Ten things about Sunday’s New Orleans-Broncos game, one for every hasty touchdown allowed by the Broncos defense this year:
1. Quarterback Drew Lock is 8 of 21 passing 201 yards, no touchdowns and one interception this year on attempts to catch Jerry Jeudy covering at least 16 “air” yards. Catches disappeared for 18, 16, 43, 41, 16, 26, 19 and 22 yards. Last week against Miami, Lock was 1 of 4 to go long to Jeudy – the incompleteness were 28, 28 and 38 yards downfield.
2. The stats aren’t great, but at least the Broncos are trying to expand the field. Long passes are like running – only a dedication to them will yield good results. What the Broncos need to hone in on is the apparent miscommunication between Lock and Jeudy, which is rare for a young quarterback and even a younger receiver.
3. When asked about the report with Jeudy, Lock said, “It’s a week-by-week affair. One week it’s, “How good (of a) chemistry we have,” and the next week we miss two or three and it’s, “Oh, you’re falling apart.” We work hard in practice. We get the extra throws. It’s about getting them into play. It really has nothing to do with the fact that we are out of sync or have no chemistry or anything. It just has everything to do with putting the ball where it needs to be. “
4. Extending the metric to one of Lock’s passes that have covered at least 10 “air” yards since his return against New England, he was 6-of-13 (two interceptions) in New England, 2-of- 7 (interception) vs. Kansas City, 4 out of 10 (interception, touchdown) vs. the Chargers, 7 out of 17 (touchdown, interception) in Atlanta, 5 out of 13 (three interceptions) in Las Vegas and 5 out of 13 (interception) versus Miami.
5. Saints coach Sean Payton on Lock: “He’s getting more comfortable with their system. He can move outside the pocket and beat you with throws across the field. That’s all: his ability to stretch the field. “
6. The New Orleans pass rush can make this a short to medium throwing game for Lock. In last week’s win over Atlanta, the Saints had eight sacks, their highest single-game total in at least 15 years. According to my game map, the Saints rushed five or more players on 18 Matt Ryan drop-backs, yielding a takeaway and four sacks. The 32 sacks of the Saints are in joint third place in the competition this year.
7. One of my favorite staff groups was rarely seen last week at the Saints for a touchdown on the goal line, run by quarterback Taysom Hill: a quarterback, three tight end, and a sixth offensive lineman. Old school, power play football.
8. So what does Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur do for a run game follow-up? The Saints are second in the stop of the run (74.3 yards per game). Sticking to a steady diet of two- and three-person end personnel could be Shurmur’s best course. In last week’s win over Miami, the Broncos used two-tight end crew on 31 snaps and three-tight end crew on nine snaps. With two tight ends, the Broncos rushed for 72 yards 19 times; with three tight ends, it was four rushes for a yard (only one touchdown). The extra tight end (or two) can also help with fit protection.
9. During his video conference Thursday, former Broncos / current Saints recipient Emmanuel Sanders expressed no displeasure with his departure from Denver last year. (And really, he shouldn’t – he got flipped to San Francisco and finished in the Super Bowl). “I love everyone in that organization, especially the people who were there during the Super Bowl times and the good times,” he said. ‘I think of John Elway, just a man who gave me a chance and believed in me. He gave me the opportunity to play with Peyton Manning and I am forever grateful to him. “
10. The Broncos defense has enforced 13 three-and-outs in the last three games, which equates to their total of the first seven games. But they are still too often on the field for long journeys. Opponents have 21 holdings from at least 10 games this year, including eight in the last three games (Atlanta, Las Vegas and Miami).