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Broncos' problems extend way past Tebow

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Posted Oct. 31, 2011 @ 6:34 p.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

At 2-5, the Broncos have a lot more problems than just Tim Tebow's throwing motion and accuracy. Though the quarterback dominates the spotlight and criticism directed at the team, there are issues all across the roster and coaching staff that need correction over the final nine games of the season.

At no time was that more obvious than in Denver's Week Eight loss at home to the Lions. The Broncos allowed 45 points and scored just 10, but if one had listened to the Fox telecast or read some postgame columns, they would come away thinking that if Tebow had played a bit better, the game would have been close. The truth is that the Lions were the far superior squad on Sunday all across the field, in every phase of the game. The quarterback was bad and deserves blame, but so, too, do several other Broncos.

The PFW spin

Here, in no particular order, were some of the major problems (outside of Tebow) shown by the Broncos in their Week Eight loss:

  • The pass defense was downright pathetic for much of the game. Star CB Champ Bailey had some trouble with Lions all-world WR Calvin Johnson, which is understandable, but the issues go way beyond that. Detroit's first touchdown of the game, a 41-yard pass from Matthew Stafford to Titus Young, was an awful miscommunication that resulted in Young catching the TD with no orange jersey within 15 yards. Both CB André Goodman and FS Brian Dawkins charged up to guard TE Tony Scheffler, leaving Young all alone in the middle of the endzone. Later in the game, Johnson himself broke coverage and streaked in for six without a defender in sight.
  • Pass protection is difficult to judge with a running quarterback, but too often there were Lions defenders in the Broncos' backfield. Tebow was sacked seven times, including one strip-sack that was returned 24 yards for a touchdown. To be fair, the offensive line did do a good job in run blocking (6.5 yards per rush).
  • Speaking of pass rush, where was Denver's? The Broncos were credited with two sacks and four other quarterback hits, but all too often, Stafford had plenty of time to hit an open receiver down the field. Pass rush and coverage are tied together with a knot, so when one struggles, the other will usually do the same.
  • Coach John Fox and his staff had a poor game plan that didn't give the offense much of a chance. Following a productive opening drive where they mixed in short and deep passes with runs by both the running backs and Tebow, the team seemed to abandon the short throws in favor of longer routes. The plan backfired, to no great surprise. The Broncos lack the elite receivers or the accurate QB to make plays down the field, and the plan installed by Fox gave his team little chance to succeed.
  • Tebow showed at the end of the Dolphins game in Week Seven that he thrived in a hurry-up offense. So, why didn't the Broncos utilize that approach at all against the Lions? Fox never addressed that question during the postgame press conference, but it would have seemed to have been common sense to return to the style of play that fit the quarterback's talent best.

Next week the Broncos face off with the Raiders, an AFC West foe that is going through similar QB issues. Win or lose, the spotlight will surely be on Tebow again. However, the result of the game may depend more on whether the Broncos can get some of their other problems corrected.

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