DEN-CIN grades: Sanders shines for Denver offense

The biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the Broncos’ victory over the Bengals

| 1 month ago
(John Grieshop/Getty Images)

(John Grieshop/Getty Images)

DEN-CIN grades: Sanders shines for Denver offense

Denver Broncos 29, Cincinnati Bengals 17

Here are the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from the Broncos’ win over the Bengals:

Denver Broncos

Quarterback grade: Trevor Siemian 69.5

Numbers don’t match the eye for Siemian

A nice drive may leave many feeling good about Siemian, but there was enough here to suggest that he could be the Achilles heel for the Broncos. He escaped a dangerous pick after throwing the ball straight to Shawn Williams and a number of times missed routine throws that took his team off the field.

Top offensive grades:

WR Emmanuel Sanders, 86.0
C Matt Paradis, 81.5
FB Andy Janovich, 76.4
TE Jeff Heuerman, 75.4
T Russell Okung, 74.1

Problems on the line not solved by rotation

Ultimately a good day at the office, and with Siemian facing pressure on just eight plays it may seem the line did a good job. Generally they did not, with Ty Sambrailo really struggling, getting flagged once and allowing a sack, hit and hurry. It wasn’t any better in the run game, where the 2.3 yards per carry can be chiefly attributed to the Bengals winning the up-front battle.

Top defensive grades:

CB Chris Harris, 83.8
ED Von Miller, 83.6
S T.J. Ward, 82.7
LB Brandon Marshall, 81.5
ED Shane Ray, 80.2

You may think sack machine Shane Ray was the star of the show, but with two of those clean-up sacks let’s not forget who was wreaking havoc in the second half. Von Miller is playing like a man possessed and it continued today. He finished up with a sack and four hurries, with a couple more victories that didn’t result in pressure and one that resulted in drawing a flag.

Cincinnati Bengals

Quarterback grade: Andy Dalton, 84.9

Only so much Dalton could do

It was an extremely competent display from Dalton, who faced pressure on 11 of his dropbacks and was only off target on five of his pass attempts all day. With his receivers struggling against the Broncos coverage he took what they gave him and made a couple of nice throws downfield when the opportunity presented itself.

Top offensive grades:

QB Andy Dalton, 84.9
T Andrew Whitworth, 82.2
G Kevin Zeitler, 77.1
C Russell Bodine, 76.7
WR A.J. Green 75.1

Inconsistent running game unable to get job done

On the surface a 143-yard day on the ground looks good. But when you consider 50 of those yards came on one drive and 40 more on quarterback scrambles, you start to understand that despite their best intentions the Bengals couldn’t get the consistent push up front to put them in favourable situations to test the Bengals coverage.

Top defensive grades:

LB Vincent Rey, 87.3
S Shawn Williams, 85.0
LB Karlos Dansby, 84.6
DT Geno Atkins, 82.0
DE Carlos Dunlap, 82.0

Strong effort undone by poor finish

The score line doesn’t reflect the general joy this unit had up front. Dunlap had his way with whoever lined up at right tackle and the team consistently got penetration on the Broncos zone runs to slow C.J. Anderson down. Some break downs in coverage compounded things and while Adam Jones would make some plays late in the game, his earlier struggles cost them points.

PFF Game-Ball Winner: Emmanuel Sanders, 86.0

Get access to grades for every player, complete with positional rankings, in our Player Grades tool.

  • crosseyedlemon

    The Broncos really didn’t do anything special this game yet they still came away with a 12 point road victory against a team that had a dozen wins a year ago. Not good news for future opponents.

    • Elias Woolfolk

      Agreed! Not pretty sure how we did it but we did. On to tampa!

    • Graham McLagan

      I’ll disagree with you here that the offense didn’t do anything special. The Broncos offense is completely based on the run game and play action, and the Bengals took it away and dared the young QB to win the game with his arm. The offense was able to step up and win the game with their own system completely broken by that D line. That’s what’s scary here

  • Wackanhut

    Trevors passes were late all day, 2-3 terrible decisions in there, and a lot of upside. Not sure Id say thats gonna be their achilles heel. That guy is called Sambrailo!

    • Dan Hachenberger

      2nd half was much better for Siemien

    • Elias Woolfolk

      Couldn’t agree more. Are depth at o-line is very disturbing. We can’t afford to lose both tackles we just picked up this year.

      • Malachi

        we won the superbowl with two tackles on IR last year, and this year’s depth is actually improved comparatively.. not saying we can afford to lose stephenson and okung though, just saying the sky isn’t falling either

        • DeadC4t

          Ryan Clady (even though he’s on a different team) needs to go on IR so they can get back to the Superbowl. #sacrificeclady

          • Malachi


        • Elias Woolfolk

          I’m still not sold on sam and Mike as tackles. At least Ryan played tacklenmost of his career. Its definitely something to keep your eye on. Dunlap really took sam wherever he wanted. Better pass rushers would have probably had a huge day. We’ll see.

          • Malachi

            def agree on schofield, much better suited at guard. was Ty’s first ever game at RT, heck he didn’t even play that position in camp before getting hurt, and dunlap is a tough first test. hopefully he improves and quickly, i’m sure the coaches feel the same as we do though

    • Jake Cunio

      Nope – he has “some” late passes, especially in the 1st quarter – But he was on target in the 2nd half. The slant to ES for the TD, and the pass directly over the middle to TE Phillips for a TD were outstanding throws. Definitely – he is still learning the pace, but “Achilles heel” – Ridiculous.

      • Wackanhut

        Hey Im big on Trevor, he has displayed all the tools, he just hasnt been consistent. He was late on several of his completions in the streak in the second half. He did have some very good throws in there too obviously. Its so early but if he stays succesful through the first 8-10 games we should get a good idea of what he can do. Teams by that point will be actively applying half a season worth of tape.

  • Franchise Punter

    How are you releasing this less than three hours after the game was played? Is all-22 even available that soon?

    • 24AHAD

      PFF’s player grading process includes multiple reviews, which may change the grade initially published in order to increase its accuracy. Learn more about how we grade and access grades for every player through each week of the NFL season by subscribing to Player Grades.

      • Franchise Punter

        Oh. That’s kind of silly, then. Why even try to grade without the full field view? You’re missing the majority of what goes on for receivers and defensive backs.

        • Rodrigo Campos Pedro

          Yeah,Siemian’s grade went from less than 50 to almost 70.

      • Thomas Bell

        I get it. You penalize QBs for incompletions that should have been completed –inaccurate throws, or for interceptions that were dropped. Dalton was more accurate and efficient.

        But you’ll have a hard time convincing most people that 4 TDs , O ints, 300 yards, should score twenty points lower than O TDs 1 int, 200 yards. The argument is always, well, we’re smarter….we look at the smaller details than the average fan. My argument is maybe you’re outsmarting yourselves and need to add more weight to metrics that actually WIN or LOSE games….TDs, Ints and yards.

  • Patrick Fort

    I’m not sure I understand the rating or the comments. Siemian was 9 of 10 for 153 yards in the 4th quarter, and had a perfect second half quarterback rating. If that’s an Achilles heel, I’ll take it every game. As for his throws being late all day, please look at both touchdown passes to Sanders, especially the second one which couldn’t have been more perfect. I might also suggest you look at how last year’s mvp played today for a comparison.

    • Wackanhut

      The first touchdown to Sanders was late.

      • Patrick Fort

        I think you’re being a little picky. Sanders had to switch sides to catch it, but he didn’t break stride, and the pass was well over the coverage. It was right in his lap.

        • Wackanhut

          yes a little bit picky but sanders readjustment was because the ball was thrown to the wrong side, ie siemian through the ball too late in the recievers pattern. Its a tiny thing, and Denvers great receivers often nullify it but they wont like it, having to contort every pass puts them at risk.

          I like Trevor, Im not down on him, just being straight. I expect the lateness issue to take care of itself with experience. Its only 3 games but the positives are all there.

          • Dan Hachenberger

            Dan Fouts, seemed to think it was a great pass. Maybe you’re being a lot too picky. Do you know what they call a touchdown pass thats thrown a little late?

          • Dan Hachenberger

            If you didn’t know it already, they call it a touchdown pass.

    • Jake Cunio

      Agree- seems like PFF had this review ready to post by half time, which is how is was finished so quickly after the game and they haven’t gone back to look at the whole picture. (yet?) Siemian seemed rattled in the 1st quarter, definitely off his game – but then settled down and really made some great throws. For his 3rd start ever, and first away game – against a tough defense. It was a really good performance.

  • Brannen Wesley

    Simeian just has to be average for Denver to win. This season has a lack of dominant teams and most teams are weak at qb outside of the top 6 or 7 so realistically those qbs and their offenses would give Denver the biggest threat and they have already beaten 3. The Ravens had success with this same path with Flacco and he wasn’t much better his first two years. As long as Denver can Run they can beat anyone home or away.

  • Lane Trujillo

    I’m also struggling to see how Dalton has a better rating than Siemian. Is it the near interceptions that cause this grade?

    • finkmo

      Yeah, it’s one of the more ridiculous things I’ve seen on here. Dalton looked skittish and indecisive all game, just like last week. He looks scared to let it rip, and when he does he will eventually get somebody killed. He has tunnel vision for AJ. Makes his mind up before the snap and then throws it away when he’s double covered. Look at what Marvin Jones is doing in Detroit. He would go weeks of hardly seeing the ball here, with AJ GREEN drawing double teams. People around here questioned whether he was a legit #2. Those people were stupid, and just didn’t realize that he was being woefully underutilized by one-trick Andy. Sorry, rant over, I hate our QB….

    • Malachi

      turnover worthy throws are graded very negatively whether they are intercepted or not

      • crosseyedlemon

        The problem I have with that is that sometimes the OC will send in a pass play that is easily defensed. If the team has little time left and is desperately trying to tie the score what is the QB to do? His choices usually come down to throwing into the tight coverage or taking a sack that will all but end any chance for a rally.

        • Malachi

          accuracy can mitigate any poor play call, and there is always a receiver not being doubled somewhere on any given play. not saying every pass has to be a +2 BTT.

          the main point above was that just because a defender drops an easy pick doesn’t mean the QB should be graded more favorably because of it

  • Derek Dryden

    Roger that PFF does a much more in-depth analysis of a player’s performance than just a game’s statistical output but:
    Siemian was 23-35, 4 TDs with 0 INTs; QBR of 87.1, rating of 132.1. Absolutely agree that Siemian got away with probably 2 dropped picks if not 3 so there were three bad decisions in 35 pass attempts. There were also at least 2 drops (likely 3).
    Dalton was 21-31, 0 TDs with 1 INTs; QBR of 64.7, rating of 72.8
    I understand that Green dropped one pass but PFF only details 5 off target passes out of the other 9. For Dalton to be graded out as near elite while Siemian was slightly above average is a bit of a stretch. Saying that there was only so much that Dalton could do is pretty low balled – first half, certainly with only 8 throws but the second was pass heavy. Only because Dalton dropped 85 yds on the last drive that was stopped DEN 11 did he have ANY decent stats.
    Dalton also took more sacks and pressures (though the CIN OL graded out VERY well while DEN OL was deemed suspect (2 sacks). Agree that Sambrailo was poor. 1st game back in about a year (at a different position, LT vs. RT). OL depth is the Achilles, not the QB.

    • Thomas Bell

      It’s ridiculous. I have learned to ignore the QB scores. Their metrics are good for OL — which I don’t notice all that well, and edge rushers and CBs, who often make a bigger impact than traditional stats show.

      I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the hallowed PFF rankings gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a better score than Alex Smith last week. Well….Alex Smith missed three open receivers, could have thrown two more interceptions that were dropped. Also, future predictions….”Siemian could be the achiles heel” are not helpful. Keep it to the game in discussion. He’s among the league leaders in 4th qtr QBR, and posting a perfect (4th quarter) quarterback rating vs Cincinati doesn’t bring to mind Achilles.

      Finally, this author makes it sound like the OL rotation was a strategic attempt to solve a problem. When in fact, both starting OTs were sidelined with injuries. Maybe the rush to get these published on Sunday night contributes to the sloppiness.

  • Jake Cunio

    Guess PFF stopped watching Trevor Siemian after the first quarter, because he definitely turned it on later. So much for your “eye test” – I will take the 4 TD’s he threw instead. Did he make some mistakes – sure, 3rd start ever, I don’t expect differently but ignoring the end result – going 11/12 in the 4th Quarter to put the game away – SMH.

  • Adrian Brody’s O face

    I understand that PFF is committed to the idea of grading the process over the result, thus a dropped interception negatively impacts a QB’s grade as much as an actual interception. But, I do feel that in the case of grading a quarterback performance, PFF takes the concept to an extreme of diminishing returns. For example, the touchdown throw to Thomas in the fourth quarter was likely poorly graded because Demaryus was forced to slow and box out the defender for the catch. But, I would argue that placing the same pass three yards further down the field would not have materially increased Thomas’s chances of taking it int for a score.
    Another poster in this thread expressed the sentiment that PFF grades were far more useful for evaluating offensive line play. I largely agree with that sentiment. In line play there is a much stronger correlation between process and result. If the Lineman’s process is sound, his results will largely be positive. So there is far less disconnect when grading an Offensive tackle’s process compared to his raw numbers. In the case of a QB process and result can vary wildly. For example, on second down a Quarterback drops back on a play and after his second read dumps the ball off to his Running Back who takes if for a six yard gain, which results in a first down. Now, if the QB had progressed to his third read, he would have seen his WR wide open twenty yards down the field. By process, the QB has failed and PFF would likely penalize him accordingly. But result, he has converted a first down and kept the drive alive. The thing is, we can’t look at that twenty yards of field position in a vacuum. So, the process grade becomes less effective for evaluating QB performance. At least, that is my opinion.