For the second time in three games, the Broncos had a really good chance to win. For the second time in three games, they came up short, falling to Indianapolis on Sunday.
It isn’t that difficult to see that struggles in the red zone were critical for the Broncos. Five trips to the Colts’ 20 yard line or deeper and the Broncos could only come away with two field goals while turning the ball over on downs three times.
Some may question Josh McDaniels’ decision to go for the touchdown on 4th and goal at the one yard line in the second quarter. I liked the call.
The Broncos were down 13-0. The Broncos had the ball at the one yard line. They had four plays to get the ball into the end zone. Four plays.
They gave the ball to Laurence Maroney, whom the Colts stopped on first and second downs. Third down was a fade route to Demaryius Thomas, a big, physical target who has the ability to go up and get the ball. Orton’s pass was a bit long and out of bounds. Thomas never had the opportunity to make the play.
On fourth down, the Colts stopped Maroney short of the goal line, thanks to a correct reversal by instant replay.
Coach McDaniels’ decision to go for it on fourth down is certainly a decision worthy of discussion. But I don’t see there being an obvious right or wrong decision. That is only determined in hindsight, after the play works or doesn’t work.
There was not a single play call in that series where I was thinking, “What in the world was that?” The Colts held. In situations like this, many people like to blame the coach for deciding to go for it. But when you come up short four times from the one yard line, and there was no clear cut mistake in the play calls, I have to look at the guys on the field. Somehow, someway, they have to punch it in.
I also like the decision to go for it for a couple of other reasons.
First, you’re playing the Colts. A team only gets so many chances in the red zone in any given game. Against Indy, there is more of an urgency to take advantage of those opportunities because of the Peyton Manning and the potent offense he leads.
Second, the Broncos were trying to get the game down to one possession. Even though it was still pretty early, it was an understandable thought. Plus, while they didn’t convert, the defense held the Colts three-plays-and-out, forced a punt, got good field position and drove for a field goal right before halftime.
The other interesting fourth down decision came with just under nine minutes to go and the Colts ahead 20-13. Fourth-and-three at the Indy 12 yard line. There was a miscommunication between Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd on the route and the pass was incomplete. As I understand it, there was an option for Lloyd to run one kind of route if he got one defense and another kind of route if the Colts played something else. Apparently, the Colts switched, Lloyd and Orton each thought different things and the pass had no chance to be caught.
Some people think Coach McDaniels should have kicked the field goal. And there is merit to that point. In my opinion, however, it is not a no-brainer to kick the field goal.
They trailed by a touchdown. They had been moving the ball. They were deep in Colts’ territory. The defense had already had some success slowing down Manning and the Colts’ offense.
Why not go for it, try to keep the drive going and score a touchdown and tie the game in the fourth quarter? I can’t argue with it. In fact, I liked that the Broncos were again aggressive.
Going for it as the Broncos did in some key situations and being smart about what they were doing, which I believe they were, sends a message of confidence to the team. It sends the message that the coaches believe their guys is good enough. I like that.
I would have liked it better had either decision worked out and the plays been executed on the field.
But let’s not take the easy way out and blame the coach for this loss because of a couple of decisions to go for it on fourth down in the red zone didn’t work out.
In many ways, the Broncos played well against a terrific team. Yes, they lost and that is the bottom line. But the season is three games old. I’m not ready to come to any conclusions except the obvious one that the Broncos are 1-2.
What did you think about the game on Sunday? Thanks for reading and posting your thoughts.