Monday, January 30, 2023

Broncos Mailbag: How Was Pass Rush So Effective With Von Miller’s Business, Malik Reid Injured?

Denver Post Broncos writer Ryan O’Halloran posts his Broncos mailbag from time to time during the season. Submit questions to Ryan here.

Was Sunday a Broncos victory or a disappointing failure by the Cowboys? I say the latter. The Broncos made some good plays but it was a classic trap game for Dallas. Thought they would win versus a bad Bronco team and mentally took the week off. What did you say?
— Bill, Parker

Here’s the thing about a trap game: it has to do with the team’s next opponent, not that day’s opponent. If Dallas were playing Kansas City or Green Bay or the Rams next week, I’d say the Cowboys “stuck” and ignored the Broncos. But Dallas hosts Atlanta next so that argument doesn’t fly for me.

For your initial question, both things can be true. The Broncos did everything right (except for the special teams). They planned well, coached well and played well, leading 30-0 on their way to a 30-16 victory. Cowboys, on the other hand, were sleepy and never woke up. Every team has a clunker where a combination of factors results in damage.

Arizona jailed Josh Rosen and then found Kyler Murray. The Broncos closed Paxton Lynch and then passed over to Josh Allen. And they took KJ Hamler and passed Trayvon Diggs. Of course, one can go on forever. The question is, how many more years will it take to emerge from under John Elway’s long, dark shadow? I’m thinking four or five.
— Scott Newell, Denver

Interesting topic: What kind of condition did George Patton inherit and how long will it take him to heal? It’s not a one-year fix, that’s for sure, but it shouldn’t be a four-year exam either.

Reviewing your examples, you hit the Cardinals – they dropped Rosen after a year and drafted Murray first overall. The Broncos had already left Lynch (even though he was still on the roster) when they passed on to Allen in 2018. And the Hamler pick will always be interesting to dissect because it came the day after the Broncos drafted Jerry Judy.

Going back on your timeline. Patton faces major decisions on draft picks that he did not pick, mainly receiver Cortland Sutton, left guard Dalton Risner and outside linebacker Bradley Chubb. He has already exercised Chubb’s 2022 contract option.

Ryan, can you explain that blocked punt game where we somehow ended up getting the ball back?
— Ron, Lakewood

I have to admit, I had no idea what was going on when the drama happened on Sunday and I am not alone.

The Cowboys, thanks to a completely unblocked player in the middle (how does that happen?) blocked Sam Martin’s punt. The deflected football crossed the line of scuffle. Nashon Wright of Dallas tried to corrupt it, but it slipped out of his hands and was picked up by Jonas Griffith of the Broncos.

As a rule, because Wright touched the football and it was out of bounds, it is a free ball for the Broncos to recover and start a new drive.

Coach Vic Fangio said after the game he had seen that game before. I did not do that.

Where was this crime in the last few weeks? It’s like the passing game miraculously opened up because we are committed to a running game. Crazy isn’t it? It’s not like it’s football 101 or anything. Do you see a strong commitment to moving the run game forward? With our receivers healthy, can we expect the offense to score more than 25 points in a row?
— David, Highlands Rancho

Let’s focus on Sunday’s offense against Dallas. He scored a season-high 30 points and received 407 yards (the third-highest this year). Why might be the key factor in the win and the right to encourage fans to keep going.

The game commitment is underway. Part of running football are plays that take no yards, but you must stick with it. The Broncos stuck with it and apparently it helped to get such a huge lead. He did not attempt a pass in the last 11 minutes.

The return of Jerry Judy. Judy missed six games with an ankle sprain. He looked good against Washington and better against Dallas. His presence opens things up for Cortland Sutton and Tim Patrick.

Play-calling. I’d imagine this conversation between coach Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur last week: “Pat, I want you to try some of these things because they emphasize any defensive I train.” Maybe that’s why Shurmoor introduced quick passes for Judy.

No Von Miller. No Bradley chews. Not Malik Reed. Yet we still had a strong pass rush that seemed to bow down to Dak Prescott. Is it just a matter of youth taking advantage of their opportunities? I’m excited to see more of Jonathan Cooper. He looks like the real deal.
— Miles, Parker

In two games minus Miller — he was inactive against Washington and then traded — the Broncos have eight sacks. Reid (hip) missed the Cowboys game, but the Broncos are getting contributions from Cooper (two sacks on Sunday) and Stephen Weatherly (one sack against Washington).

I’ll also give credit where it’s due and that defensive line. Shelby Harris and Dremont Jones have put more pressure on the quarterback in the last two games, forcing them out of pocket and into risky throws or simple throws.

Cooper may finally be one of this year’s draft steals.

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