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Upon Further Review: at Seahawks

Posted Aug 20, 2013

Independent analyst Andrew Mason takes his weekly second look at the game film for standout performances, good and bad.

It's preseason, so even a 40-10 loss wasn't as bad as it seemed. Of course, a 40-10 win at this juncture of the season wouldn't have been as good as it looked, either.

  • It's understandable to be frustrated with Julius Thomas' first-quarter fumble. But that play appeared to fall less on Thomas and more on Brandon Browner with perfect timing. If Browner arrives any sooner, Thomas hasn't completed the catch, and the play is a relatively benign first-down incompletion. If he arrives later, Thomas -- who does not have a fumbling tendency in practice -- secures the football. As the baseball cliche' goes, "Sometimes, you've just got to tip your cap."

    But what Thomas brings to the offense is a threat that will eventually force the hand of foes. On his 31-yard reception, he lined up bunched to the right with Eric Decker and Wes Welker. As they fanned out, Thomas didn't draw any attention. Manning found him, and the result was a play that set up Welker's touchdown two plays later. When foes catch on to Thomas, they'll devote less attention to Decker, Welker and Demaryius Thomas, which could push this offense to a level it didn't reach last year. Julius Thomas still needs to work on his blocking; a miss here led to a sack of Brock Osweiler on the understudy quarterback's first possession.

  • Mitch Unrein was lost in the shuffle this offseason after the Broncos drafted Sylvester Williams and signed Terrance Knighton in free agency, but a performance like he had in starting Saturday's game should put him squarely in the regular-season rotation once again. He helped ensure the Seahawks settled for a field goal on the drive after Thomas' fumble by blowing up a handoff to Marshawn Lynch. One play later, he followed up in the pass rush by executing a stunt with Von Miller. Unrein drew the attention of both blockers, allowing Miller to turn inside and get a hand up to disrupt Russell Wilson's 2nd-and-19 pass.

  • We've seen consecutive games where Nate Irving made one of the best plays against the run simply by waiting a second and then striking like a rattlesnake. He didn't force a fumble as he did in San Francisco, but his instincts and acceleration offer hope that the run defense can remain stout, even if Miller is lost to a suspension.

  • Browner's 106-yard fumble return for a touchdown didn't have to happen. If Manny Ramirez had tagged Browner when he was down or pushed him out of bounds, then it would have been just a regrettable fumble. Instead, Ramirez, who was one yard away from Browner as he fell on the ball, pulled up. The former Broncos practice-squad player promptly took off, and you know the rest. Virgil Green, Jacob Hester and Jake O'Connell led the pursuit, but their efforts were too little and too late.

    Between the missed potential tag and a delayed reaction to Bobby Wagner zooming through the A-gap on the first play of the Broncos' third series, this was a night to forget for Ramirez.

  • The night wasn't all bad for Hillman. On a first-and-10 play from the Denver 30 with 4:07 left in the first quarter, Ronnie Hillman showed his growing maturity as a back. He didn't have enough of a hole inside and to the left to make anything happen. His only chance to make something out of the play and prevent a loss was by getting to the edge. He didn't pause; he took off, managed to turn a bad play into a 1-yard gain and avoided a big hit. Hillman's ability to read blocks and accelerate to holes is massively improved from last year.

  • Rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster showed some signs that he can develop into an asset. He does a nice job of identifying runs to the edge; on one early third-quarter play, he was able to peel off the man he was covering and move back into position to tackle Seahawks running back Derrick Coleman after he had been guided to the edge by an onrushing Jeremy Beal, who delivered some solid play in the third quarter.

    Webster is also a solid tackler and keeps receivers in front of him. His fundamentals offer a hint of a flashback to Chris Harris at that stage of his career, which is obviously a promising comparison. He was also fortunate to emerge from the game unscathed, on a collision with Seahawks running back Spencer Ware late in the third quarter, Ware lowered the crown of his helmet. Since it was outside the tackles and not within 3 yards of the line of scrimmage, this should have been a 15-yard penalty on Ware, per the league's new rules.

  • The pressure that Brock Osweiler faced led to four sacks and another five plays in which he was hit or hurried; this represents half of the second-year quarterback's passing plays. Osweiler could stand to get rid of the football sooner; he averaged 3.24 seconds from snap to throw, compared with 2.73 seconds for Peyton Manning. But even that wouldn't have helped him much on the four sacks he suffered; on average, he was sacked just 2.55 seconds after the snap.

    Osweiler was most effective rolling to his right; although he threw his interception on such a play, he also found Virgil Green, Trindon Holliday and O'Connell for receptions of 18, 17 and 17 yards, respectively.

  • Running back Lance Ball never had a chance in his second-half work. He was hit behind the line of scrimmage on five of his seven carries.

  • Linebacker Danny Trevathan was active, making plays against the run and the pass and displaying good awareness to keep the men he covered in front of him -- and well behind the line to gain. But for this defense to work effectively, you can't miss tackles, and he missed two of them (one of which was nullified by a Seahawks penalty). The one that stood up cost the Broncos 15 yards and was followed two plays later by Wilson's 3-yard touchdown pass to Sean McGrath.

  • That touchdown should have been called into question since Seahawks offensive lineman Breno Giacomini was whistled for unnecessary roughness after hitting Sylvester Williams after Wilson had thrown the ball. The illicit contact came when the football was in mid-flight, before McGrath caught the pass. Seattle was penalized on the ensuing kickoff, even though the hit came before the play was dead. The penalty overshadowed what was an outstanding inside charge by Williams that flushed Wilson outside; against a less mobile quarterback, this sort of play by Williams could turn into a game-changer.

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