Broncos Game Grades: The defense continues its domination

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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.

After a big divisional win 16-10 over the Oakland Raiders, Denver goes into the bye week sitting pretty. While the score was close the Orange and Blue dominated at times, here are our grades.


Domata Peko: A

Against the highest-paid interior offensive line in the league, Peko was a man among boys. His presence against the run was constant and he’s shown much more of an ability to wreck plays and get into the backfield the last two weeks, as opposed to just stuffing gaps.

A special performance once again.

Derek Wolfe: A

Wolfe came up big on the Broncos second quarter 4th-and-1 stop, stuffing the run. That’s where Wolfe’s made the biggest difference this season, as a tone-setter up front who’s a tough SOB on the ground. He was crucial closing down on runs and stuffing Marshawn Lynch time and time again.

Wolfe also added a nice sack on Carr on an overloaded blitz where Oakland had no chance. Not to mention his Justin Smith type hold to free up Von Miller for his one sack. A complete performance.

Adam Gotsis: B-

Gotsis started off with a great stuff against the run and was ruthless in pursuit running down Derek Carr on the hit that ultimately knocked him out of the game.

That aside, he only appeared in 23 snaps, his lowest total of the season.

Von Miller: B+

Von had his least impactful game of the season as it seemed like Oakland made an effort of staying away from him, and while he created pressure it wasn’t constant. He also didn’t have plays against the run or in coverage where he’ll usually have a couple big plays every game.

He did get his sack on a blistering move that left the Raiders right tackle in the dust. He was also not on the field on Oakland’s one big 64-yard touchdown. For the best defender in the NFL, it was just another day at the office, nothing more.

Todd Davis: B+

Davis had another strong game as a thumper against the run. He also showed himself well in coverage when having to line up on tight ends and was tested more than he usually does, answering the call. He’s taken a huge step in the first four weeks of the season, though still in limited snaps, only 31.

Brandon Marshall: A-

Marshall was excellent in this game and a sort of unsung hero. Against the run, he was active and quick to close down on several plays for minimal gains, getting six tackles. Anytime he was tested in coverage he answered the call allowing only short gains and forcing any pass that went his way to be close to perfect. He had a big pass breakup while covering Jared Cook in the end zone and preventing a touchdown. He’s a major asset for this defense.

Shaquil Barrett: B

Barrett wasn’t much of a factor in this game seeing few plays come his way as he battled with left tackle Donald Penn. He did get a huge tackle for a loss in the second half, overpowering Penn and closing on the play with quickness.

He also did a good job creating pressure and holding down the edge against the run. He’s been so good it’s almost unimpressive to see him just get a TFL and be close to perfect when called upon. That’s just the new standard.

Darian Stewart: C+

When needed to close down or tackle downhill on routes in space Stewart was there to do his thing. A particular tackle stood out on Corderelle Patterson as he forced a three and out in the first quarter. He came up with another crucial tackle in space on RB Jalen Richard to prevent a big play as well.

Of course, the play that’ll be remembered is the Johnny Holton 64-yard touchdown that happened on his watch. It’s worth mentioning Stewart saved a TD too by hitting Cook in the end zone and forcing the ball out of his hands.

It does beg the question why Stewart’s been playing more free safety and not strong safety as both he and Justin Simmons seem a bit out of position right now.

Justin Simmons: A

Simmons was much better in this game showing his athleticism and ability to cover downfield. The best example of this was his crucial interception where he flew above Amari Cooper to make a supremely athletic play.

He was asked to play up in the box and close down on the run as well and stood out, even bringing down Lynch for no gain.

Chris Harris Jr.: A

Harris allowed a reception to Seth Roberts on the Raiders field goal drive once E.J. Manuel came into the game. He also was inches away from having the game-winning interception the play before Simmons did.

Harris’ cover skills and ability to play everywhere, especially blanketing Cooper when in the slot was crucial.

Aqib Talib: A

Just about every completion Oakland managed in the air was between the numbers and not to the sideline, and Talib was a big factor in that.

Talib locked his side of the field down and was rarely tested. He was also a willing tackler against the run, a complete showing.

Other noteworthy defensive performances

Shelby Harris had a coverage sack that led to Carr’s injury.

Bradley Roby was outstanding in coverage. Especially on Cooper where he closed down and had a great pass deflection. He was simply perfect and came up big on several occasions.

Will Parks was a different player from the one we saw in Buffalo. In coverage, he was relentless and closed on plays with determination. He had some crucial stops on third down. No. 34 also contributed a fantastic tackle on special teams holding Patterson back on a kick return.


Garett Bolles: B

Bolles again showed small improvements in this game and was extremely reliable in pass protection early on. He did let go of Bruce Irvin after getting help on a chip that forced a sack on Siemian as Irvin ran him down. A perfect example of how Bolles needs to learn to bury defenders and not allow plays on the backside.

He had a rookie penalty on a false start on third and goal, but was mostly sound and was a part of why Denver created consistent push on the ground.

Allen Barbre: B

Barbre again made a difference when he was in the game. He was crucial on a screen getting Charles to convert on 3rd-and-11. He again showed himself on a pull later in the game and was very good in pass protection as well. Barbre also works nicely with Bolles in picking up blitzes and working in tandem on the left side.

Max Garcia: C

Garcia allowed a pressure on a stunt up the middle in the early going and while featured more in the early part of the game seemed to struggle some. However, his issues weren’t as glaring as they’ve been in the past. He might not have stood out for much, but was much less mistake-prone and did a better job run blocking.

Matt Paradis: A

Paradis' best talent is that he doesn’t make many mental mistakes. He did a splendid job on a Charles’ screen during the two-minute drill, showing his talents in space. He also was crucial in creating good push up the middle for the ground game. Paradis’ ability to create a clean interior pocket for Siemian to step into and mostly avoid Mack and Irvin’s outside rush was a key to victory as well. Another fantastic performance.

Ronald Leary:  B+

Especially early in the game as the Broncos offense had the most success, big No. 65 was creating lots of push for the run, in addition to being fantastic in pass protection. It’s no coincidence it looked like Denver ran it more to his side. However, he was also guilty of a couple costly penalties, including a hold on 3rd-and-1 and a false start that forced 2nd-and-15.

That aside, he really played had a big-time game beasting on the Raiders interior d-line and imposing himself in the trenches.

Menelik Watson: C

Watson, much like in other performances allowed some crucial and costly pressures from Khalil Mack, which we knew going in was no easy test. He was beaten off the edge in one instance flushing Siemian out of the pocket and then was overpowered to the inside nullifying the help he had outside. He was also forced into a hold at the end of the game.

However, he did a good job outside of that, especially in pass pro playing solid and battling, while getting a decent amount of help. His absence was felt immediately once he was knocked out of the game for a couple plays, as Donald Stephenson almost gave up a game-changing sack and fumble.

He showed lots of heart coming back and playing hurt.

C.J. Anderson: B+

Anderson might not have been elusive as he’s been in other games this season, but he was decisive in hitting his holes and gave the Broncos some tough north-south running that allowed the offense to sustain drives. Despite an unspectacular performance, he might’ve been the most important offensive contributor. His biggest run for 40-yards led to Denver’s field goal to go up 13-7, which was the crucial go-ahead points.

C.J. was also asked to block a decent amount in the backfield where he was certainly an important asset, but he also allowed a key sack from Mack.

Demaryius Thomas: C

Thomas had his worst game of the season statistically and was somewhat absent. He did draw two important pass interference flags (one wasn’t called) and one set up Denver’s 10-0 field goal.

He did have a tough drop in the end zone while in heavy coverage but couldn't have done much more with the five targets he got.

Emmanuel Sanders: C+

Sanders had a great toe-tapping sideline grab early in the game for his longest reception, 15-yards. He caught three more passes and was targeted a total of five times in this game. A fairly uneventful outing.

Virgil Green: B-

Green wasn’t featured at all in the passing game but he was used quite a bit as a blocker appearing in 42 of 62 offensive snaps.

He did a great job on Anderson’s big 40-yard run sealing off his lain and opening up the big hole. Green was also valuable in pass pro as an added blocker.

Trevor Siemian: C+

Trevor started off hot, coming alive on the second drive where he was superb on third down. First, he threw a dime to Fowler on an out-route and then a perfect deep ball to DT that would have been caught if not for a PI that was ignored. With two nice sideline throws to Derby he capped off the drive.

After that, it was much more of a mixed bag. He did a good job managing pressure and looking for deep throws and even drawing a crucial defensive PI call. While Siemian wasn’t always the most accurate, sailing a few throws in the second half, and was under duress a bunch he should be lauded for not making any crucial mistakes. He handled the pressure and didn’t force any throws that cost Denver the game aside from a few tipped passes at the line of scrimmage.

If not for falling short in four red zone trips (which weren't all his fault) this grade could’ve been much higher.

Other noteworthy offensive performances 

A.J. Derby lined up as a fullback and ran a beautiful wheel route to make an incredible one-handed catch for the Broncos lone touchdown. He had another big grab down the sideline on the very next drive. It seemed as if Derby was getting open with ease and was featured much more than usual in this game, having a career outing 75-receiving yards on four receptions. He did have a costly drop on third down while in traffic but overall was big for Denver's offense.

Jamaal Charles looked absolutely explosive with electric feet. He had six touches and four times went for over 10-yards. He’s a major asset though it’s scary every time he goes down.

Bennie Fowler came up with two clutch grabs on the touchdown drive, most of all the crazy grab he had on third down that Siemian simply threw up for grabs.

Donald Stephenson was featured in two crucial plays, one bad and one good. As an added sixth offensive lineman he was crucial in opening up a hole for Anderson down the right side. He was also thrown into action when Watson was briefly knocked out and allowed a monstrous pressure from Mack that almost changed the game. He appeared in two more plays as an added blocker, a nice wrinkle to the game plan.

Special Teams: A-

Riley Dixon was special in this game, with two huge punts that pinned Oakland back into their own 5-yard line. He averaged over 45 yards per punt in this game and was a huge asset in winning the position battle.

Isaiah McKenzie had some big returns and seems to have adjusted to the NFL's speed as he's finding lanes more often now. His elusiveness is clear. He had a good day that could have been even better if not for his biggest run being called back.

The special teams unit and most importantly Jordan Taylor was crucial in closing down on the Raiders attempted fake punt in the second half.

Brandon McManus was the only negative note of a great special teams performance. He was crucial on three field goal makes, but his one miss from 29-yards was a real dagger and kept Oakland in the game until the end. He’s now missed three field goals this season and is becoming a bit of a concern.

Coaching: B+

The Raiders were out coached in this one and really the 16-10 scoreline doesn’t speak enough to how much Denver was able to dominate for most of the game.

Mike McCoy was committed to a balanced attack and executed it well. It was also nice to see him implement more six-man offensive line pairings and jumbo packages as the offense was able to impose itself on Oakland in the trenches.

Joe Woods has transformed the run defense as few could have imagined. He also got his young safeties to clean up their mistakes from a week ago as they both had nice games.

Vance Joseph didn’t call a timeout at the end of the half when he could have saved a minute and potentially tried to drive the offense down to get more points. Aside from that, he managed the game well, though there were too many penalties for a home game.

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