ReFo: Broncos @ Raiders, Week 17
In the most Peyton Manning game ever the Broncos systematically set all the records they had a chance of setting on their way to destroying the Raiders in the first half before pulling Manning to the bench, tossing the keys to Brock Osweiler, and asking him to simply avoid driving the thing off a cliff.
Osweiler wasn’t able to continue the rout, but the Raiders were in no shape to mount a meaningful comeback, and put up all of their points deep in garbage time.
The Broncos wrapped up home field advantage all the way through the playoffs while the Raiders ended yet another disappointing, losing season made to look particularly ugly by the success of the rest of the division.
Denver: Three Performances of Note
This game reminded me a lot of the Colts in Manning’s prime when heading into Week 17 the team had multiple records within sight. The game took almost secondary importance to Manning systematically achieving each record in turn and then taking things off the heat. Heading into this game he knew he was within sight of both the single-season yardage mark and the single-season points record for a team. Both were achieved in relatively short order as the Raiders were just totally unable to cover the Denver passing game. It was made particularly embarrassing for Oakland because Manning wasn’t doing this damage with deep, incisive passes, but simply dumping it off short to open receivers and watching them do the work. Of his 266 passing yards only 117 of them were in the air before the catch, the rest happened with the ball in his receiver’s hands.
Ayers Bringing Heat
Robert Ayers has enjoyed something of a renaissance in Denver on the quiet. Once everybody was happy to officially label him a bust he has enjoyed a pretty successful season, earning a +8.6 grade overall and chipping in with a few games of sustained pressure. Though he has only totaled 42 combined sacks, hits and hurries this year they have come in bunches. He has been blanked entirely three times, held to just a single pressure on four other occasions, but has six games of four or more total pressures including this one against Jared Veldheer. He got a sack in this game, but also a pretty monstrous eight hurries, many of which sadly came in garbage time when he knew he could rush with abandon but which mitigates the grade he received for them. With no Von Miller in the lineup anymore, Denver needs all the rush they can get, and if Ayers can get hot in the playoffs that’ll help in a big way.
The Other Julius Thomas
Peyton Manning has turned Julius Thomas into a Pro-Bowl tight end, and as a receiver he has been enjoying a fine season as part of Manning’s arsenal, but he isn’t always running routes. In fact, this season there have been 463 of his 921 snaps when he has been asked to block either in the run game or in pass protection. While his pass protection has been fine, his run blocking has not, and his -2.9 grade for that area in this game puts him to a -19.3 mark over the season, the worst among TEs in the league this year. TEs are often asked just to seal the edge on runs up the middle, but Thomas was unable even to keep his man from crashing inside and breaking up runs that otherwise had fine blocking. That might be a minimal problem in Week 17 against the Oakland Raiders, but things get tougher in the post-season, and plays like that could cost Denver.
Oakland: Three Performances of Note
The Real Pat Sims?
I never really saw much in Pat Sims in Cincinnati. There were people who claimed he looked good at times, but all I ever saw was a guy who looked out of shape and out of his depth at the NFL level. This season though he has been a different player in Oakland. After two rocky games in his first three starts he has had a fantastic second half to the season and finished with a +3.6 grade against a pretty decent Denver interior. Sims can generate pressure, but it’s against the run that he is best, controlling his blockers and getting himself in the running lane to blow things up at the line of scrimmage. If this is the guy the Raiders can get going forward they have made a great addition.
I have a certain degree of sympathy with Kevin Burnett in this game, because his grade is a stinking (-6.3) despite playing hard all game and just seeming to wind up fractions off on every play. He was beaten twice on out-patterns in coverage by inches as he dove for the ball, but the dive on each occasion took him out of the play when he came up short. Similarly he was crashing the run all game long, but kept finding himself up against a blocker who just about absorbed the hit and guided him away from the point of attack. On the other hand Nick Roach (-4.7) just looked poor, missing three tackles that you would expect any linebacker to make as a matter of course. Roach may lead the Raiders in tackles this season but he has done little to answer their problems at the position.
The Pryor Circus
It’s difficult to know what to say about Terrelle Pryor, a player who went from being written off, to being the flavor of the month, to being written off again in the space of a couple of months. Before the season we were being told he was prohibitively poor, but he did show flashes of playmaking ability when he played. The issue is he just never improved his passing enough to be considered viable in spite of his athleticism. In this game he completed 21 of 36 pass attempts for 207 yards and two scores. On the face of it those aren’t terrible numbers, especially when you consider he had at least another 59 yards in the form of passes dropped on him, but it doesn’t really tell the whole story. He was too quick to spook from relatively clean pockets and when the Broncos sent blitzes at him he looked lost, completing just four passes on 14 attempts. Sadly, as exciting as he was to watch at times, Pryor does not look like Oakland’s answer at quarterback.
– Of Manning’s 28 pass attempts just five of them traveled more than 9 yards in the air from the line of scrimmage.
– When blitzed Terrelle Pryor’s passer rating fell from 117.7 to just 39.6.
– Manning’s average time to throw was just 2.17 seconds, quickest mark among QBs this week. Pryor’s was at the other end of the scale at 3.55 seconds on average.
PFF Game Ball
He only played a half, but in that half Peyton Manning set two records, furthered his own single-season touchdown mark, missed on just two passes (of 29, one was dropped) and threw for 266 yards and four touchdowns.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam