Musings From The Mile High Report – Week 9

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Ian St. Clair from The Mile High Report joins us for his latest weekly feature on, ahead of Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans.

There’s only one place to start this week. From the business side of the NFL, the Demaryius Thomas trade to the Houston Texans makes total sense. It is the exact same reason John Elway and the Denver Broncos traded Aqib Talib to the Los Angeles Rams. The biggest difference is they actually have a guy in Courtland Sutton who can “replace” Thomas. But Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann made a great point on the latest MHR Radio Podcast. She stated her case by referencing the classic line, “It’s business, not personal” from a scene in the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie, “You’ve Got Mail.” Anyone who has ever been shoveled that line by someone knows it’s a way to deflect. It’s not personal to the individual who said the line, and very much personal to whom it was said to. Fans of the Broncos and Thomas need to listen to Doc’s epic rant. Like her, I get the move and I understand why it was made. But at the same time, I hate it because DT is one of those special players who should have been able to end his career in Denver.

Tough on Thomas?

One of the most interesting and intriguing debates to have about the Broncos is: Who is the most underappreciated and undervalued player in team history? That debate is now over. Thomas tops the list and it’s not even close. Even after he was traded, the need for some fans to get the last dig by bringing up the drops highlights that. And it’s not just because of the numbers and what he did on the field. Thomas ranks second behind Rod Smith in yards and touchdowns. He’s third in receptions behind Smith and Shannon Sharpe. Thomas also was party to one of the greatest plays in team and NFL history with his 80-yard game-winning touchdown over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But what makes Thomas one of the greatest Broncos in history is so much more than his accomplishments and stats. He’s in the rare group that I classify as a “Pat Bowlen Bronco.” What is that? A player who shows up every day and goes to work. He doesn’t bitch, complain or whine, regardless of the circumstances and all of the reasons he could. He doesn’t make excuses. He does his job. He also does incredible work in the community to not much fanfare. So he not only makes the team and organization better, he makes the community better. That’s a Pat Bowlen Bronco. That’s a member of the organization fans can be proud of.

Sutton time

The main reason Thomas was traded to Houston is because of the rookie receiver. If Sutton isn’t on the roster, I’m not sure this move happens. While I hate the Thomas trade from a fan perspective, I totally get the Broncos side, and not just because of the salary cap relief. Sutton has the potential to be a very special player for this franchise; especially if he can get a quarterback.

Broncos struggles continue

As a fan of this organization, I take no solace in moral victories. Denver has now lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in seven-straight games. And there’s no sign the Broncos will reverse course anytime soon. In terms of why Denver lost to the Chiefs this season, it’s the same reasons — coaching and Patrick Mahomes. Vance Joseph and his staff are out of their element to begin with, but when they go against Andy Reid and a staff like his, it’s painfully obvious. Then to compound that incompetence, the Broncos have no answer

Success on the ground

Phillip Lindsay and Devontae Booker combined for 173 yards on 27 carries. As a team, Denver rushed for 189 yards and still found a way to lose. As Andrew Mason noted on Twitter after Sunday’s game, the Broncos lost a game in which they ran for 180 or more yards and held their opponent to 50 or fewer yards on the ground. Denver had been 24-0 in that scenario prior to Sunday. Another horrible first for Joseph and this franchise. It’s clear to everyone that the only thing the Broncos offense can consistently do is run the football. Yet for some reason, Musgrave doesn’t seem to understand how and why Denver doesn’t run the ball more, somehow forgetting he’s the freaking offensive coordinator. And where is Joseph in all of this? The only thing that makes sense is this is all part of Joseph’s weekly Football 101.        

Time for a turnaround?

The Broncos haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1972. To ensure that streak stays alive, Denver must win on Sunday. After the bye, the Broncos are on the road to the Los Angeles Chargers, home for the Pittsburgh Steelers and on the road to the Cincinnati Bengals. If Denver loses to the Texans and then all three of those games, that would put its record at 3-9. So a win on Sunday at least keeps the possibility of an 8-8 season alive. That’s what it’s come to for Broncos fans.

Play to Keenum’s strengths

For Denver to win, it needs to do what we’ve all been saying since the 2-0 start — run the football, let Case Keenum utilize play action and get out of the pocket, and let the Orange Rush eat. On offense for the Broncos, it starts and stops with the running game. If Musgrave doesn’t make the rushing attack the focus on Sunday, his offense stands no shot against the Texans defense led by J.J. Watt. On defense, Houston’s offensive line is so bad that Von Miller and Bradley Chubb need to own this game and not allow Deshaun Watson to pile up miles on the Frequent Flyer Zone. The likelihood of the Orange Rush pulling that off is higher, since Musgrave hasn’t gotten the memo he’s the offensive coordinator, and Watt and Jadeveon Clowney face the likes of Garett Bolles and Billy Turner (or Jared Veldheer coming off injury). Eek!  

The week after Denver’s first loss to the Chiefs, they got embarrassed by the New York Jets. I don’t think Sunday’s game against the Texans will be that lopsided, but it has that potential to be. Watt, Clowney and that Houston pass rush could make Keenum a permanent fixture in the Whatever It’s-Named-Stadium’s turf. My only hope is that when Thomas is shown on the screens wearing a Texans jersey prior to the game, Broncos Country gives him a Rocky Mountain Thunder show of appreciation. Houston 24, Denver 17.

You can listen to Ian and the rest of the Mile High Report gang on iTunes and Spotify.

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