Throughout the entire 2017-18 season, BSN Denver will be giving you game grades from every Denver Broncos contest. Evaluating all of the starters and beyond to give you a better look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses on a game-to-game basis.

The Denver Broncos suffered a 21-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders after an improbable comeback that fell just short. With lots of injuries and unexpected backups thrown into the fire, there was plenty to cover in another tough loss.

Defense

Domata Peko: B

Peko’s first half was terrific as he was a huge presence in the running game swallowing up blocks and blowing up plays. He simply made a ton of plays and had six tackles.

As the game wore on, he tired out and struggled some with left guard Kelechi Osemele and center Rodney Hudson. Towards the end, he was sidelined with a knee injury, which could be a tough break for the run defense that’s relied heavily on him. Peko is expected to miss at least one week.

Derek Wolfe: N/A

Wolfe was ruled out with six minutes to go in the first quarter with a neck injury that kept him out the rest of the afternoon.

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Playing many snaps in Wolfe’s place, Shelby Harris played well. He had a great stop against the run immediately after the fight and then burst through for a sack later on sharing the stop with Von Miller. In 44 snaps Harris did flash a good amount though his impact too was lessened as the game wore on.

Adam Gotsis: C-

This wasn’t a very impactful game for Gotsis especially considering he was forced to play more snaps than usual with Wolfe’s absence, 40 to be exact, more than he’s had since Week 3.

He did clog up the run on 3rd-and-1 leading to a Justin Simmons tackle for a loss, but outside of that, he was nowhere to be found. Gotsis was washed downhill allowing a bigger gain on a Marshawn Lynch run down in the red zone towards the end of the first half, and couldn’t make a tackle on Lynch after getting into the opposing backfield with two minutes remaining in the game.

Von Miller: B

Von’s impact in the pass rush was limited as the Raiders did their best to slow him down.

He had a great penetration against the run early on and then came screaming off the strong side beating the tight end in the bat of an eye and bringing Lynch down for a huge tackle for a loss on 3rd-and-1. His takedown of Lynch was also pretty impressive. Then he combined for a sack with Harris on 3rd-and-12 as he flushed Derek Carr out the pocket winning off the edge again.

He was flagged for jumping the snap too early and was good but not great against the run.

Todd Davis: D

Davis led the team in tackles with eight but only had three solo stops and most of those tackles where after Oakland had already made a substantial gain.

Defending the pass or run, he was far from perfect—he struggled to cover tight end Jared Cook for a first down completion then couldn’t bring down back Jalen Richard who dragged him for extra five yards after contact. He was called for an illegal hand to the face penalty on the very next play and couldn’t bring Lynch down on 3rd-and-short in the third quarter again getting taken for a ride.

He did combine with Shane Ray to stop Lynch on a 2nd-and-goal run but did little else of truly positive impact. His limitations have been exposed a bit more in 2017.

Brandon Marshall: B-

Marshall battled, especially early on where he made many quality plays. He had nice tackle coming up to stop the run on Oakland’s second drive, then got a tackle for a loss after Von forced the runner towards him, he also made a phenomenal open field tackle on Lynch after a quick dump off.

Towards the end of the game, Marshall seemed a bit worn down and couldn’t avoid Osemele’s block on Oakland’s second touchdown opening up a clear path for Lynch, to run through untouched in the end zone. He also couldn’t bring Cordarrelle Patterson down on the game-sealing 3rd-and-8 conversion.

Shane Ray: B-

Ray’s still leaving us wanting for more in the pass rush but that’s not a problem that’s limited to him alone, and his game overall was pretty good. He did an okay job, especially against the run, getting a stop on the second drive and combining with Davis for a crucial stop at the goal line. He also came up to close a play that led to a TFL by Darian Stewart late in the game.

His pressure off the blind side forced Carr to step up into the pocket where he was sacked by Harris and Miller on 3rd-and-12.

He was flagged for roughing the passer and didn’t necessarily make many big plays, but he’s picked it up since he first came back from injury.

Darian Stewart: C

Stewart was active and had several tackles as the last line of defense against the run. He even managed a tackle for a loss on a great play, bursting up the line to back the Raiders up on their final drive.

His biggest play was a negative one on Johnny Holton’s 47-yard reception where he didn’t cut off the angle to close down on the speedy receiver, instead leaving him plenty of space for the big play that set up the Raiders 21-0 lead. He was also called on a tough unnecessary roughness play as he lowered his shoulder on Amari Cooper coming over the middle who lowered his head making the impact that much worse.

Overall he had a much better game, but the issues in coverage remain and continue to cost the team.

Justin Simmons: A-

Simmons played great and seems to be coming around as of late. In coverage, he played a really tough game against Cook with several great plays including a touchdown-saving cover on a bobbled ball by the Oakland tight end.

He also came up and supported the run defense, making a nice tackle for a loss on 3rd-and-1. He also made a splendid tackle out in space on Lynch who gave the defense issues all game breaking tackles.

Chris Harris Jr.: B-

Harris was punched and down on the ground for a little while, and it seemed to affect his game at least immediately after the scuffle as he played soft coverage on 3rd-and-15 allowing an easy completion in his zone.

After that, he made a couple tackles out in space and was then beaten on the Holton bomb in which his coverage was good up front, he was just expecting help over the top that Stewart wasn’t able to give. He’s still not getting tested much as he’s playing great coverage, but his impact is certainly lessened as teams can just go away from him.

Aqib Talib: N/A

Talib was ejected for fighting with Micheal Crabtree; his loss was felt as rookie Brandan Langley stepped into his place and struggled. Langley was completely beaten by Cooper off the snap for the Raiders first TD and then got called for pass interference as he tackled the receiver early on another end zone target. He was then flagged for running into the kicker on special teams and then allowed the Patterson completion to clinch the game on 3rd-and-8.

Talib’s absence weighed heavily on this game and even with Crabtree out, and Cooper injured afterward, Langley had a hard time with the Raiders backups.

Other noteworthy defensive performances: 

Bradley Roby got back on track in this game playing great coverage. He really stood out for one pass deflection, flying in to tip a 2nd-and-9 pass at the end of the half. Nice to see him step up with Talib out and Harris missing a few plays.

Shaquil Barrett made the play of the game defensively with a spectacular strip sack. He showed great hands and burst off the edge, knocking the ball out of Carr’s hands right as he threw him to the ground. A masterful play. He also had a great stop coming off the strong side and closing in on Lynch for no gain.

Offense

Garett Bolles: C

Bolles was able to eliminate some of the costly penalties that have pledged him so far this year, but he was far from perfect struggling especially with Bruce Irvin in pass protection.

Irvin first beat him on his inside shoulder to get a third-down sack, and then had a strip sack just blowing by the rook with his first step for an explosive play.

He was nothing to write home about as a run blocker either.

Max Garcia: C+

Garcia, after a fine game a week ago, didn’t have the same impact on the ground and wasn’t put on the move as much with a new play caller. He looked miserably slow getting off his block and created no push on a pull on a second down play to start the second half.

Outside of that, there wasn’t much to highlight though he’s improving in pass protection.

Matt Paradis: C

Paradis’ impact as a run blocker hasn’t been the same in this recent stretch. One play stood out early on, as Paradis was completely pushed back into the backfield on a first down run right after having gone down 7-0.

He seemed to not be on the same page with Ronald Leary in pass-pro as well, as the right guard was expecting to hand off defenders to his center only to have him be on the other side.

Ronald Leary: D

Leary’s been in a funk lately, and it continued in this game where he was exposed at times.

First, he was absolutely knocked to the ground on a third-down sack at the end of the second quarter, as little known Denico Autrey absolutely outmuscled him.

Then, Autrey beat him for another sack on a much odder play in which Leary blocked him at first but then just let him go for a free pass to the quarterback. He also let pressure get into Trevor Siemian’s face forcing a 3rd-and-6 incompletion.

He was nothing special run blocking either and has been a major disappointment the last couple games.

Allen Barbre: D

Barbre’s struggles have continued, highlighted by two holding calls. The first nullified a first down conversion on a play-action pass while the other was on 3rd-and-13 on a play in which Paxton Lynch scrambled short of the sticks.

He got beat off the edge by Khalil Mack for a sack at the end of the fourth quarter. He’s been a major problem on the line since moving to tackle, and all considered he played a valiant game against Mack with two different quarterbacks and a new play caller.

C.J. Anderson: N/A

Anderson seems to be the starting running back in name only as he had five uneventful carries for 12 yards, which are sadly the most yards by any RB on the team.

C.J. saw the majority of his snaps at the start of the game as he only saw the field 19 times, by far his lowest total all year.

Demaryius Thomas: D+

Thomas, like Anderson, had an uneventful night with few plays to his name and a shortage of opportunities.

Early on, he couldn’t create separation from cornerback Sean Smith on a downfield target that could’ve been picked off. He then dropped an in-route on 1st-and-10 with less than five minutes remaining in the game.

He did make a tough contested grab on 3rd-and-5 at the end of the game and had four more short receptions. Certainly not what you’d expect from a star of his caliber against one of the league’s worst secondaries.

Emmanuel Sanders: C-

Sanders had three receptions for 12 yards with a few missed opportunities where he was open and just didn’t see the ball.

He made a couple of nice grabs on third downs to help out Paxton, but just not enough.

Virgil Green: C-

Green had to make a tough catch and just had it deflected on Navaro Bowmen’s  interception in the end zone, he also battled and not always with success in run blocking where the offense just couldn’t find traction.

He did make a nice grab for Siemian on first down to run for extra yardage, though, he slipped and fell. He’s not been a quality starter in this stretch.

Paxton Lynch: D

Lynch’s 2017 debut wasn’t what Broncos fans hoped, as he took a while to get going and missed some throws he should have made. The biggest miss was on a Bennie Fowler 3rd-and-5  sideline throw in which he beat his man and Paxton simply overshot his target.

On third down early on, he didn’t read pressure well and just took check downs or tried to run, showing that he’s still very raw.

His pass to Devontae Booker on a wheel route to the end zone was beautiful, showing great touch. His throw to Green in the end zone was risky and showed all the good in the talent he has to run, flip his hips, and zing a throw into triple coverage, and all the bad with slightly off ball placement as Bowman made a phenomenal play.

He struggled to feel out pressure too and then had the unfortunate injury giving way to Trevor Siemian who outplayed him.

Other noteworthy offensive performances:  

Trevor Siemian showed he’s quite clearly the best quarterback on the team, getting the offense kick-started and almost pulling off a comeback. He played loose, threw the ball well on the move and made a beautiful and gutsy pass on 4th-and-6 for a 25-yard score to Cody Latimer. He also almost had an interception and missed a wide open DT, but he got the offense going in a tough spot.

Special Teams: C-

Special teams didn’t have a very eventful day with no kicks or meaningful returns or turnovers.

Brandon McManus attempted a surprise onside kick that the Raiders simply made a play on, while punter Riley Dixon had a really short punt with 6:49 left in the second quarter giving the Raiders the ball at midfield.

Jordan Taylor on punt return duty caught far too many kicks within the 5-10 yard line and at least a few should’ve been let go.

On a positive note, it was a smart play to pooch kick it when the Raiders expected an onside with 2:34 to go and pinned them back on their own 13-yard line. Had the defense held Oakland on 3rd-and-8, that would’ve worked out to perfection.

Coaching: C-

It’s hard to put this one on the coaches.

Bill Musgrave was put in a tough spot as the offensive coordinator mid-season with an inexperienced starter at quarterback who was probably a bit rusty. Yet, it didn’t feel like there where enough adjustments to simplify and make Lynch more comfortable in the offense. The 219 total yards on offense don’t inspire much confidence.

Defensively, Joe Woods’ unit created a turnover and allowed two touchdowns that were largely the fault of a rookie cornerback thrown into the fire. The scheme wasn’t the issue though not enough pass rush was created.

Vance Joseph handled the game the best he could’ve, though there are still far too many penalties by the Broncos who again were flagged nine times costing them 75 yards.

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Born in Boulder and raised in Milan, Italy like Danilo Gallinari. Also like Gallo, I moved to the States at 18; unlike Gallo, I wasn’t drafted by the Knicks but came to attend Western State Colorado University (go Mountaineers!). I graduated in 2009 with a major in Communications and Media and two minors in Journalism and Philosophy.

After working in the linguistic field for a few years and listening to sports radio ALL DAY at work, I decided to do it myself and it changed my life around. (Now, I can say I couldn’t be happier and am proudly married to the love of my life Kate.) I moved back to Gunnison and started volunteering for the NPR affiliate up in Crested Butte, while also starting to contribute on an NFL podcast for playitusa.com. A 10 minute bit on one podcast turned into being a regular, year-round on three different podcasts on the NFL, College Football, and the NFL Draft. I’ve since started writing on trueblueblog.net and playitusa.com as well as writing in depth Draft analysis for footballnation.it in the past 3 years. I love the Draft and knowing the stars of the future before everyone else. My sports mount Rushmore is Terrell Davis, Patrick Roy, Italian soccer star Roberto Baggio, and John Elway, deal with it! Hit me up at @andresimone to talk NFL, NCAA football, NFL Draft, CSU football, Nuggets or anything else Colorado or Italy sports related.

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