The Broncos let one slip away on “Monday Night Football.” They opened the 292 season with a loss to the Titans by a score of 16-14 in a game that they should have won. Tennessee had three missed field goals (one blocked) and one missed extra point, which gave the Broncos a chance – but they did not take advantage of that.
In this contest, the Broncos lost two starters to injury. Cornerback A.J. Bouye was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury, while running back Phillip Lindsay didn’t return from halftime due to a toe injury. Missing these two players didn’t help as the Broncos fell short in a close contest against a playoff team.
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio had no excuses after the game.
“Nobody likes to see injuries, but we’re good enough to overcome it. I know we almost won the game tonight. We were competitive and played good and tough football. We had our chances despite all those injuries and we’ll keep going that way,” Fangio said.
The Broncos are not good enough yet to let these types of games get away from them. Up next, a trip to Pittsburgh to face a Steelers team that looked strong in their season opener. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the Week 1 loss.
I’ve often said on The Fan that Broncos tight end Noah Fant had a strong performance in training camp that almost no one was talking about. On Monday night, Fant came through in a big way for the Broncos offense early against the Titans. He finished the contest with five catches for 81 yards and one touchdown to be the leading receiver for the Broncos in Week 1.
It’s a great game for the second-year tight end, and he certainly looked like a new-wave weapon like the upper-echelon tight ends in the league. However, Fant racked up all of those yards and catches in the first half only. In the second half of the game, Fant was only targeted one time and did not come up with the catch.
“I think we just kind of went in a different direction on the offensive side trying to take advantage of some other matchups, which was a good idea,” Fant said after the game.
The Broncos need to make a note of this. Targeting Fant was working and the Titans didn’t have an answer for stopping him. Instead, the Broncos stopped themselves and went away from the second-year pro. I hope that in the future this team stays with the hot hand and keeps feeding Fant the ball when he’s performing well.
Fant followed up a strong training camp performance with a strong performance in Week 1. This is a good sign for him as Fant wants to take that next step in his career. Tight ends are no longer big-bodied blockers who rarely get passes thrown their way. Instead, tight ends are a mismatch weapon that teams look high and low for. There’s only a small handful of elite-tier tight ends in the NFL, but Fant is looking like he could one day be among that group.
No other media member in the Mile High City has talked up Jerry Jeudy more than me. I put him as my pick for the Broncos in my one and only mock draft of the year, and I was thrilled to see the Broncos select him with the No. 15 overall pick. He’s got superstar potential from day one, and I’m excited to see how he develops as a pro.
That’s why I was so disappointed when Jeudy had two critical drops in the game against the Titans. Both drops were going to be big gains, but instead were drive-killing plays that kept the Broncos from moving the chains. After the game, Fangio was asked his thoughts about those two critical drops.
“Well, he dropped the ball. He’s not the first guy to do that and won’t be the last. We expect him to catch that. He expects himself to catch it. It would’ve put us in field goal range and given us a first down, but those are the mistakes that can cost you when you’re playing a good team,” Fangio said.
I believe in Jeudy’s ability and I know that drops are not a part of his game. In the 2019 season with Alabama, Jeudy was credited with seven drops. That’s a high number, but he was also one of the most frequently targeted receivers (108 targets last year) in all of college football.
Does he sometimes alligator arm catches over the middle when contact is bearing down on him? Yes, that’s something that showed up on film at Alabama. However, Jeudy does have good hands and can secure catches cleanly.
I believe that on Monday night Jeudy was trying to do too much. Without Courtland Sutton in the lineup, Jeudy was trying to make a big play happen on every catch. Instead, the rookie should have secured the catch, gotten what he can after the catch and then move on to keep the chains moving for another play. This will come with time. It was frustrating and unacceptable on Monday night, but this is not something that should continue in 2020.
Fangio needed to call a timeout on the Titans near the end of the game. With time winding down and the Titans driving – and all three timeouts remaining – the Broncos coach chose to just let time wind down. The Titans field goal kicker, Stephen Gotskowski, missed three field goals on the night and one extra point. However, when it came to crunch time to win the game he nailed a 25-yard field goal to win the game.
Instead of having a minute or so left to move the ball down for a game-winning field goal of their own, the Broncos had just 17 seconds to work with. The offense floundered, Drew Lock almost got picked off, and time expired with the Broncos on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
After the game, the first question asked of Fangio was about the lack of timeouts being called at the end of the contest.
“Well, it was two-fold there. Obviously, their field goal kicker was having some problems so I didn’t want to extend the drive to where they could get closer. (And) we would have used the timeout but we got the running back out of bounds. We would have used the second timeout, but they threw an incompletion. That was part of the thinking there.” Fangio said.
We’ll see if this is something Fangio learns from. It is a painful lesson as he did not give his offense enough time to do anything at the end of the game. The Broncos loss was certainly frustrating, and I feel it can mostly be placed at the feet of the coaching staff.
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