Jaguars vs. Broncos: 8 Takeaways from Denver's 35-19 Victory over Jacksonville
The Broncos were 28-point favorites coming into the game, via Vegas Insider—the largest betting favorite in NFL history—but the Jaguars did not make it easy for the Broncos to come away with the victory.
The score was 14-12 in Denver's favor at halftime. The Broncos were able to outscore Jacksonville, 21-7, in the decisive second half to pull away with the victory.
As shocking as it is, this was Denver's second-toughest game to date. The Jaguars struggled to move the ball on offense, but they forced Peyton Manning into his worst game so far of the NFL season.
As difficult as it was, the Broncos stand at 6-0 through Week 6 of the NFL season. What are a few takeaways from Denver's 35-16 victory over Jacksonville?
Jacksonville's Offense Lost Them the Game
As impressive as Denver's offense was in its ability to move the ball in the third quarter after going through four horrendous drives to end the first half, it was Jacksonville's offense that ended up winning the Broncos the game.
The Jaguars defense couldn't have played any better against possibly the NFL's greatest offense of all time. The Broncos came into the game averaging 46 points per game, scoring the most total points through the first five games of an NFL season.
The Broncos fumbled the football three times, and they turned it over three times—all on exchanges involving Peyton Manning.
Jags linebacker Paul Posluszny returned a Manning interception for a touchdown at the end of the first half to cut the Jags deficit to just two points entering halftime.
It was Jacksonville's failure to convert long offensive drives into touchdowns. The Jaguars approached Broncos territory six times and converted with just two field goals and one touchdown.
Jacksonville's defense came out to play. Jacksonville's offense did not.
The Broncos May Bend, but They Don't Break
Much has been made of the Broncos' inability to slow down opposing quarterbacks.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw for 504 yards last week. Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne didn't exactly light up the stat sheet with 224 yards passing, but Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon did.
Blackmon posted 14 receptions for 190 yards as the only consistent threat on a Jaguars' offensive squad that was missing Cecil Shorts III.
Although Blackmon posted a career day and repeatedly got open against the likes of Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Chris Harris Jr., Jacksonville's offense never took advantage of its opportunities with touchdowns.
That is what won Denver the game—red-zone defense.
It may not look pretty on the stat sheet, but the Broncos defense does what it needs to do to give this team victories.
Knowshon Moreno Is at His Best Right Now
Yes, Knowshon Moreno ran for just 45 yards on 17 carries.
That's not exactly an Adrian Peterson-like stat line, but the fifth-year running back had a career-high three touchdowns, on a day when Manning struggled to throw the football.
He also led the team in receptions with six for 53 yards.
Moreno won't be winning any MVP awards any time soon, but he is the perfect complement to Manning—he's an excellent blocker and receiver out of the backfield, and he runs hard.
Moreno is Denver's best back at the moment, and it's not even an argument.
Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball Continue to Struggle
What is there to say about the young backs?
Well, nothing positive.
Ronnie Hillman had just four carries in Sunday's game and fumbled it—luckily, it was recovered by Broncos receiver Eric Decker.
Montee Ball struggled yet again—this time it wasn't fumbles, but it was dropped passes and a miscommunication with Manning on a handoff late in the fourth quarter, which saw Manning run to the left side to hand off the ball, and Ball run to the other side.
These problems may not be a big deal in October, but they will be in January, yet again, if the Broncos lose Moreno due to injury.
Julius Thomas May Be the Second-Best Receiving Tight End in the NFL
People hesitate to anoint Julius Thomas as a top-tier tight end because he's only had six career games as a starting tight end, and because he still lacks in the blocking department compared to other top-tier tight ends in the NFL.
With New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski out due to injury, it wouldn't be far-fetched to argue that Thomas may be the NFL's second-best receiving tight end at the current moment—the New Orleans Saints' Jimmy Graham would be the only one on another level.
He has 31 catches for 381 yards and seven touchdowns through six games. He had another touchdown taken away from him on a play overturned.
With the Broncos having the best receiving core in the NFL, it's an accomplishment that Thomas is able to make the impact that he makes in the receiving game.
Champ Bailey Looks Solid in Return
Despite Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon's career game, Champ Bailey looked solid in his return from injury.
Bailey covered Blackmon for the majority of the first half, but it seemed Denver tried to shake things up by having Chris Harris Jr. and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on Blackmon during parts of the second half.
Bailey didn't have a dominant game, but he did hold opposing receivers out of the end zone. There were two different occasions on Jacksonville's last drive in the red zone where Bailey prevented a touchdown on Blackmon in the end zone.
For an offense that is as great as Denver's, all the Broncos need from Denver's defense is to hold opposing offenses out of the end zone.
Peyton Manning and Manny Ramirez Need to Work on Snaps
Yes, it's true that the Broncos operate out of the shotgun the majority of the time.
But the two fumbled snaps—one out of the shotgun formation—is inexcusable. It cost the Broncos two turnovers and points on the board when they were in the red zone.
Center Manny Ramirez and Manning haven't had major problems on their snaps this season, so this was a bit surprising—but it definitely cannot happen late in the season when the games truly matter.
Those types of exchanges will lose you games against elite opponents.
The Broncos Are Still the NFL's Best Team
Despite struggling against the worst team in the NFL, the Broncos remain one of the two undefeated teams in the NFL—along with their AFC West rival, the Kansas City Chiefs (6-0).
The New Orleans Saints (5-1) were defeated by the New England Patriots Sunday.
Manning struggled, but he still had an overall efficient game, going 28-of-42 for 295 yards and two touchdowns. The defense held Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew to 71 yards on 21 carries.
No team in the NFL has the talent level and the firepower that this Broncos team has.
Come Week 11 versus the Chiefs, we'll officially find out who the best team in the AFC West truly is.