The Denver Broncos went into Buffalo as a heavy favorite over the Bills, and as a surprise team in the NFL after they completely dismantled the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2.
The beautiful thing about the NFL is that every team is required to play all 16 games, and every team can beat any team on any given week. It is the most competitive league in all of sports. As of me writing this article, the New York Jets have more wins than the New York Giants, and as many wins as the Dallas Cowboys. Were three games in, but who would have thunk that?
Some fans and pundits will call the Broncos week 3 matchup against the Bills a trap game. A lesser opponent sandwiched between the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders.
But the fact remains; Buffalo has a very solid defense with a dynamic front seven and a young and talented secondary. The offense ranked first in rushing last year, and Tyrod Taylor is a very capable quarterback. Couple all that with the fact that the Broncos have not won in Buffalo since 2007, and you have much more than a trap game. You have a very competitive opponent.
The Broncos learned that the hard way as they left Orchard Park with a loss, and will have to fix some issues before they face the Raiders in Mile High next week.
5 Biggest Takeaways From Denver Broncos 26-16 Loss To Bills
1. Why Did Mike McCoy Abandon The Run So Early?
One of the great things about this offense thus far into the season is the balance of attack that they have been able to produce. The rushing attack looks to be much improved, and that, in turn, has opened up passing lanes and allowed Trevor Siemian to get Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas going.
The same appeared to be the case on Sunday, that is until, the offense seemed to hit the panic button, and abandon the run altogether.
On the game, the Broncos ran the ball 23 times for 111 yards. That is really good efficiency against a great front seven in the NFL. However, in the 4th quarter, aside from one Siemian scramble, Denver rushed the ball ONE time, a Jamaal Charles run of 12 yards.
In a one-possession game, when you are averaging almost five yards a clip, you cannot become one-dimensional and play panicked. Play calling is what truly hurt Siemian and the offense.
McCoy has done a tremendous job since he came back to Denver, but I’d like to see him trust his horses and stay balanced. Down four with the entire 4th quarter, feed C.J. the ball and watch him put the team on his back.
2. Trevor Siemian Demonstrated Poor Judgement On A Few Plays But Never Wavered
As mentioned above, the passing game became the mainstay in the second half as Siemian aired it out 40 times over the course of the game. Overall, I thought Siemian played well. He found a wide open Emmanuel Sanders for a deep pass on a critical 3rd down deep in their own zone, but the ball was lodged free as he came to the ground and was ruled an incompletion. He had a few big passes to DT and converted some other big third downs.
Unfortunately, his two mistakes were costly ones. Two interceptions, one in their own zone, and one that killed a drive that was all but destined for points. When you look at the box score, two turnovers to zero for the Bills was the difference in a very close hard fought game.
I will say this about Trevor however. Even after big mistakes like interceptions, he always comes back onto the field and looks poised, unwavering. He has this “next play” mentality which is so important for a young quarterback. He wasn’t able to get it done on Sunday, but overall, a road loss to a tough opponent is always a good learning experience.
3. Vance Joseph Proved He Can Make Some Gutsy Calls; Maybe Too Gusty For His Own Good
I have loved what I have seen from Head Coach Vance Joseph thus far in the season. Fans love coaches that trust their players and make bold and brash decisions throughout the game. That is until those bold decisions fail and come back to bite you. The latter happened on Sunday, as Joseph opted to perform a fake punt on a 4th and 2 deep in Broncos territory. The Bills were not fooled and forced a turnover on downs.
The Broncos defense pushed Buffalo backward and held them to a field goal, but that extended their lead to seven and gave them all of the momentum.
The play call wasn’t necessarily a terrible one, but the timing was crucial. Still, with plenty of time left in the game, and at that point, you need to be playing for field position. Punt the ball, defense forces a three and out, and you gain yardage in the field position battle, in a perfect world.
I just can’t kill us. I killed the game today with that penalty. I just have to be better than that, and I will be better than that.” – Von Miller
4. Playground Teasing = Unsportsmanlike Conduct
Aside from turnovers, the most pivotal part of the game was after a 3rd down incompletion in the 4th quarter. Broncos linebacker Von Miller drove Bills QB Tyrod Taylor to the ground, nearly notching a sack. Jokingly, Von reached his hand out to help Tyrod up before pulling it away. The two players know each other off the field and you can see both laughing over the exchange. Well, the referee did not see it that way. He threw the unsportsmanlike flag, giving the Bills 15 yards, an automatic first down, and the ability to run precious time off the clock before adding a game-sealing field goal. Not saying the Broncos were guaranteed to score a touchdown upon getting the ball back after the would-be punt, but it’s safe to say that this strange call sealed the game for the Bills.
“I can’t put my team in a situation like that,” Miller said of the penalty, via the team’s official website. “I’ve brought us home 50 million times. I’ve closed games 50 million times. I’ve got to be smarter than that. I’m always on the rookies and all the young guys on being smart and doing this and doing that, and I go out there and do something like that in a crucial situation in the game. I’ve just got to be better than that.
“I haven’t been in [these] situations since my rookie season, but one thing about it [is], I’m always able to bounce back. I always learn from my mistakes. I just can’t kill us. I killed the game today with that penalty. I just have to be better than that, and I will be better than that.”
I have never seen anything like that called before in all my years of watching football, but it definitely left a fingerprint on the outcome of the game. You know Miller will rebound, and I would be a little nervous if I was Derek Carr next week.
5. The Secondary Looked Shaky; The Run Defense Is For Real
The usually dominant No Fly Zone looked a little bit shaky on Sunday and gave up some key third downs. They still held Tyrod Taylor to 213 yards through the air but his 20 for 26 passing was way too efficient for what the secondary typically allows. A few of the zone plays broke down, and Bills receivers were wide open in space. Again, one characteristic of the Denver defense is their uncanny ability to rebound. Expect them to come out extremely hungry against the Raiders next week. Should be a fun battle to watch.
The run defense, on the other hand, looked just as good as it did against the Cowboys. The Bills had the number one rushing offense in the league last season, and one of the best running backs in the game in LeSean McCoy. The front seven kept him in check and left him noticeably frustrated on the sidelines as he was only able to muster 21 yards on 14 carries, good enough for a miserable 1.5-yard average. The run defense is definitely improved and should be able to contain Marshawn Lynch in next week’s divisional showdown.