JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Fans should know press box views are overrated.
Yes, the feel of the game with its noise and emotion is best absorbed while in person. And there’s nothing like a halftime hotdog. But the reason why the NFL is by far the country’s top league is the sport of football fits well when played within the confines of a video and audio box.
After first watching the Broncos beat Jacksonville, 23-13, in person from the press box, here’s the notes I took while rewatching it back home on the living room TV:
*The problem with starting Justin Strnad at inside linebacker in place of the injured Josey Jewell is the Broncos must spell him from special teams. Strnad opened the game by making a nice stick on kickoff returner Jamal Agnew, leaving Jacksonville to begin at their own 17.
*I didn’t understand that illegal contact penalty on Broncos’ cornerback Kyle Fuller on third and six near midfield. A gift for Jacksonville on their opening drive. With no flag, the incompletion probably means they punt. Saw some ticky-tack illegal contact penalties on Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu in Sunday night game, too. Must be a regrettable point of emphasis by the officials this year.
*Third and 13 at Broncos 25, Jaguars receiver Marvin Jones Jr. made a quick out-and-up move that beat Fuller by plenty. Fuller plays off man-to-man and he seemed to be caught in between in his first-series matchups. Lawrence laid it in nice. Touchdown. Fuller adjusted, though. He didn’t give up anything the rest of the game.
*Bridgewater got a huge ovation when he came out for the first series as there had to have been at least 25% Broncos fans at TIAA Bank Stadium. In the fourth quarter, when the Broncos had the game clinched and Jags’ fans headed out early for the exits(traffic is a problem in and out of the stadium), there may have 60% Broncos fans inside the stadium.
*Broncos receiver Tim Patrick beat cornerback Shaquill Griffin off the line and drew a key defensive holding call on third and 4. It kept the drive going for another set of downs and the drive wound up lasting nearly 9 minutes to break Jacksonville's momentum.
*Javonte Williams began his day by busting a Myles Jack tackle. Contact balance for 9 yards on first down.
*Bridgewater’s shuffle up in the pocket and sidearm throw to Gordon for 8 yards in the red zone was Mahomes-like.
*Jacksonville outside linebacker Josh Allen beat left tackle Garett Bolles on the weak side to sack Bridgewater for a 16-yard loss on what looked like a mix up. And an extra 6 yard loss came because Bridgewater tried to scramble away from Allen. Bolles purposely pushed Allen wide then released and looked to move right as if the play was supposed to be a screen to running back Melvin Gordon III, but Gordon stayed in to block. That blew up a first-and-goal at the 10 opportunity and the Broncos had to settle for a Brandon McManus field goal.
*The Broncos’ inside linebacker Josey Jewell made a nice play on final play of first quarter, ranging left to tackle Jaguars’ running back James Robinson for 2-yard loss on checkdown pass from Lawrence.
*Jacksonville up, 7-3.
*Jaguars, and former Colorado Buffs, receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. had a rough day. He didn’t come up with his first three targets – he could have had two of them -- and finished with two catches for -3 yards. A shove out of bounds from Justin Simmons late in the first half left him with injured ribs.
*Fifth-round rookie safety Caden Sterns was employed in the Broncos’ dime package. He played 15 snaps.
*On third and 6 early in quarter, Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton on a straight fly pattern got past cornerback C.J. Henderson but Bridgewater slightly overthrew him. One reason the pass was too long, perhaps, was because Henderson was tugging on back of Sutton’s jersey. But the Broncos would go back to this play later to much success.
*Mike Ford, whom the Broncos picked up off waivers from Detroit because of his special teams play, picked up a taunting penalty, his second major infraction in two games on special teams.
*Denver rookie cornerback Pat Surtain II got beat bad by DJ Chark Jr. on a slight double move. Lawrence underthrew the ball as Jewell nearly got him on a delayed blitz and Surtain ran into Chark for a pass interference penalty. Had Lawrence properly led Chark, it might have been a touchdown.
*Jewell again with a tackle for loss, this time on checkdown pass to Shenault for a loss of 8 yards. It saved 3 points as Jacksonville wound up out of field goal range, as proven when kicker Josh Lambo missed badly from 52.
*Jewell made a terrific punt coverage tackle on Agnew with 7:25 left. But on the play Jewell reached out with his left arm to bring Agnew down. Jewell then broke into his Hercules pose, but he was favoring his left shoulder as he was getting congratulations from his teammates. Strnad replaced him on next play, which was the first play of Jacksonville’s next series. It was discovered later Jewell suffered a torn pec muscle and is likely out for the season. A shame for many reasons, including the fact Jewell was playing extremely well.
*Bridgewater made a terrific checkdown flip to Javonte Williams on second and 16 with 5 minutes left. The Jaguars’ Taven Bryan had slid past right guard Netane Muti to get in Bridgewater’s face. Bridgewater slung a sidearm pass across field to Williams who picked up 10 to set up a manageable third-and-6. Bridgewater then hit a wide open Sutton across the middle for 16 yards and a first down. The touchdown drive was on.
*My favorite play came with 3 minutes remaining in the half. On second and 10 from his own 40, Bridgewater looked to flare a pass to Gordon, who was open in the right flat. But Bridgewater stayed patient. He pump faked to Gordon, then turned his eyes upfield where Sutton was running a shallow cross. Once Sutton saw Bridgewater turn his eyes upfield, the receiver broke up toward the end zone, getting a step on safety Rayshawn Jenkins. Bridgewater climbed the pocket, then released a touch pass down field just as he was about to get hit from behind. The pass landed perfectly in Sutton’s hands for a 33-yard gain. First down at the Jacksonville 27.
*Kendall Hinton’s first NFL catch was big. It converted a second down and moved the ball from the Jags’ 27 to the 12, first down at the 2-minute warning.
*What a well-designed play for the touchdown. Patrick lined up wide left as a flanker, then went in motion to the tight right position – outside the double tight end set of Albert Okwuegbunam and Noah Fant. At the snap, Patrick cut straight left again just past the line of scrimmage. Jacksonville’s defense lost him. Patrick was open as he caught the Bridgewater pass at the 10 and danced in for a touchdown.
It was the first play after the 2-minute warning. For the second consecutive game, the Broncos were down 7-3 for the bulk of the second quarter but led 10-7 at halftime.
*With 1 minute left in the first half, Bradley Chubb had a rough two-play sequence. First he jumped offside to give Jacksonville a first-and-5 at the Broncos 40. Then Chubb, on a wide pass rush, got thrown down by left tackle Cam Robinson. With the rain falling, Chubb’s right ankle appeared to give on the wet grass. With great frustration, he was done for the game.
*Jay Feely is not just a former kicker who adds kicker insight during game telecasts. He’s become a very good overall game analyst who understands the quarterback position. He offered good insight throughout on both Lawrence and Bridgewater. Feely sees the game well, reminding me of locker room conversations I used to have with former Broncos kicker Jason Elam. Come to think of it, kickers are like backup catchers in baseball in that they observe so much of the game from the side. If they’re the type that pays attention, they should known the game better than anyone.
*A warning: Teddy’s two gloves didn’t seem to work well in the rain. He made a nice scramble and dump off to Gordon on final play of half. But Bridgewater misfired on two passes through the rain he usually doesn’t.
*Broncos up 10-7 at halftime.
*Second play of the second half, the Broncos went deep again to Sutton. This time he had two steps on cornerback Chris Claybrooks and this time Bridgewater off the RPO (run-pass option) fake hit him for a 55-yard gain. At that point, Sutton had five catches for 123 yards. He finished with career-bests 9 receptions for 159 yards. The Broncos had a first down at the Jags’ 17.
*Noah Fant did a nice job breaking a tackle attempt by Jag’s linebacker Damien Wilson around the 8-yard line, then smelled the goal line as he rumbled in to complete the 14-yard touchdown catch. For the second consecutive game, the Broncos scored a touchdown on their second half-opening drive to go up, 17-7. Ballgame.
*Jacksonville didn’t block Von Miller and the Broncos’ all-time best pass rusher took advantage with a sack on Lawrence, Miller’s third in two games.
*Javonte Williams’ 14-yard run on second-and-11 was a remarkable display of forward balance. He broke two to four tackles as he was falling.
*Muti got beat by former Bronco defensive lineman Adam Gotsis for a sack. Muti was filling in for right guard Graham Glasgow who should return this week after sitting out this game as a precaution following an irregular heartbeat issue.
*For a 33-year-old, safety Kareem Jackson sure can close. Lawrence had tight end Luke Farrell open on a deep out. But it was delivered too late and Jackson scooted in for the interception, the 20th of his career and fourth as a Broncos safety.
*After back-to-back, in-cut completions – one to the right side; the other to the left -- to Sutton, Bridgewater scrambled on second-and-1 from the Jacksonville 31 for a first down. He got tripped up by a swiping Gotsis, who clipped Bridgewater at the ankle. Looked scary for a second. Stay healthy, Teddy.
*Bridgewater’s reverse spin out of pressure from the pocket is a club I didn’t think he had in his bag. But he’s used it a few times the first two weeks. His style is more rambunctious than I had thought.
*As good as he’s been, McManus keeps getting better. All his kicks through two games have been down the middle. He’s 5-of-5 in field goals and 5-of-5 in extra points. His 46-yard field goal put the Broncos up 20-7 late in the third quarter.
*Chubb, Miller and Dre’Mont Jones were all called for jumping offsides in the game. The Broncos were penalized for an un-Fangio-like 10 times and 101 yards in the game.
*Diontae Spencer is a good returner. The Broncos tried to make him compete for the returner job during camp and the preseason but none of the kids came close.
*20-7 Broncos after three.
*With a comfortable lead, Bridgewater was 3 of 4 for 31 yards in the fourth quarter. And he got another 35 yards on a pass interference penalty. Perfect.
*Even though Fangio primarily played a two-deep – well deep – defense in the fourth quarter, Lawrence kept chucking it deep. The No. 1 overall draft pick is an impressive physical specimen and talent but he needs refinement. After the opening drive, Lawrence was a poor 9 of 26 for 45 yards with zero touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
*Lawrence’s lack of patience showed on first and 15 from the 50. He underthrew Tyron Johnson on a go route – Johnson was well-covered, anyway, by Surtain and the rookie corner made a nice interception. Not only did Surtain run with Johnson, he made a very nice over the shoulder catch while keeping both feet inbounds for his first career pick.
*For the second consecutive game, the Broncos’ running game was strong in the fourth quarter. After Surtain’s interception, the Broncos started their next series at their own 6. Two carries by Gordon moved it out to the 19.
*Another McManus down-the-middle field goal makes it 23-7 with 5:42 remaining put the Broncos in complete control. But then the kickoff coverage unit allowed Agnew to return a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown. A 2-point conversion would have put Jacksonville within one score. But Lawrence’s off-balanced floater was knocked down in the end zone by Surtain, allowing Denver to exhale. Special teams, though, remains a problem.
*Jacksonville got a delay of game penalty prior to an onside kick? Rookie head coach Urban Meyer has some gameday organizational issues.
*It’s not easy killing the final 5 minutes, 26 seconds while starting from the opponents’ 39 and not scoring. But the Broncos did it with a 9-play, 34-yard, no-point drive to end it.
*Broncos 23, Jacksonville 13.
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