POSTGAME GRADES

Broncos-Rams grades: Almost nothing but lumps of coal

Dec 27, 2022, 10:09 PM | Updated: Dec 28, 2022, 2:10 am

It was a burn-the-film game.

And yet, the Broncos’ 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams will leave indelible memories. Partially because it turned out to be Nathaniel Hackett’s final game as Denver’s head coach. And partially because of what happened on the sideline and immediately after the game.

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OFFENSE

QUARTERBACK: F

Russell Wilson’s first three throws represented perhaps the worst opening to a game for a Broncos quarterback in nearly a decade. He tried to jam in a pass to Courtland Sutton down the left sideline on the first play despite tight coverage from Jalen Ramsey, the last member of the Rams’ core four players left standing. The next two passes were intercepted, and both were on Wilson. He and Brett Rypien combined for four interceptions; the last time the Broncos threw four picks was at Las Vegas in 2020 — all thrown by Drew Lock. Wilson had a 3.5 ESPN QBR — impossibly bad. Wilson was culpable in at least half of the sacks he absorbed.

RUNNING BACKS: C-minus

Denver’s running backs had just 39 yards on 10 carries before some end-game stat passing with 48 yards on eight carries. The pass protection was in rough shape.

WIDE RECEIVERS: B

It has been a December to remember for Jerry Jeudy, who remained a bright spot, with his first 100-yard game since Week 1. Jeudy has WR1 numbers over the four games since he returned from injury: 25 catches, 331 yards and 3 touchdowns. Extrapolate those over a 17-game schedule and you have 106 receptions, 1,406 yards and 13 touchdowns. And he gets open more often than he’s targeted. Jeudy’s recent work is what happens when a talented player finds his confidence. On a grim day, his route-running and effort was fun to watch. Sutton eventually got involved and had a solid day without a drop.

TIGHT ENDS: B-minus

If Greg Dulcich’s hamstring injury is serious, it will be a hammer blow to the group that the rookie has carried since coming off of injured reserve, although his-blocking was shaky. Eric Saubert had the best run-blocking day of the bunch. It was a surprise how little the Broncos used versatile Andrew Beck: just 3 snaps.

OFFENSIVE LINE: C

Don’t let the raw sack total fool you; most of the Rams’ 6 sacks fell on the quarterback. Quinn Meinerz in particular was dominant at times and the Broncos’ stoutest presence on the interior. Cam Fleming also held up well in pass protection with a reasonable amount of time to operate. Seams were scarce on run plays until the final moments.

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DEFENSE

The individual units get some variant of Ds. The entire defense gets an F. That’s what happens when you don’t force a punt for the first time in the regular season since the Nixon Administration. It called to mind the salad days of the late John McKay, who said during one game, “We couldn’t stop the pass or the run. Otherwise, we’re in great shape.”

DEFENSIVE LINE: D

Dominated at the line of scrimmage, Los Angeles’ offensive line created gaps with ease against a defensive line that struggled in a way only seen against Carolina a month earlier. Enyi Uwazurike had the Broncos’ only hit of Baker Mayfield. Jonathan Harris had the steadiest day up front, and the unit’s only tackle for a loss. Mike Purcell did his best to try to help. But the unit was gashed up front and missed multiple tackles that could have limited the damage.

EDGE RUSHERS: D

Pressure was virtually nonexistent, but that was also a product of the Rams’ quick-strike, boot-action passing game that left pass-rush opportunities nonexistent. Jonathon Cooper’s work against the run was solid, but he didn’t maintain his consistent work at generating pressure from previous weeks — although opportunities were scant. When the most notable moment for the position group was in the handshake line, it’s a dreadful day indeed.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS: D

Alex Singleton was ubiquitous, although many of his 20 total tackles saw him in chase mode. but Josey Jewell struggled, missing multiple tackles while being left chasing. Jewell also allowed a handful of receptions.

CORNERBACKS: D

Baker Mayfield completed three passes at Pat Surtain’s expense and four against Damarri Mathis. Each player was on the business and of a Los Angeles touchdown. Each missed a tackle. Mayfield also completed four passes at K’Waun Williams’ expense.

SAFETIES: D

Mayfield didn’t test the Broncos downfield, leaving much of the work for Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons to try and clean up the mess from the first two levels. Each of them missed a tackle. But the damage was quite often done before they could get involved. Mayfield attempted just one pass beyond 20 yards.

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SPECIAL TEAMS

PLACEKICKING: A

McManus rebounded from a 38-yard miss a week earlier with a perfect day. He hit from 49 and 54 yards in the first half.

PUNTING: A-minus

Both of Corliss Waitman’s punts had good hang time, north of 4.00 seconds. He finished the day with a net average of 44 yards — which was the exact net of his two punts. His work improved in the last two weeks.

KICKOFF/PUNT RETURNS: B

Montrell Washington took advantage of Matt Gay’s drop-kick after a 15-yard penalty on the previous play from scrimmage in the second quarter. He read the app well, but took advantage of solid blocking. This was the only return of the day.

KICKOFF/PUNT COVERAGE: B

Kickoff coverage wasn’t an issue, as Brandon McManus had two touchbacks and an on-side kickoff. One of Waitman’s two punts resulted in a fair catch; the other ended in a 12-yard return after a long blast.

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