Denver Broncos 2011 NFL Draft: Grading EFX's First Draft
There are definitely mixed feelings about this pick amongst Broncos nation. When Julius Thomas was selected here in the 5th round there was some buzz surrounding him. Many fans were optimistic that they finally found a tight end of the Antonio Gates caliber.
The fact that he was a basketball player turned tight end automatically brought the comparisons between other tight ends such as Gates and Jimmy Graham.
Julius Thomas had a very strong preseason, and many rumors around the Denver Broncos camp suggested that Thomas was moving up the depth chart and could receive significant playing time during the season.
Unfortunately Thomas sustained an ankle injury early in the season that seemed to hamper him for the rest of the year.
All in all, Thomas was ineffective on the stat sheet (one reception and five yards) but there is definitely potential there. It is too early to assign a grade to this pick due to Thomas' untapped potential. Broncos nation should have a better feel on Thomas' abilities after next season.
Draft Grade: To Be Determined
Let's be perfectly clear, one year of evaluation is hardly enough to provide a final say on the efficacy of a draft, but it can certainly be enough to have us seeing stars and busts in fanland.
After the disappointing end to the first true rebuild project in over 15 years, the Broncos appeared rudderless at the conclusion of the 2010 season. With Free Agency delayed due to the Lockout, the 2011 draft was the first real look at the new culture and team concept that John Elway and John Fox were trying to instill and install. Leading up to the draft, weaknesses in the linebacking corps and secondary were identified, along with defensive line depth and talent. On offense, the offensive line figured to need depth, and tight end talent continued to be an issue, but overall, the focus looked to be on the defensive side of the ball.
Let's get below the fold and see how the actual draft meshed up with needs....
Denver prioritized starting talent at rush OLB, FS and OT, while grabbing insurance at SAF, and developmental prospects in the last half of the draft at ILB and TE. The only defensive line help they considered was a late round college standout with less than ideal measurables.
|1||2||Von Miller||OLB||Texas A&M|
|3||67||Nate Irving||ILB||North Carolina State|
|4b||129||Julius Thomas||TE||Portland State|
Von Miller: Miller was the consensus best pass rusher in the 2011 draft, and was expected to move around to get matchups and get into the offensive backfield. His upfield burst was universally labeled "special" by scouts and analysts. The only significant knock against him was his limited run stopping role, though he had the vision and quickness to run backs down from behind and trail a play in the backfield. In his rookie season in Denver, Von did not disappoint, leading the team in sacks (11.5), sack yardage (77yds), tackles for loss (19) and QB hits (24). His efforts earned him the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Amazingly, this production came despite a broken thumb that kept him in a cast for the last six weeks of the season. Heading into 2012 his health appears to be on track, and his future is bright in Denver.
Rahim Moore: At UCLA over the course of three years starting Moore established himself as a natural center-fielder, with range and run vs. pass intelligence, coupled with the quickness to get where he needed to go, overlapping deep coverage on both sides of the field. He wasn't known as a hitter, but more a sure tackler. Unfortunately, upon arriving in Denver, he played away from his strengths, trying to make the big impact hit that would cement him into the minds of coaches and fans. After a huge hit in the preseason Buffalo game resulted in a fine, Moore's head wouldn't quite be where it needed to be throughout the remainder of the season, resulting in him getting benched in favor of his draftmate Quinton Carter as the season reached its zenith. Injuries would give him opportunities from time to time which he didn't take advantage of, and heading into 2012 he finds himself back where he was as a rookie: trying to impress his teammates and coaches and earn a role on the team. If he can play to his strengths, he should be able to supplant the veteran Mike Adams in the deep half of the field sometime in 2012.
Orlando Franklin: Defined predraft by his long arms and huge hands, and by a violent streak in his game, he projected as a starting RT, developmental LT who could move into the interior in a pinch. Due to free agency rules that sent Ryan Harris out the door, Franklin got the opportunity to start at RT right away, and went on to not miss a start over the season. While his pass protection was always a work in progress, he truly made an impact early in the running game, with runs on RT averaging 4.7 yards per rush. Going forward he will need to improve on his understanding of the pass protections, moreso than his actual techniques. With Orton in the pocket Orlando was much more comfortable, and often Orton would make a point of doublechecking that Franklin knew his responsibility, but once Tebow came in, Orlando was on his own, and too often was out of place. With Peyton Manning at the helm, Franklin will at once be challenged beyond anything he has had to do in the NFL to date, but also helped tremendously to be on task at the snap. Going forward, Franklin could be looking to make tremendous strides in pass protection, and could be a key cog in the line at RT for years to come.
Nate Irving: After missing the 2009 season after an auto accident, Irving seemed to have returned to his expected levels of explosion and production, playing his senior year at ILB after manning both outside positions in the years prior. An aggressive, hard hitter, he came into camp and couldn't quite seal the job away as his own, being challenged hard by Joe Mays. He did manage to play in every game, in a special teams role, including forcing a fumble on an onside kick in Miami. Overall however, he looks to still be in development. The Broncos retained starter Mays on a short contract, so signs are that they are still looking to see if the 2011 draft class will provide them the MLB of the future.
Quinton Carter: Carter was pegged pre-draft as a versatile FS/SS type, and was considered the second best SAF prospect behind Moore. He was a head up hitter who was good in run support with sideline to sideline speed, though he was considered limited in run vs. pass recognition and diagnosis. In his rookie season he logged 16 games played, primarily on STs, though he also earned 10 starts at both SS and FS, where he logged 49 tackles and a sack. That experience should do him good heading into a 2012 season that sees the retirement of Brian Dawkins, and few obstacles to a starting role again for Carter. The SS spot is his to lose at this point, with the only real challenges being vet special teams gunner David Bruton and the versatility and experience of Mike Adams, should Moore beat him out for FS.
Julius Thomas: Thomas was an exceptionally raw developmental prospect, and in a draft where rookies were seeing playing time all over the field, Thomas saw his role reduced to nothing after a week 2 ankle injury on his first career reception left him sidelined for the majority of the season, including being listed as a gameday inactive for 13 of the contests. After hitting the 2012 free agent market hard for TEs, it looks like Denver is going to give Thomas a mulligan for 2011, and hope to start fresh in 2012. Given how raw Thomas was coming out of college, it is doubtful that the injury set him back so much as delayed his development, since he had never really played at a high level in the first place. Having moved up into the 4th round to get him, it is likely that the Broncos are willing to be patient and let him grow into his role, and with two starters acquired in free agency, they certainly have the freedom to do that.
Michael Mohamed: Drafted primarily for his durability and instincts, Mohamed was forecast as a valuable contributor to some teams special teams unit. Despite looking good in preseason in that role, and seeing action in the first game of the season, roster math led to the Broncos parting ways with Mohamed in week 3, but then bringing him back to close out the last seven weeks of the season. He is currently on the Broncos roster and slated to compete in camp for a backup ILB role and a place on all of Denver's coverage units.
Virgil Green: Green was actually a higher rated TE than Thomas, and many others that went before him, but reports of complications with his microfracture surgery from 2009 had teams moving him down the board. Some teams had him rated as high as the third best TE if not for the surgery issue. Considered a steal in the seventh round it was hoped that his speed, natural ball skills and good hands would earn him early playing time. He would go on to play in all but one game of his rookie season primarily as a key contributor on special teams, but also logging 3 starts over the course of the season. Used primarily in a runblocking role, that experience should only help him in a Peyton Manning led offense where one TE injury could have him stepping into a starting role any given week. His natural strengths as a pass catching TE may have a chance to shine in 2012.
Jeremy Beal: the 2010 Big-12 Defensive Lineman of the Year, Beal was an overachieving, high production 3 year starter at Oklahoma, who fell down draft boards after a timed 40 was among the worst in his class. Believed to be a beneficiary of scheme and surrounding talent, scouts came to the conclusion that Beal would not have the first step necessary to make an impact in the NFL, and so far they may have been right. Beal spent the season on Denver's practice squad, and was recently resigned for another shot at making the roster in 2012. All signs point towards an uphill battle for Beal, but he didn't become the second in all time sacks and tackles for a loss at Oklahoma because he didn't try.
Out of 9 draftees, the Broncos managed to retain all 9 heading into their sophomore season. At first glance that may not seem like much of an accomplishment, but good teams develop all their players, not just the stars, and so retention from year to year is no small thing. Admittedly, a couple of players are hanging on by a thread heading into 2012 (Beal, Mohamed, Thomas) while others have a lot still to prove (Moore, Irving, Green), but 2 solid starters and an All-Pro are enough to make most drafts grade out at above average. Include the retention of the entire class, and the 2011 draft class looks to have a bright future, and I would give it an A grade at this point without hesitation.
What is your grade for the 2011 draft?
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2011 NFL Draft
76th annual meeting of National Football League franchises to select newly eligible players
The 2011 NFL Draft was the 76th installment of the annual NFL Draft, where the franchises of the National Football League select newly eligible football players. Like the 2010 draft, the 2011 draft was held at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York, over three days: this year, the first round took place on Thursday, April 28, 2011; the second and third rounds took place on Friday, April 29; with the final four rounds on Saturday, April 30, 2011. The Carolina Panthers, who had the worst record for the 2010 NFL season at 2–14, had the right to the first selection in the draft, where they selected Auburn UniversityquarterbackCam Newton, who was the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner.
A second Heisman Trophy winner, running backMark Ingram Jr. from Alabama was selected by New Orleans late in the first round. This was the eleventh draft which included multiple Heisman winners, and the first time ever that it has occurred in consecutive drafts (Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow in 2010). Five of the first six picks played college football in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). For the second consecutive year—and the third time in NFL history—the top two selections of the draft won Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year awards, respectively. The top two picks in the draft, Cam Newton and Denver linebacker Von Miller, played against each other in Super Bowl 50 on the teams that drafted them. This marked the first time that the top two picks in a single draft faced each other in the Super Bowl. The Broncos won, with Miller winning Super Bowl MVP.
Teams were allowed ten minutes to make each selection in the first round, seven minutes per selection in the second round and five minutes in each of the subsequent rounds. The time allotment ran out for the Baltimore Ravens on their first round pick, allowing the Kansas City Chiefs to move up to the 26th pick and dropping the Ravens to the 27th pick.[source 1] It is considered one of the best drafts of contemporary times, with many players showing Hall of Fame level talent, including three-time Defensive Player of the YearJ. J. Watt, 2015 NFL MVPCam Newton, Super Bowl 50 MVPVon Miller, 2015 and 2018 receiving yards leader Julio Jones, and perennial All-Pro players such as Richard Sherman, A. J. Green, Tyron Smith, Jason Kelce, and Patrick Peterson.
The following is the breakdown of the 254 players selected by position:
Impact of labor situation
Main article: 2011 NFL lockout
Despite an ongoing labor dispute between league owners and players over a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), a provision in the expired CBA ensured that this draft would still take place, despite the fact that the owners had imposed a lockout to prevent the start of the league year. Fans in attendance at the draft expressed their displeasure with the lockout by booing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during the event and chanting "We want football."
Due to the labor situation and the lockout, franchises were not able to trade players for draft selections (trades involving only selections were permitted), and were unable to sign or even contact drafted or undrafted players until the lockout was lifted. Because of the lockout, the Panthers could not sign or even negotiate with their first draft pick before the draft began, as other teams have done in years past.
The restriction on trading players extended to players selected in this draft—teams were unable to swap any player once selected, e.g. as happened in 2004 when the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants completed a draft day trade involving Eli Manning and Philip Rivers who had been selected first and fourth respectively. In addition, with no agreement in place between owners and players mandating future drafts, teams were advised by the league that any trades involving future draft picks would be made at the teams' "own risk". This warning did not dissuade several teams from making trades involving future selections.
The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) considered plans to dissuade potential prospects from attending the draft, but a record 25 potential draftees attended the event, including Von Miller, who was one of the named plaintiffs in the players' antitrust lawsuit against the league.
Main article: List of 2011 NFL Draft early entrants
A record 56 underclassmen announced their intention to forgo their remaining NCAA eligibility and declare themselves eligible to be selected in the draft. Of the 56 eligible underclassmen, 43 (or 76.8%) were drafted.
The selection of Newton, a junior, marked the third straight draft where the first overall selection was an underclassman. Since non-seniors were first eligible to be drafted in 1990, fourteen first overall picks (including six of the last seven) have been players who have entered the draft early. Eight of the first ten players chosen in this draft were non-seniors, which broke the record of six set in 1997 and matched in 2006. Jake Locker and Von Miller were the only two seniors among the first ten draftees.
Determination of draft order
Further information: National Football League Draft § Rules for determining draft order
The draft order is based generally on each team's record from the previous season, with teams which qualified for the postseason selecting after those which failed to make the playoffs.
2011 Denver Broncos season
NFL team season
The 2011 Denver Broncos season was the franchise's 42nd season in the National Football League and the 52nd overall. It also marked the first season under head coachJohn Fox, as well as the first with John Elway as the team's Executive Vice President of Football Operations.
On July 25, the NFLPA and NFL owners agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement, which was ratified on August 4. The Broncos training camp began on July 28 at the team headquarters in Dove Valley, Colorado, and the preseason and regular season started on time.
This was the first of five consecutive AFC West titles for the Broncos. The first five weeks of the season were dominated by a quarterback controversy involving Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow, with fans voicing their displeasure with the play of Orton, which resulted in a 1–4 start, and the public outcry for Tebow to be moved to starter. On October 11, Tebow was named the starting quarterback beginning with the team's Week 7 game at the Miami Dolphins on October 23. Tebow compiled an 8–5 record (including the playoffs, with a six-game win streak from Weeks 9–14) after replacing Orton, including game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and/or overtime in six of those games, despite constant criticism of his unorthodox mechanics and abilities as a passer. Orton was later waived on November 22. Another notable roster change was the trade that sent wide receiverBrandon Lloyd to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for a conditional 2012 draft selection.
The Broncos doubled their win total from 2010, finishing in a three-way tie with the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers for the AFC West division title, with an 8–8 record. However, the Broncos won the AFC West based on tiebreakers, thus clinching their first playoff berth and division title since 2005.
The Broncos opened the playoffs with a 29–23 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Wild Card round, but were blown out by the New England Patriots in the Divisional round by a score of 45–10.
Coaching and front-office changes
- January 5: Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway was hired as the team's Executive Vice President of Football Operations. Brian Xanders remained as general manager, but Elway had the final word in all football matters. Joe Ellis, who served as the team's chief operating officer for the past three years, was promoted to team president.
- January 13: The Broncos named former Carolina Panthers' head coach John Fox as the team's new head coach.
- January 17: The following changes were made to the Broncos' coaching staff: Clancy Barone was moved from offensive line coach to tight ends coach, replacing Bob Ligashesky. Dave Magazu was named the new offensive line coach. Tyke Tolbert was named the new wide receivers coach. Magazu and Tolbert both previously served on John Fox's staff with the Panthers. Brian Callahan was moved to the offensive quality control position, while Jay Rodgers was moved to the defensive quality control position. Eric Studesville, who served as the team's interim head coach for the final four games of the 2010 season, retained his position as the running backs coach.
- January 20: Adam Gase, who served as the Broncos' wide receivers coach during the previous two seasons, was named the team's new quarterbacks coach, replacing Ben McDaniels. That same day, Jeff Rodgers, who served on John Fox's staff with the Panthers during the previous two seasons, was named the team's new special teams coach.
- January 24: The Broncos hired former New Orleans Saints' secondary coach Dennis Allen as the team's new defensive coordinator, replacing Don Martindale.
- January 25: Ron Milus was hired as the new secondary coach, replacing Dennis Allen, while Richard Smith was hired as the new linebackers coach. Milus previously served as the Broncos' secondary coach in 2000, while Smith previously served as the Broncos' special teams coach and linebackers coach in the mid-1990s, and both previously served on John Fox's staff with the Panthers during the past two seasons.
- January 27: The coaching staff was finalized, when Keith Burns was brought back as the assistant special teams coach and Sam Garnes was hired as the teams' new assistant secondary coach. Garnes served on John Fox's staff with the Panthers last season.
- July 22: The Broncos hired Jerry Butler as the team's director of player development. Butler previously served in the same capacity with the Cleveland Browns from 2001 to 2010, and was a wide receiver with the Buffalo Bills from 1979 to 1986.
Pre-lockout roster changes
The Broncos made the following roster moves prior to the decertification of the NFLPA on March 11 and subsequent 2011 NFL Lockout:
Main article: 2011 NFL draft
Despite the 2011 NFL Lockout, the 2011 NFL draft was held from April 28–30. However, no undrafted free agents were signed until after the lockout ended on July 25.
Post-lockout roster changes
The following free agents were left unsigned after the beginning of the 2011 NFL Lockout in March (cornerbackChamp Bailey and defensive tackleKevin Vickerson were re-signed before the lockout):
Undrafted free agents
All undrafted free agents were signed on July 27, two days after the end of the 2011 NFL Lockout.
|CB||Brandon Bing||Rutgers||waived September 3|
|DT||Ronnell Brown||James Madison||waived September 3|
|WR||Mark Dell||Michigan State||designated as waived/injured on August 13|
|LB||Derek Domino||South Dakota State||designated as waived/injured on August 15,|
released from the waived/injured list on December 13
|RB||Mario Fannin||Auburn||designated as waived/injured on August 6|
|WR||D'Andre Goodwin||Washington||waived September 3,|
assigned to practice squad September 4,
promoted to the active roster on January 10, 2012,
on final roster
|OT||Adam Grant||Arizona||waived September 3,|
assigned to practice squad on September 4
|CB||Chris Harris, Jr.||Kansas||on final roster|
|WR||Jamel Hamler||Fresno State||placed on injured reserve September 3,|
waived September 12
|LB||A. J. Jones||Florida||waived August 16|
|LB||Deron Mayo||Old Dominion||waived August 29|
|OT||Curt Porter||Jacksonville State||waived August 29|
|CB||James Rogers||Michigan||released August 1|
|FB||Austin Sylvester||Washington||waived September 3,|
assigned to practice squad September 4,
promoted to the active roster on December 27,
waived January 13, 2012
|QB||Adam Weber||Minnesota||waived September 3,|
assigned to practice squad on September 4
|DT||Colby Whitlock||Texas Tech||released August 2|
|WR||Marshall Williams||Wake Forest||released August 1|
|WR||David Anderson||Houston Texans||signed July 30, waived September 3|
|LS||David Binn||San Diego Chargers||signed January 13, 2012, on final roster|
|LB||Alvin Bowen||Jacksonville Jaguars||signed August 15, waived September 3|
|S||Rafael Bush||Atlanta Falcons||signed October 17, on final roster|
|CB||Tony Carter||Practice squad player||promoted to the active roster on December 13,|
on final roster
|WR/RS||Quan Cosby||Cincinnati Bengals||signed September 20, waived December 27|
|TE||Daniel Fells||St. Louis Rams||signed August 1, on final roster|
|RB||C. J. Gable||New Orleans Saints||signed August 6, waived August 29|
|DE||Derrick Harvey||Jacksonville Jaguars||signed August 1, on final roster|
|OT||Tony Hills||Pittsburgh Steelers||signed September 6, on final roster|
|LB||Brian Iwuh||Chicago Bears||signed January 3, 2012, on final roster|
|RB||Jeremiah Johnson||Practice squad player||promoted to the active roster on September 16,|
waived September 20,
promoted to the active roster on November 14,
on final roster
|FB||Quinn Johnson||Tennessee Titans||signed October 10, waived December 17|
|S||Kyle McCarthy||Practice squad player||promoted to the active roster on November 28,|
waived December 13,
promoted to the active roster on December 17,
waived January 3, 2012
|RB||Willis McGahee||Baltimore Ravens||signed July 31, on final roster|
|WR||Greg Orton||Spokane Shock (AFL)||signed August 13, waived September 3|
|DT||DeMario Pressley||Houston Texans||signed August 17, waived September 3|
|TE||Dante Rosario||Carolina Panthers||signed August 1, released September 3,|
re-signed September 22, on final roster
|DT||Ty Warren||New England Patriots||signed August 2,|
placed on injured reserve September 17
|CB||Jonathan Wilhite||New England Patriots||signed September 4, on final roster|
|Indicates that the player was a free agent at the end of his respective team's 2010 season.|
- July 27: Wide receiverDemaryius Thomas was placed on the non-football injury list. Thomas suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon shortly after the end of the 2010 season, and had surgery back in February. Thomas later suffered a broken finger during practice on September 8, and missed the first six weeks of the regular season.
- August 15: Defensive tacklesMarcus Thomas and Ty Warren each sustained separate injuries in practice. Thomas suffered a strained pectoral muscle, and missed the first four weeks of the regular season. Warren suffered torn triceps, and was initially expected to return in November, but was placed on the season-ending injured reserve on September 17.
- August 27: LinebackerD. J. Williams suffered a dislocated elbow during the team's third preseason game vs. the Seattle Seahawks, and missed the first three weeks of the regular season.
- September 2: CornerbackSyd'Quan Thompson suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during the team's last preseason game at the Arizona Cardinals, and missed the entire 2011 season.
- October 10: Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson was placed on injured reserve, after suffering an ankle injury during the team's Week 5 loss to the San Diego Chargers the previous day.
- November 14: Running backKnowshon Moreno was placed on injured reserve, after he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during the team's Week 10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs the previous day.
- November 28: Cornerback/return specialistCassius Vaughn was placed on injured reserve, after suffering a broken bone in his leg during the team's Week 12 win over the San Diego Chargers the previous day.
- January 2, 2012: GuardChris Kuper was placed on injured reserve, after suffering a broken leg during the team's regular season finale against the Kansas City Chiefs the previous day.
- January 10, 2012: FullbackSpencer Larsen was placed on injured reserve.
- Note: Intra-division opponents are in bold text.
Week 1: vs. Oakland Raiders
The Broncos donned their alternate orange jerseys and kicked off their 2011 season at home against their AFC West rival Oakland Raiders, the Broncos' first Week 1 home opener since 2004. The Broncos took an early lead in the first quarter, with a 28-yard field goal by placekicker Matt Prater. The Raiders reeled off 16 unanswered points in the second quarter, with a 3-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jason Campbell to fullback Marcel Reece, followed by three field goals of 37, 21 and 63 yards by placekicker Sebastian Janikowski, the latter of which tied the record for the longest field goal in NFL history. The Broncos responded in the third quarter, with kick returner Eric Decker returning a punt 90 yards for a touchdown, followed by a 30-yard field goal by Prater. The Raiders increased their lead in the fourth quarter, with a 1-yard touchdown run by Campbell. The Broncos tried to rally, with quarterback Kyle Orton throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Lance Ball. However, Oakland ran out the clock.
This would be the last time the Broncos lost their season opener and home opener until 2019; their opener that year was also against the Raiders.
Week 2: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week Two: Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos – Game summary
at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
Following their Monday Night loss to the Raiders, the Broncos remained on home turf to face the Cincinnati Bengals. The Broncos took the lead in the first quarter, with a 1-yard touchdown run by running back Willis McGahee. The Bengals got on the board in the second quarter, with a 45-yard field goal by placekicker Mike Nugent. The Broncos responded, with a 34-yard field goal by placekicker Matt Prater just before halftime. In the third quarter, the Broncos extended their lead, with a 25-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Orton to wide receiver Eric Decker. The Bengals reeled off 12 unanswered points, with a 37-yard field goal by Nugent, a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andy Dalton to wide receiver Andre Caldwell (with a failed two-point conversion attempt), followed by a 23-yard field goal by Nugent, narrowing the Broncos' lead to 17–15. In the fourth quarter, the Broncos once again increased their lead, with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Orton to Decker, but the Bengals responded, with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to wide receiver A. J. Green. The Broncos' defense prevented any more scoring.
Week 3: at Tennessee Titans
Week Three: Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans – Game summary
at LP Field, Nashville, Tennessee
Following their close win over the Bengals, the Broncos traveled to Nashville to face the Tennessee Titans at LP Field. The Broncos took the lead in the first quarter, with a 5-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kyle Orton to wide receiver Matthew Willis. The Titans responded in the second quarter, with a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to wide receiver Nate Washington, followed by a 46-yard field goal by placekicker Rob Bironas. The Broncos re-claimed the lead in the third quarter, when Orton connecting with running back Willis McGahee on a 5-yard touchdown pass. However, after recovering a Hasselbeck fumble in Titans' territory late in the third quarter, the Broncos failed to capitalize on the turnover, as Tennessee's defense denied the Broncos from extending their lead with a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter. The Titans later claimed the lead, when Hasselbeck, playing on his 36th birthday, threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Graham, who played with the Broncos from 2007 to 2010. Tennessee's defense thwarted the Broncos' final drive.
Week 4: at Green Bay Packers
Hoping to avenge their loss at Tennessee, the Broncos traveled to Lambeau Field to face the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. The Broncos took the early lead, with a 27-yard field goal by placekicker Matt Prater. However, the Packers responded, with a 50-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to wide receiver Jordy Nelson, followed by cornerback Charles Woodson returning an interception off Broncos' quarterback Kyle Orton 30 yards for a touchdown. After recovering an onside kick, the Packers added to their lead early in the second quarter, with Rodgers scrambling 11 yards for a touchdown. The Broncos responded, with Orton throwing two touchdown passes to wide receiver Eric Decker: a 5-yarder, followed by a 33-yarder. The Packers responded just before halftime, when Rodgers connected on a 17-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings. The Packers increased their lead on the opening possession of the third quarter, with Rodgers scrambling for an 8-yard touchdown run, followed by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to wide receiver James Jones. The Packers continued their onslaught in the fourth quarter, with Rodgers hooking up with wide receiver Donald Driver on an 8-yard touchdown pass. The Broncos scored a late touchdown, when Orton connected with tight end Daniel Fells on a 7-yard touchdown pass (with a failed two-point conversion attempt), but the outcome of the game had already been decided in Green Bay's favor. The loss drops the Broncos to 0–4–1 all-time in Green Bay.
Week 5: vs. San Diego Chargers
Week Five: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos – Game summary
at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
Hoping to rebound from their blowout loss at Green Bay, the Broncos returned home for an AFC West duel with the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers took the early lead in the first quarter, with a 24-yard field goal by placekicker Nick Novak. The Broncos grabbed the lead, when cornerback Cassius Vaughn returned an interception off Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers 55 yards for a touchdown. The Chargers responded, with a 32-yard field goal by Novak. The Broncos extended their lead in the second quarter, with a 32-yard field goal by placekicker Matt Prater. However, the Chargers reclaimed the lead, with a 2-yard touchdown run by Rivers, a 28-yard field goal by Novak, followed by a 42-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to wide receiver Malcom Floyd, giving San Diego a 23–10 halftime lead. The Broncos benched quarterback Kyle Orton in favor of Tim Tebow. After a scoreless third quarter, the Chargers added to their lead, with a 51-yard field goal by Novak. The Broncos responded, when Tebow scrambled for a 12-yard touchdown (with a two-point conversion run by running back Willis McGahee), then threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to running back Knowshon Moreno (with a failed two-point conversion attempt), to pull the Broncos to within 26–24 with just over three minutes left in the game. The Chargers responded, with a 35-yard field goal by Novak. The Broncos tried to rally with 24 seconds remaining in regulation, but Tebow's last-second desperation pass into the end zone was unsuccessful, sealing the win for San Diego.
Defensive tackleKevin Vickerson suffering an ankle injury early in the game. Though he later returned, he was placed on injured reserve one day later (October 10).
Week 7: at Miami Dolphins
Hoping to snap their three-game losing streak, and coming off their bye week, the Broncos traveled to face the Miami Dolphins in Sun Life Stadium, where the Broncos had never won in their franchise history except against another team, the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII. After a scoreless first quarter, the Dolphins grabbed the lead in the second quarter, with field goals of 38 and 36 yards by kicker Dan Carpenter. After a scoreless third quarter, the Dolphins extended their lead in the fourth quarter, with quarterback Matt Moore throwing a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Anthony Fasano (with a failed two-point conversion attempt), followed by a 43-yard field goal by Carpenter, giving Miami a 15–0 lead. However, after each team traded punts, the Broncos staged a rally with just over five minutes remaining, with quarterback Tim Tebow throwing a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to pull to within 15–7 with 2:44 remaining. After the Broncos recovered an onside kick, they subsequently marched down the field, with Tebow connecting on a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Daniel Fells, followed by Tebow scrambling for the two-point conversion to send the game into overtime. On the Dolphins' second possession in overtime, Broncos' linebacker D. J. Williams forced a fumble off Moore, giving the Broncos possession at the Dolphins' 36-yard line. Four plays later, kicker Matt Prater, who had missed two field goals in the first half, nailed the game-winning 52-yard field goal.
With the win, the Broncos earned their 400th win in franchise history, their first-ever win over the Dolphins at Miami in eight tries, and became the first team in NFL history since the AFL–NFL merger to win a game after trailing by 15 or more points with less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Week 8: vs. Detroit Lions
Week Eight: Detroit Lions at Denver Broncos – Game summary
at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
Hoping to build on the momentum of their comeback win at Miami, the Broncos donned their alternate orange jerseys and returned home for an interconference duel with the Detroit Lions. The Broncos grabbed the early lead in the first quarter, with a 39-yard field goal by placekicker Matt Prater. However, the Lions dominated the remainder of the game, beginning with a 41-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford to wide receiver Titus Young, followed in the second quarter by a 50-yard field goal by placekicker Jason Hanson, a 1-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to tight end Tony Scheffler and a 1-yard touchdown run from running back Maurice Morris, giving Detroit a 24–3 halftime lead. The Lions continued their domination in the third quarter, with a 24-yard fumble return for a touchdown by defensive end Cliff Avril, a 56-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to wide receiver Calvin Johnson, followed in the fourth quarter by cornerback Chris Houston returning an interception off Broncos' quarterback Tim Tebow 100 yards for a touchdown. The Broncos finally got into the end zone, with Tebow throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Eric Decker, but the outcome of the game had already been decided in Detroit's favor.
Week 9: at Oakland Raiders
Week Nine: Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders – Game summary
at O.co Coliseum, Oakland, California
- Date: November 6
- Game time: 2:05 pm. MST/1:05 p.m. PST
- Game weather: 62 °F (17 °C), partly cloudy
- Game attendance: 58,125
- Referee: John Parry
- TV announcers (CBS): Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf
- Recap, Gamebook
Hoping to rebound from their disastrous home loss to the Lions, the Broncos traveled to the O.co Coliseum for an AFC West rematch with the Oakland Raiders. In the first quarter, the Raiders grabbed the early lead, with a 48-yard field goal by placekicker Sebastian Janikowski. The Broncos responded, with quarterback Tim Tebow hooking up with wide receiver Eric Decker on a 27-yard touchdown pass. The Raiders re-claimed the lead in the second quarter, with quarterback Carson Palmer throwing two touchdown passes: an 11-yarder to running back Michael Bush, followed by a 40-yarder to fullback Marcel Reece. In the third quarter, the Broncos cut into the Raiders' lead, with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Tebow to wide receiver Eddie Royal. The Raiders responded, with Palmer throwing an 18-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jacoby Ford, giving Oakland a 24–14 lead. However, the Broncos dominated the remainder of the game, beginning with a 43-yard field goal by placekicker Matt Prater, followed by running back Willis McGahee rushing for a 60-yard touchdown at the end of the third quarter. The Broncos grabbed the lead with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, when Royal returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown, then pulled away with a 24-yard touchdown run by McGahee.
Week 10: at Kansas City Chiefs
Week Ten: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs – Game summary
at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri
- Date: November 13
- Game time: 12:00 pm. CST/11:00 am. MST
- Game weather: 67 °F (19 °C), sunny
- Game attendance: 72,908
- Referee: Ron Winter
- TV announcers (CBS): Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker
- Recap, Gamebook
Coming off their win at Oakland, the Broncos traveled to Arrowhead Stadium for an AFC West duel with the Kansas City Chiefs. In the first quarter, the Broncos grabbed the early lead, with quarterback Tim Tebow scrambling for a 7-yard touchdown, followed in the second quarter by a 38-yard field goal by placekicker Matt Prater. The Chiefs got on the board in the third quarter, with a 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Cassel to fullback Le'Ron McClain. The Broncos responded in the fourth quarter, with Tebow throwing a 56-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Eric Decker. The Chiefs tried to rally, with placekicker Ryan Succop nailing a late 32-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining, but the ensuing onside kickoff was unsuccessful, sealing the win for the Broncos.
With the win, the Broncos matched their win total from 2010.
Running backKnowshon Moreno suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during the first quarter, and was placed on injured reserve.
Week 11: vs. New York Jets
Week Eleven: New York Jets at Denver Broncos – Game summary
at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
Coming off their win at Kansas City, the Broncos returned home for an AFC duel against the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football. The Broncos grabbed the lead in the first quarter, with a 37-yard field goal by placekicker Matt Prater. The Jets tied the game in the second quarter, with a 21-yard field goal by placekicker Nick Folk, then grabbed the lead in the third quarter, when guard Matt Slauson returned a fumble off Jets' running back Bilal Powell into the end zone for a touchdown. The Broncos tied the game, when cornerback André Goodman returned an interception off Jets' quarterback Mark Sanchez 26 yards for a touchdown. The Jets re-claimed the lead in the fourth quarter, with a 45-yard field goal by Folk. After each team traded punts, the Broncos got the ball with 5:54 remaining, when quarterback Tim Tebow led the Broncos on a 12-play, 95-yard drive, culminating with Tebow scrambling 20 yards for a touchdown with 58 seconds remaining. The Broncos' defense thwarted Sanchez' last-second desperation pass toward the end zone.
With the win, the Broncos exceeded their win total from 2010.
Week 12: at San Diego Chargers
Week Twelve: Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers – Game summary
at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
- Date: November 27
- Game time: 2:15 pm. MST/1:15 pm. PST
- Game weather: 84 °F (29 °C), sunny
- Game attendance: 64,436
- Referee: Jeff Triplette
- TV announcers (CBS):
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