been mid-table to this point (the Broncos' average of 8.2 yards per punt return is 17th in the league).

NOTES:

-- If there's one area the Broncos would like to improve in their record-smashing passing game, it is the ratio of dropped passes. They dropped five on Sunday, including two apiece by running backs Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball,  According to ProFootballFocus.com, there have been 417 passes dropped around the league this year; that's a ratio of one drop every 15.96 attempts; the Broncos' drop ratio is one every 11.05 attempts. However, it's worth noting that drop ratio has not been tied to overall success or failure to this point. The teams with the seven highest drop ratios are all .500 or better, and include three division leaders.

-- Knowshon Moreno's three touchdowns will force teams to change what they do in goal-to-go situations. On his last score, a 3-yard run on third-and-goal, the Jaguars played the Broncos conservatively, only attacking with four men. The Broncos had a surplus of available blockers, which allowed Chris Kuper space to get out in front and successfully block safety Jonathan Cyprien at the goal line. The offense might not be as dazzling when it grinds it out, but it can be effective in crucial situations, and if teams overplay the run by even one man, Peyton Manning can capitalize by finding one of his targets.

-- Malik Jackson's emergence this season has been one of the most pleasant developments for the defensive line, with justified plaudits coming his way for his third-quarter sequence of two sacks sandwiching a tackle for a loss. The sacks also demonstrate his versatility and quick thinking: on the first sack he reads a developing rollout from left defensive end quickly and doesn't get caught out of position; on the second sack he lines up at nose tackle and uses a stunt from Shaun Phillips to work outside and collapse the pocket from outside.

And although Jackson has received the glory the last two weeks, fellow 2012 draft pick Derek Wolfe continues to help the pass rush; ProFootballFocus.com credits Wolfe with a team-leading 16 quarterback hurries this year, including a season-high four Sunday.

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