Kidney stones or not! Football is back…
New for 2019
Nothing was going to stop Vic Fangio from making his long awaited debut at the Hall of Fame Game 2019: Broncos vs. Falcons in Canton. It’s been a long six months but football is finally back baby and last night we were delighted to see 2 powerhouse teams play in a hall of fame match.
Vic Fangio made his managerial debut after being an assistant for almost 2 decades, but after some routine hospital checks Fangio wasn’t going to let kidney stones ruin his 1st full game in charge of the Denver Broncos and in doing so became the first Coach ever to use the new challenge rule late in the second quarter.
The game itself was sloppy. Both sets of teams had eight-play first-half drives for touchdowns. We seen dropped passes, penalties and missed assignments, but then again it was a pre season opener, so we were never going to get a high level game with high level plays. But we did see a nice 15 yard touchdown catch from rookie Juwann Winfree (he played college football at Colorado and was drafted by the Broncos in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL DRAFT in Tennessee) which gave the Falcons a close win of 14-10. We can all say it was a meaningless game or just an exhibition game, however it really gave some of these rookies a good workout and allowed Fangio to give his team a stern test before they play the season opener against the Raiders on September the 9th.
What did we learn in the game? Well for one the Broncos gave a run to future QB Drew Lock and it was a mixed performance with silly decisions and sloppy passes. The 2nd QB to get a run out after Kevin Hogan, Lock really struggled to get fluency in his throwing and in the end overthrew receivers on two of his first three tosses lacking anticipation in the pocket on two sacks on his second drive.
Lock’s best pass of the opening night was a 12-yarder to Nick Williams and came on a bootleg to his left side. Locks had seven drives throughout the game, five ended in a punt, including three three-and-outs, one concluded in a fumble and one ended on downs. He finished 7-of-11 for 34 yards with one rush for six yards.
Lets remember these rookies are playing at the next level! The elite professional football level. What impressed me was Falcons second-year man Kurt Benkert. Benkert showed well and demonstrated an assortment of skills, running the offense like a player who has been running it for a couple of years – which he has. Kurt B was fluid with his passing game and even broke off a 17-yard run in the first half. For me he played smart and that impressed as he finished with 19-of-34 passing for 185 yards and a touchdown.
Stand out performances for the Falcons were defensive Lineman Justin Zimmer, who had a productive evening rushing the passer and also from Second-year wide receiver Christian Blake who led the team in receiving yards with 46. They both stood out in a Falcons offense that struggled overall
For the Broncos Malik Reed had an outstanding evening on the Denver’s defence. He wreaked havoc on the Falcons’ backups along the offensive line with great burst off the snap. Elijah Wilkinson had a strong outing as a run blocker too, so plenty for the Broncos to be encouraged by.
All in all it was a mixed bag and will give both head coaches plenty to ponder over before the opening game in 4 weeks time. Despite the loss, I think Atlanta looked sharp at times for it being the 1st game of 2019. The Falcons finished the game with 261 yards on offense, and its defense held the Broncos to 188 yards. Both teams struggled on third downs with the Falcons going 3-of-16 and the Broncos going 3-of-15.
Football is back and what a fascinating 7 months we have ahead. I can’t wait for it to all unfold!