It should come as no surprise that after nine games of an NFL season, even the best offense the league has ever seen is getting all it can handle and showing some signs of struggling.
The Broncos have of course been dominant this season, averaging 41 points per game through nine which is simply a ridiculous stat. The scary thing is, and we’ve all said or heard this before, that the Broncos are really not even close to being as good as they can be.
Defenses have figured out ways not to stop the Broncos completely, but certainly to limit them. The Broncos have a tendency to get a little too comfortable in their own skin, and will often times force the issue and limit themselves, but defenses are doing a good job of scheming against Denver’s four horsemen–Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, and Julius Thomas.
Starting with Jacksonville–you remember, the team that Denver was supposed to beat by 30 points?–the Broncos’ offense has been a little bit less than stellar at times, and Britton Colquitt has gotten away from being one of the league’s best PAT holders to being back to a punter.
All kidding aside, teams are getting more physical with Broncos receivers, and that’s causing a lot of problems. Teams are pressing Denver receivers and being much more physical with them downfield, so the Broncos aren’t able to get a ton of big chunks because a lot is now covered.
What seemed like a complete impossibility has now become something quite frustrating, but the Broncos are figuring out how to offset it all. The emergence of running back Knowshon Moreno this season has been nothing short of astounding, and he’s got to become a key figure in the Broncos’ offensive game plan every week from here on out.
Against the Chargers, Moreno had eight receptions on eight targets, and also carried the ball 15 times. I’m not saying he’s going to be the focal point of the offense, because we all know everything flows through #18, but Moreno is a guy who is going to really need to carry a weight on his shoulders and make some big plays, or Denver will struggle against teams like Kansas City.
Scheming against Denver probably looks a lot like this. You want to man up on the Four Horsemen, and be physical at the line of scrimmage but keep your safeties in a zone coverage. That leaves five guys to rush the passer, and if the Chiefs are consistently allowed to rush five against Denver, there could be problems.
First and foremost, you aren’t going to shut down the Four Horsemen on every play, but they’ve had their share of moments where I’ve wondered to myself how it’s even humanly possible that Manning would have to force the ball into tight coverage.
Enter Moreno, who is going to have to continue to make plays out of the backfield as a receiver to keep teams–starting with Kansas City–rushing just four and making sure he is accounted for.
The Chiefs will be one of very few teams that can still get a decent rush with just rushing four guys, led by sack artist Tamba Hali, who will be giving Chris Clark all he can handle this week.
The Chiefs also do a good job of getting rush with their interior linemen, but the Broncos have a pretty good offensive interior with Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez, and Zane Beadles.
One of the Broncos’ biggest strengths offensively is getting the ball out to the receivers quickly and letting them make plays after the catch. They have two of the best in the NFL at that in Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker, and Julius Thomas has also emerged as a very good YAC receiver. Eric Decker’s not bad either, but the Chiefs are fast enough and athletic enough to limit the Broncos in that area.
Where the Broncos need to get the Chiefs is by using Knowshon Moreno in the passing game to set up the rest of the passing game and get bigger plays.
This is all easier said than done and the Broncos obviously know a lot more than I do about the Chiefs and their defensive tendencies, but I think to get back to scoring a lot of points, the Broncos need to push the tempo and make sure defenses aren’t able to pin their ears back because Denver receivers are getting out-played physically on deeper passing routes. Moreno is extremely important as a pass protector, but he’s going to need to be huge as a receiver as well.
It’s a big burden for a guy that no one thought would even be on the team this past offseason, but it’s necessary especially with Peyton Manning now hobbled by an ankle injury.