The Donatell Diary: Jalen Hurts Takes the Wind out of Denver’s Sails

Dec 27, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks Carson Wentz (11) and Jalen Hurts (2) talk with head coach Doug Pederson (C) during a timeout against the Dallas Cowboys in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Week 10 was a disappointment. After turning their 3-4 record into a 5-4 record, the Broncos put forth a brutal effort against the 3-6 Eagles. Their inability to effectively slow down Jalen Hurts meant Denver once again found itself at .500. Following a Dallas game when he must have been thrilled, Ed Donatell likely had a lot of frustration over this performance.

Readers who haven’t been following along or who’d like a refresher can feel free to read the reports on the Broncos’ defensive performance in Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, and Week 9. It’s now time to take on Week 10.

The Positives

Truth be told, there isn’t a ton of positive.

Another week, another performance where Denver was working with a depleted front seven. That reality certainly does make it challenging, especially when Hurts presents such an issue with his legs. To their credit, Denver doesn’t completely allow the Eagles offense to take over the game. The final Philly TD came from the Eagles defense, so we can’t fault Donatell’s group for that one.

Moreover, there are times when a defense does things well and still gets beat. Sometimes, you need to tip your cap. In the above video, you’ll see Patrick Surtain II again putting forth solid coverage. Unfortunately for the rookie corner, DeVonta Smith was a touch better. It was a good play call, a good throw, and an incredible catch. All of that added up to a 10-0 lead.

Denver’s defense battled, allowing for the game to get close as the half approached. Justin Simmons had an INT, and Dre’Mont Jones is a good player. Nevertheless, it was a brutal effort at a time when the Broncos needed to keep the good times rolling.

The Negatives

At various points, Denver either took a bad angle when pursuing Hurts or simply got outraced by the speedy QB. A defender needs to ensure they’re targeting the QB’s outside shoulder when he is trying to get to the edge. The basic strategy is to, at the very least, force Hurts back inside toward the rest of the defenders rather than allow him to run up the sideline unencumbered by orange jerseys. Too often, the Broncos couldn’t maintain their contain. By the end of the day, Hurts had 55 yards of rushing.

In the video below, you’ll see the tricky spot the Broncos were in. The first play shows the LB picking up the running back, turning his back to Hurts in the process. That decision allowed Philly’s QB to find all kinds of green grass.

Heading into the half, it was a 20-10 game. Were it not for a dropped TD pass, though, it would have been 24-10. By the 4th quarter, the Eagles’ lead had morphed into 27-13. Again, don’t forget that the extra 7 points derived from Darius Slay taking a turnover back for a TD.

As with many games this season, the Broncos struggled to overcome lacklustre offensive play. When Teddy Bridgewater’s side wasn’t crisp, the defense simply wasn’t dominant enough to win it for the Broncos.

There is some wisdom here for Minnesota.

In 2022, the Vikings offense ought to be the team’s main strength. In theory, Kirk Cousins & Friends should have a strong season, one that features a system that caters to the strengths of the various playmakers. Minnesota must be successful in this regard; the purple defense, in all likelihood, won’t be among the league’s elite. As a result, the offense needs to put their defense in a position to succeed.

The Send Off

Denver didn’t impress in this one. In fact, it’d be easy to argue that this was a critical turning point in their season. They had the chance to hit 6-4 against a team well below .500. In so doing, they would have been in a reasonably strong position to push for the playoffs. Instead, they dropped to 5-5.

In Week 11, the Broncos head into their bye. Their next game occurs in Week 12 against the underrated Los Angeles Chargers.

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