Broncos-Colts grades: Wilson has one of his worst weeks
Let’s go to the report card, shall we …
It isn’t just the interception, it’s the opportunities lost. The open receivers not targeted, none more prominent than KJ Hamler on the game’s final play. His 54.9 passer rating was among the bottom 12 single-game ratings of his career. Beyond his control, three drops didn’t help matters. But the lat injury is clearly affecting him; Thursday’s work was nothing like the Wilson the Broncos expected.
RUNNING BACKS: B-minus
Mike Boone and Melvin Gordon strengthened as the game progressed, and neither had a drop or a fumble — which, after Gordon’s spate of fumbles in the previous games, was a good start for the unit. The two running backs combined to average 6.6 yards per carry on the Broncos’ final three possessions. It looks like it will be a collective from this point forward after Latavius Murray steps into the mix next week. That yields the opportunity for more late-game work like we saw Thursday night, when the Broncos’ coterie of runners is simply fresher than their foes.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C-minus
There is only so much the receivers can do. If they break open and the quarterback doesn’t spot them, frustration is understandable. KJ Hamler, in particular, should have had the ball thrown his way more. His speed appears to be all the way back. A drop each by Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton continued an alarming trend for the Broncos’ pass catchers as a whole. Jeudy now has 3 drops this season after having 2 all of last year. A 37-yard catch-and-run in overtime saved Jeudy’s night from an individual perspective.
TIGHT ENDS: C
Eric Saubert had a season-high 5 catches — 3 more than his tally prior to Week 5 — but dropped a pass. However, he, Eric Tomlinson and Andrew Beck had solid games in terms of run blocking. But Beck also drew a holding penalty that derailed a second-quarter driver. Their work was also solid in run blocking as well, although Albert Okwuegbunam’s entry into the lineup continues to be a tell; 14 of his 15 snaps were pass plays.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C
The line’s work ensured that Denver’s running backs had more space to operate; the percentage of yards after contact dropped against the Colts. Another thing that went well was the unit’s work out in front on screen passes. With Wilson injured and Bolles out for the season, opponents will attack the pocket. The screen game can help defuse opposing pass rushers.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-minus
D.J. Jones and Dre’Mont Jones play brilliantly off of each other, which has helped lead to the development of the former as a consistent pass-rush threat. He didn’t have the chance to show that with the San Francisco 49ers. Mike Purcell and Matt Henningsen also had solid performances in rotational work. Enyi Uwazurike also saw his first regular-season snaps.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS: B-plus
Alex Singleton stepped in for Josey Jewell once again. While his play has a bit more variance than that of the now-injured starter, it is quite effective. Singleton covers territory well and his physicality in tackling brings a jolt of energy.
EDGE RUSHERS: A-minus
Pressure, pressure and more pressure. Bradley Chubb, Baron Browning and Nik Bonitto besieged the Colts’ struggling tackles, leaving Matt Ryan uncomfortable far more often than not. Browning was particularly disruptive, and with how Ejiro Evero uses him as an inside linebacker in some sub packages, he is developing into a stellar and dangerous chess piece for opponents to handle.
Ronald Darby will be missed. Damarri Mathis held his own, but Matt Ryan threw in his direction 9 times. Expect that to continue. Mathis held his own, but a missed tackle attempt on Parris Campbell in overtime allowed the Colts to get into field-goal range. Indianapolis got five first downs at Mathis’ expense. K’Waun Williams’ talking ability appears affected by his wrist injury; he missed two potential stops.
Two Matt Ryan passes sailed right to Caden Sterns, but he was generally outstanding all night. That said, he capitalized when the ball came his way, just as he did last year. Sterns’ playmaking abilities and growing maturity make him a starter-in-waiting once Justin Simmons comes back.
Grover Stewart got a right hand on one of Brandon McManus’ four field-goal attempts, blocking the third-quarter try. For all of the discussion points in the wake of the loss, the blocked kick was surprisingly unmentioned. Yet its impact was profound. Preventing the block would have changed the flow of the game. Perhaps the Broncos don’t go for a touchdown if they’re ahead 12-6 late in the fourth quarter, rather than 9-6. Alas, but it shows the profound impact of the third phase.
The difference between Corliss Waitman’s net and gross averages is 4.4 yards, and his hang times continue to be solid and consistent.
Washington got lucky on his fumble of a kickoff return, but this was a fairly non-descript night on the whole for the return units.
KICKOFF/PUNT COVERAGE: B
Denver had no work to do on kickoff coverage; all of McManus’ kickoffs went for touchbacks. Sometimes it’s best to just leave nothing to chance.