DEN-DET Grades: Broncos defense leads the way, Stafford struggles

The top takeaways from Sunday’s Denver-Detroit game, including the highest-graded players for each team

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

DEN-DET Grades: Broncos defense leads the way, Stafford struggles


Here are the top takeaways from Sunday’s Denver-Detroit game, including the highest-graded players for each team

Detroit Lions

— Entering the weekend as our lowest graded quarterback, Matthew Stafford (-5.8) did nothing to lift himself from the bottom of our rankings last night. There were glimpses of what Stafford can do on throws down the middle of the field, but throwing to his left Stafford was extremely poor with Calvin Johnson (+2.5) bailing him out of an interception early in the game against Aqib Talib. Stafford wouldn’t be denied, failing to read David Bruton (-2.2) cutting under another throw to his left later in the game. In grading terms, this is the worst start to a season of Stafford’s career.

— After a slow start to his time in Detroit, we started to see the real Haloti Ngata (+1.7) for the Lions last night. A customary tipped pass reading Peyton Manning’s (+2.4) passing lane led to an interception for Glover Quin and while he didn’t really make his mark in the ground game, he left his mark on Manning with two hits to go with his batted pass.

— While his quarterback toiled, Calvin Johnson (+2.5) did his part in an entertaining back and forth battle with Aqib Talib (-0.5). Targeted nine times against the Broncos’ number one corner, Johnson snagged seven receptions for 70 yards while also drawing a pass interference penalty in the end zone. Johnson’s highlight reel play came with five minutes left in the first half, adjusting to a throw behind him to snag the ball in front of Talib who surely thought he had an interception.

Top performers:

CB Rashean Mathis (+3.2)
LB Josh Bynes (+3.2)
WR Calvin Johnson (+2.5)
DT Haloti Ngata (+1.7)
DE Devin Taylor (+1.7)

Denver Broncos

— There are times in games, and even entire games, where Von Miller (+6.4) is simply unblockable and last night was one of those games, with LaAdrian Waddle (-9.5) serving as his unfortunate victim. Miller’s blend of physicality and athleticism were in full view, with his dip move particularly devastating, as he seemed to be able to get to and turn the corner on Waddle to pressure Stafford at will.

— Only Matthew Stafford entered this weekend’s games with a lower PFF grade among quarterbacks than Peyton Manning (+2.4). But, after recording his first positive grade since Week 17 last season Manning’s 2015 finally has some positive momentum. Manning was in control of his intermediate passing (6 of 8 for 73 yards, 1 TD, +3.2 PFF passing grade) and was the beneficiary of his receivers winning on jump balls against Darius Slay (-3.2) to boost his deep passing numbers (2 of 2 for 79 yards, 1 TD, -0.1 PFF passing grade).

— The Broncos defense limited the Lions to a yard and a half per carry on the ground and a big part of that success was the play of Brandon M. Marshall (+1.4) and T.J. Ward (+2.0). The pair combined for 11 stops (seven for Marshall) with seven of those coming against the run (three for Ward) cleaning up for some strong work by the defensive line with Lions’ runners gaining only eight yards before contact in the entire game.

Top performers:

ED Von Miller (+6.4)
CB Bradley Roby (+3.7)
QB Peyton Manning (+2.4)
S T.J. Ward (+2.0)
RT Ryan Harris (+1.8)

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.

  • John C

    Von Miller had a full load on last night .. When he’s on – which is most of the time — he’s unstopable …What a game he had ..Seems like he gets to the ball before the halfback does on a running play …

    • SteveS

      Not that these stats are the end all, be all, but hard to believe he didn’t record a tackle or a sack last night

      • Rodrigo

        Broncos arent having many sacks.
        Im seeing some teams finishing games with 5 sacks and i wonder how D. Ware and Von Miller(1st and 4th pass rushers this year before this game) dont have more sacks.
        They will come though,im pretty sure we will see 3 sacks game for Von this year.

        • anon76returns

          Broncos have the 3rd most sacks in the league (11). Von had a sack negated by an unrelated penalty. And Denver’s pass rush has seen opponents throw the ball the quickest of any team in the league (Broncos’ opponents’ average release time is 2.273 seconds, the fastest in the league).
          I’m guessing the Broncos will have big sack games coming up too (the Minn OL is giving up the 2nd most pressure in the league right now, and Chicago & SD aren’t far behind). But the Broncos’ D is currently on pace for 59 sacks, which would be the most in franchise history (2 more than the 57 sacks from 1984). Pretty good already!

        • anon76returns

          Broncos have the 3rd most sacks in the league (11). Von had a sack negated by an unrelated penalty. And Denver’s pass rush has seen opponents throw the ball the quickest of any team in the league (Broncos’ opponents’ average release time is 2.273 seconds, the fastest in the league).
          I’m guessing the Broncos will have big sack games coming up too (the Minn OL is giving up the 2nd most pressure in the league right now, and Chicago & SD aren’t far behind). But the Broncos’ D is currently on pace for 59 sacks, which would be the most in franchise history (2 more than the 57 sacks from 1984). Pretty good already!

  • John C

    I’ve followed Stafford’s career since College .. Last few years, right when you think he’s turning his passing skills around he regresses …Makes too many bonehead throws in too many games ..Don’t like saying it but he looks like a coach killer , ala M. Vick was four , five years ago ..

  • The Mysteries of Bob

    Offense is still a bit stagnant and Denver is surprisingly 3-0 without any kind of running game to speak of, but we finally saw some nice throws by Peyton, looked way more confortable running in the shotgun and pistol.

    Defense dominated again, Lions tackles got bullied by Von.

  • anon76returns

    Where’s the love for McManus?
    I can’t remember the last time I saw a kicker get a touchback when kicking off from his own 20 yard line. That was pretty sick, even if it was in a dome.

    • DragonPie

      It didn’t count, but he did miss a kick.

      • anon76returns

        FGs/EPs are broken out separately from kickoffs for a kicker’s grade. McManus got his worst kickoff grade of the year, for kicking 4 KOs through the back of the endzone, and kicking the 5th one ~85 yards and getting a touchback.
        The “missed” FG shouldn’t have had any effect on his KO grade, which, as I said, included the longest KO I can ever remember seeing.

  • crosseyedlemon

    Detroit fans only have to suffer with the Lions until October 9 when the Redwings begin their quest for a 25th straight playoff season.

  • Fox and CNN News is the Devil.

    Wowowow Ryan Harris did good last night.

  • https://twitter.com/MALACHiOFCOURSE Malachi

    robey’s pick was soooo nice, coming off his man to make the play on the slot wr. best D in football!

  • Thomas Bell

    D Ware got 2 sacks, 2 hurries, and 3 hurries and received a 0.0 Pass rush grade. Von Miller, had 0 sacks, 1 hit and 8 hurries and received an 8.3 pass rush grade. I’ve never played a down of football in my life, but I would think a sack is more beneficial to the team than a hurry. Especially if the hurry still results in a complete pass, which is sometimes the case. So, despite getting 0 sacks, Miller’s performance was 8 times more effective than Ware’s?

    I am getting used to accepting that the player grades are not in context to the overall outcome of the game. (last week the 5 forced turnovers, two of which they scored on still left KC with a higher defensive grade. Yes, the KC trench players dominated, but didn’t affect the overall score in my opinion.) But now, even the individual grades aren’t matching up to the games I am watching.

    • Elias Woolfolk

      I definitely understand where your coming from. But von usually gets that first push that makes the quarterback move to his other side which gets other guys sacks. Demarcus is and should get those sacks even if somebody else causes the qb to move. Some guys get sacks because of coverage and qbs holding on to the ball to long. Sacks just like these numbers aren’t be all end all but they do add more to the tape. Von plays the run really well to while ware will sometimes just go after the qb.

  • Thomas Bell

    With the season essentially on the line, down by a TD or less, prime time home opener, and generally considered the top WR in the NFL (or 2-3 anyway) and Megatron has 3 catches in the second half, with the long of 7 yards. He’s held to 70 yards and no TDs. His biggest contribution to the team is a pass interference call in the end zone. A + 2.5 grade and a shout out from the guys at PFF as a “top performer.”

    Meanwhile, Talib, who was often without safety help, keeps him out of the end zone all day, has two PD, five tackles, and even blocks a field goal, has a subpar game of –0.5.
    Im sure you have some mathematical justification, but it’s not the game I am watching.