DC Ejiro Evero
The first-year defensive coordinator continues to impress. He’s got a talented group to work with, but even as injuries and trades take their toll, the Broncos keep producing on Evero’s side of the ball. Playing without a long list of players, including recently traded outside linebacker Bradley Chubb and injured starters such as safety Justin Simmons, outside linebackers Baron Browning and Randy Gregory and cornerback Ronald Darby, Evero and company still managed to hold Derrick Henry to 53 rushing yards and keep Denver in the game on Sunday until the final seconds. Evero’s name is likely to come up in head coaching conversations this winter and whether he gets a job or not, his name is one to know going forward.
ILB Josey Jewell
The veteran inside linebacker put together yet another strong game Sunday, helping lead the charge against Henry. He finished with nine tackles. Not only that, but after the game, Jewell couldn’t help but smile about the way Denver played certain situations with three inside linebackers – he, Alex Singleton and Jonas Griffith – all on the field at the same time. Jewell has missed time with multiple injury issues this season, but when he’s been on the field, he’s an impact player. He played every snap against Tennessee.
Sensing a theme here? The depth is worth pointing out on its own. Over the opening few series Sunday afternoon, the Broncos got plays on defense from guys like P.J. Locke, essentially a third-string safety, cornerback Essang Bassey and newly acquired outside linebacker Jacob Martin. “We have a lot of good players on defense,” Jewell said simply after the game.
The undrafted rookie wide receiver from Appalachian State made his NFL debut and did it with a flash. His first catch: A 66-yard touchdown from Russell Wilson that put the Broncos ahead 7-0 against Tennessee. Virgil, who made the roster out of training camp largely because of his blazing speed, played 24 snaps. He may be counted on further over the final eight games depending on injury recovery timelines for KJ Hamler (hamstring) and Jerry Jeudy (ankle)
It’s difficult to look at this loss as anything but a blow to the first-year head coach. Denver had a chance to get to 4-5 and would have woken up Monday morning with a much different outlook had they found a way to beat the Titans. Not only that, but the Broncos’ 10 points represents the fourth time in nine games they’ve scored 11 or less this season. They are last in the NFL in scoring at 14.6 points per game, didn’t find much in the way of solutions over the bye week and punted nine times in 12 non-kneel-down drives Sunday.
Betting the Over
Even with several defensive starters out for each team, Sunday’s game was never likely to be a high-scoring affair. Neither Denver nor Tennessee has scored more than 24 points in a game this season and oddsmakers set the points total around 40 points. Even then, the Broncos and Titans didn’t come close to hitting the over. No surprise for Denver, which is last in the NFL in scoring offense and first in the NFL in scoring defense. That’s remarkable in its own right. It’s not great if you’re a fan who likes touchdowns.
Denver’s offensive line hasn’t been a strong point, really, at any point this season and now it has been decimated by injury. On Sunday, the Broncos finished the game with their third-string left tackle, third-string right tackle and third-string center lined up around their preferred starters at guard. So far this season, four of the five starters have missed substantial time with injuries and the current injured list includes left tackle Garett Bolles, right tackle Billy Turner, center Lloyd Cushenberry, swing tackle Cam Fleming, top interior reserve and No. 2 center Graham Glasgow and reserve tackle Tom Compton. The result? Russell Wilson was sacked six times and hit 18 times Sunday, including five and 13, respectively, in the second half.
According to 538’s playoff odds, Denver entered Sunday’s game with an 8% chance at the playoffs. Had they won, that number was set to jump above 25%, not great, but certainly much better. Instead, the Broncos’ number is now 3%. After the game, the Broncos sounded like a team that knew its slim postseason hopes had gone out the window. At 3-6, this team is in a bad place: Trending in the wrong direction without even the benefit of its own first-round draft pick as a silver lining for a bad record. The only good news is that the Broncos play bad teams the next two weeks and theoretically could begin December with a 5-6 record. Even that is far from a certainty.