We all know about the Denver Broncos’ elite passing attack. We also know that chicks dig the long ball. But if the Broncos are going to survive in the NFL playoffs this year, they must be able to more heavily rely on their rushing attack and defense.
After a loss where Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ passing game was slowed down because the Indianapolis Colts were able to control possession by running the ball and not turning the ball over, it’s time the Broncos’ coaching staff not necessarily think just about wins and losses, but about developing a more well-rounded and playoff-ready team during the regular season – when it is still OK to lose a game. Even the lowly Washington Redskins were tied with Broncos at half time thanks to their ability to run.
Instead of trying to score 40 or even 50 points a game with Manning throwing 40 times a game, the Broncos should flip the script and run 40 times, trusting their defense to win field position and their running backs to grind out a win. So far, the Broncos’ season high for rushing in a single game is only 164 yards. In contrast, they average 361.4 passing yards per game.
Manning covers up so many mistakes, for the offense as well as the defense, but as we all saw in the Colts game, if an opposing team can conceive a plan to effectively slow him down, the rest of team appears to falter instead of step up. In order to reverse this trend, the defense and the running backs, which have both shown signs of promise this year, need to gain meaningful game experience during the regular season without the comfort of a Hall of Fame quarterback taking over the game and cleaning up their messes.
The regular season is a total wash for the Broncos this year anyway. It is clearly Super Bowl or bust, so why not use the regular season not to just compile wins, but to test different situations with various personnel groups that could be vital in the playoffs — most notably the running backs and the rush defense
While Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman have been severe disappointments this year. As second-round picks, it is worth playing them to see if the Broncos should even keep them for the playoffs. If not, there are a number of veteran running back free agents still available (Ryan Grant, Beanie Wells) who could still have time to be effective for the playoffs. And don’t forget Knowshon Moreno as well as rookie C.J. Anderson, who have shown real progress this season. It is high time the team sees what Anderson can do with more carries, and what Moreno can do with a full workload of 25-to-30 carries per game.
Not only will running the ball more allow for more possession time (a statistic the Broncos have only won three times), providing the defense with time rest on sideline and fewer offensive snaps to defend against, but also, after the loss of All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady, leaning more on the run game will take some of the pressure off of an inexperienced offensive line. In turn, that could hopefully keep players – especially Peyton Manning – healthy and fresh for the playoffs.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.