The Broncos looked awful on Sunday against the Saints. It was already going to be a tough game to win against that ferocious New Orleans defense, and things got incredibly more complicated on Saturday when we learned that Denver would be without all of their quarterbacks in Week 12. The quarterbacks were considered high-risk, close-contacts as they were around backup Jeff Driskel who tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.
The offense turned to a variety of players at quarterback – none of them actually being quarterbacks. One player was practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton, others like running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman took snaps, as well. The result of this non-quarterback rotation at quarterback was disastrous.
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio did not pull any punches when talking about his disappointment in the quarterback room for causing this situation.
“I was disappointed on a couple levels. That our quarterbacks put us in this position and that our quarterbacks put the league in this position. We count on them to be the leaders of the team and leaders of the offense and those guys made a mistake and that is disappointing. Obviously, I haven’t done a good enough job of selling the protocols to them when they are on their own so part of that could fall on me. I thought I was. We have emphasized it a lot and we’re really doing good with COVID up to this point as it relates relative to other teams. There was a failing there and that’s disappointing,” Fangio said.
How does the team bounce back from this embarrassing loss? Up next, a trip to Arrowhead Stadium to take on the world champion Kansas City Chiefs. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly from the Week 12 loss.
There is little good to take away from this game. Nothing good came from the Broncos offense today, so any “good” has to come from the defensive side of the ball. Once again, the Broncos rush defense gave up more than 200 yards on the ground to a team – which is understandable because of the players/starters they’re missing on the line and the insane amount of time they were on the field because of the offensive woes.
I have liked the play of rookie cornerback Essang Bassey, and he came down with the first interception of his career against the Saints. After A.J. Bouye tipped a Taysom Hill pass, Bassey moved underneath the ball and snared the pick. He had a knack for being around the ball in college at Wake Forest, and Bassey had more pass breakups (35) over the last two years of his college career than any other defensive back in the FBS.
That nose for the ball and work ethic have garnered Bassey more playing time in recent weeks. He’s been working hard ever since training camp when he wanted to prove himself as a player who could make the 53-man roster coming from the 2020 college free agents available after the draft.
“Every day and every practice, every game, I’m just trying to get better and I feel like I have been since I first stepped into the lineup and since I first started playing. Every day I try and keep getting better and better. I was able to make a play today, hopefully I can make more in the future and that’s going to, like I said, come from me continuing to learn and grow and continue getting better,” Bassey said.
I’m only going to pick one “bad” thing from Sunday’s contest. Actually, it’s technically two “bad” observations from the Broncos game – the injuries to starting cornerback Bryce Callahan and co-starting running back Phillip Lindsay.
Callahan has only missed one game this year, a good thing for a player who has never played a full 16-game season during his pro career. He’s the best cornerback on the roster, and the Broncos defense isn’t as good if Callahan is not out there. Callahan is arguably the best slot corner in the league, but he can also excel on the outside as well. If this foot problem causes him to miss more time, the Broncos defense will not be as good.
Lindsay is the best running back on the roster yet usually doesn’t get as much work as he should get. He opened the game as the quarterback and ran the wildcat with co-starter Melvin Gordon in the backfield next to him. Like Callahan, Lindsay has missed time this year as well due to injury. A knee injury can be tricky to deal with if it’s minor. Lindsay might have to miss more time and the offense will then miss one of its most-explosive players.
Fangio did not provide much of an update after the game and hopefully the injuries aren’t serious. We’ll have to wait until later in the week to know more.
“Bryce’s foot started bothering him and Phillip tweaked his knee a little bit. That’s all I know at this point,” Fangio said.
I do not blame Hinton for this loss. He was thrust into a no-win situation and tried to make the most of it. A former prep and college quarterback, Hinton played wide receiver over his final two college seasons at Wake Forest. He didn’t throw the ball that much in college and was around a 50 percent passer with a few more touchdowns than interceptions.
When the Broncos picked Hinton up as an undrafted wide receiver earlier this year, I applauded the move. I liked Hinton’s game from an athletic standpoint, but what really stood out to me was his high football intelligence. Hinton is a smart player who obviously understands concepts and can read defenses.
That being said, it was an ugly performance against the Saints. Hinton only completed 1-of-9 passes for 13 yards and had two interceptions with two other passes that should have been intercepted. He’s dreamed of playing quarterback at the highest level but not like this.
“I would not say this is how I planned it out in my dreams, but it usually doesn’t work out how you want it. So, just getting this opportunity and this experience has been amazing. Imagining myself playing quarterback in the NFL four years ago, it’s completely different being in a completely different situation. But, it’s an experience like none,” Hinton said.
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