Nov 24, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (27) runs against New England Patriots during overtime at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Broncos 34-31. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos Prove That Elite Running Game Isn’t Their Style

It’s hard to complain about offense if you’re a Denver Broncos fan, but I think the team learned an important lesson against the New England Patriots that can help them the rest of the season.

All throughout this year, the Broncos have been absolutely absurd with their conservative approach to offensive football. Is that an outrageous statement? Go ahead and check the facts. The Broncos want to be a running team, and they have accidentally slipped into the best passing offense in the league.

Don’t believe me?

The Broncos are FIFTH in the NFL this season with 340 rushing attempts, and fourth with 448 pass attempts. I didn’t capitalize the ranking for pass attempts because that is probably to be expected. The fact that Denver is fifth in the league in rushing attempts (also, second in touchdowns) is a very key reason why this team has struggled to dominate like they are capable of, especially since Von Miller returned in week seven.

As I had previously stated, the Broncos want to be a running team. There’s no question about it. The passing game is the clear strength but Denver has a clear game plan week in and week out to establish the run, even sometimes running the ball in third down situations that would otherwise clearly call for a pass play.

Why am I putting up such a fuss about this? Well, as the headline clearly states, the Broncos proved against the New England Patriots that even when the running game is as good as it could possibly get, it wasn’t enough. Meaning Knowshon Moreno carrying the ball 37 times for an incredibly efficient and effective 224 yards and one touchdown would have probably earned him MVP honors for the week had the Broncos won, but it came in a losing effort.

The Broncos dominated the Patriots up front, especially in the running game, and came away with only inflated statistics to show for it.

You have to wonder if this will prove to the Broncos’ coaching staff that no matter how good they can be running the football, the ratio of pass/run plays should be more like 5-2 rather than 4-3.

Now, obviously Peyton Manning didn’t have the hot hand against the Patriots and the Broncos should have been able to make enough plays to beat New England. I get that. But what cost the Broncos was a lack of aggressive play in the second half. They made no halftime adjustments and decided to play out the rest of the game as if they were playing not to lose rather than trying to embarrass the Patriots on their home field.

The Patriots were fired up offensively, proving that whether they were with the wind or going up against it, they could move the ball through the air if by no other way than pure will power.

The Broncos looked like they were struggling to design a play that could net a completed pass.

Let’s face it, everything went wrong for the Broncos in the second half against New England, but a lot of it could have been prevented with a more aggressive offensive game plan coming out of the locker room, because scoring seven points in the third and fourth quarter is unacceptable for this Broncos team.

The Broncos are not a running team, nor should they continue to try to be. The running game should be a nice complement to the Four Horsemen in the passing game, but if  they insist on the running backs touching the ball, it should be on screen passes more often than it has been.

I’m not saying the Broncos should abandon their run game strategies, but quit trying to make it a focal point of the offensive game plan. It’s getting old watching the Broncos put the ball in Knowshon, Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, and C.J. Anderson’s hands when they should be sticking to what works best, which is the right arm of Peyton Manning.

Kudos to Knowshon Moreno on his great game, but I hope he never has to carry the ball 37 times in a game again.

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Tags: Denver Broncos Knowshon Moreno Peyton Manning

  • anon76returns

    I disagree with you here- I think the Broncos are trying to be a balanced run-pass offense, not a run-centric offense. Further, I think it’s totally the correct strategy. Having the ability to run keeps the opposing pass rush honest, while having the ability to pass keeps the opposing defense from stacking the box.
    Becoming more of a one-dimensional offense (as you seem to be advocating) means that you’re easier to game plan against, and, when opposing coaching/personnel/weather conspire to take that element away (as happened in New England on Sunday), you lose. Becoming more of a passing team also means exposing Peyton to more sacks and greater risk of injury, which must be avoided at all costs.

    Finally, I’d disagree that running the ball well was not enough to beat the Patriots. Or, more precisely, running the ball well was necessary but not sufficient to beat the Patriots. Had we not coughed up 2 unforced turnovers, we would have won. Had we managed to recover the other two fumbles that we caused (one on Brady, one on Edelman during a return), we would have won. Had Wesley Woodyard managed to catch the interception that bounced off his hands twice, we would have won. Notice that none of these are run/pass issues. These are turnover issues, and that more than anything else is what caused us to lose in Indy as well.

    • Gregg Petrarca

      Letting the Broncos run all night was by design, Talib even alluded to it. Outside of the 17 points scored off of the 3 Patriot turnovers the Bronco’s offense accounted for 7 points in the first half and 7 in the second plus overtime. I’d say the strategy worked.

      • anon76returns

        That is terrible reasoning. If you take away turnovers then Bellichick’s team only scores 17 points, and the Broncos probably get an extra field goal before the end of the 1st half.

        I have no doubt Bellichick wanted to take away Peyton’s inside routes and rely on outside throwing and their running game. That’s smart coaching, and Bellichick is a very smart coach.
        However, no coach in the history of the league has ever decided that giving up 280 yards on the ground is a good idea. Bellichick is a % man. Since Spec Sanders was galloping around for the New York Yankees football team in 1947, teams with a top 50 all-time rushing performance (Moreno’s was #37) are 46-4. Are you trying to tell me that Bellichick decided that a plan with an 8% track record (6% as of Sunday morning) of success was the best way to beat the Broncos?

        The argument I’m seeing from Pats fans that giving up 280 yards was “part of the plan” just defies all logic. I’m sure that Bellichick would laugh at the idea (while at the same time trying to figure out how to never give up that kind of yardage again).

        • Paul V. Suffriti

          Look….the Pats did not stack the box and played mostly nickel defense. BB decided to take away Peyton and the pass and dared the Broncos to run……simply put.

          • anon76returns

            That’s exactly true. But hundreds of teams throughout history have worked off that same game plan, and almost none of them gave up so many yards on the ground.

            I’ll repeat this one more time: of the 36 teams that gave up as many or more yards to a single back as New England gave up to Moreno, 34 of them lost. Without some lucky turnovers, New England also would have lost, with or without the clutch play of Brady. Bellichick does not “plan” to put himself into a position with a less than a 6% chance of winning, and I can’t believe you’re trying to argue that point.

          • Paul V. Suffriti

            Take away the points off turnovers…….the Broncos scored 7 points in the first half and 7 points in the second half…..not impressive.

          • anon76returns

            Why would you take away turnovers? The Patriot turnovers were all forced by the Broncos (unlike two of the Broncos’ turnovers). And in any case, if you just take away turnovers you take away 1/3 of the Broncos’ first half possessions- there’s no way of knowing what the Broncos’ offense would have done if they didn’t get those turnovers, especially given how well they moved the ball when rushing. And in any case, if you just take away turnovers, the Broncos get 14 points off 10 possessions, and the Pats get 17 points off 11 possessions- not really that great a discrepancy.

          • Paul V. Suffriti

            Should be a nice day with little to no wind in KC this Sunday. We will see if the Broncos rebound from the loss and if they really do have a valid running game…..