Question: Safety Justin Simmons said the Broncos’ first-half defense was “terrible.” What was particularly awful?
Answer: Just about everything. In the first half, Atlanta had eight plays that gained at least 10 yards and built a 20-3 lead.
On the first play, cornerback Michael Ojemudia slipped, freeing up tight end Hayden Hurst for 11 yards. On the second drive, cornerback Davontae Harris was beaten on a go route for a 51-yard touchdown. On the third drive, Harris kept his eyes on a scrambling Matt Ryan instead of his assignment (42-yard completion). And on the third drive, cornerback Kevin Toliver, subbing for Harris, allowed a 21-yard pass.
The pass rush had only five disruptions (one sack, two knockdowns and two pressures) in the first half.
Q: The Broncos tried every cornerback available. What’s next on Vic Fangio’s drawing board?
A: If A.J. Bouye (concussion) and Bryce Callahan (ankle) aren’t available Sunday at Las Vegas, Fangio really has no choice but to stick with Ojemudia and Bassey as his base package starters.
But in the nickel, giving Duke Dawson a shot should be explored; he’s been limited to dime personnel work as the sixth defensive back this year.
And if the slot receivers are really giving the Broncos problems, moving safety Kareem Jackson down to cover should be considered.
Overall, though, help isn’t on the way.
Q: What were the takeaways from quarterback Drew Lock’s postgame press conference?
A: Just that he’s a young player who is frustrated by a season slipping away at 3-5.
Lock is usually the symbol of confidence, but even he couldn’t hide his disappointment with another first-half no-show by the offense. We’d rather see that kind of passion than an attitude that everybody gets orange slices and juice boxes regardless of the result.
The worst statistic: The Broncos had 13 plays in the first half that gained three or fewer yards compared with only two explosive plays — 32-yard catch by tight end Noah Fant and an 18-yard catch by receiver Jerry Jeudy.
Q: Did it seem like the Broncos’ offense ran a lot on second-and-long? If so, what’s the point?
A: The Broncos had a whopping 19 second-down plays in which they needed seven or more yards. They ran seven times for a combined 41 yards.
For as long as there’s been pro football, play-callers have adopted second-and-long as a run down, the theory being it would produce a positive gain to set up a shorter third down.
KJ Hamler gained 15 yards on a second-and-8 end-around. But that was pretty much it for successful second-down rushes. What it also points out: The Broncos’ first-down offense is inconsistent at best and broken at worst.
Q: Just when the Broncos threw to tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, he sustained a right knee injury. Who’s left at tight end?
A: Noah Fant and Nick Vannett. That’s it. Okwuegbunam was seeing regular work in one- and two-tight end personnel, but didn’t have a catch until his seven-yard reception to convert a third-and-6 in the third quarter.
Minus Albert O, all the Broncos had active was Fant and Vannett. Jake Butt and Andrew Beck were recently placed on injured reserve.
A strength of the Broncos’ — their tight end depth — is now a concern.