Oct 12, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (23) runs against the New York Jets during the second half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
In the Denver Broncos’ win over the New York Jets on Sunday, it was clear that the Broncos were either trying to establish a running game in order to attain balance offensively, or the Jets were forcing their hand. Peyton Manning looked off at times, and the Broncos managed a really nice spurt of offense stretching from the second to the third quarter, but for the most part the offense stalled, punting all but one drive in the 2nd half.
Manning and other Broncos players are claiming a day later that it was the Jets who forced their hand. The Jets would drop at times eight players into coverage, basically daring the Broncos running game to beat them. It wasn’t pretty, and it nearly didn’t end well, but they got the job done with a season-high 138 yards on the ground.
“The way the Jets played us, my guess it they didn’t think much of the running game coming into the game,” said Peyton Manning. “Take your two linebackers and walk them both out on your two receivers [and] they’re basically kind of laughing at your run game. And based on what we’ve been doing, it’s probably a valid philosophy. So, it’s tough to throw the ball when they’ve got eight guys in coverage every single play.’’
Fair point, Mr. Manning, fair point indeed. I have been among the most critical of the Broncos’ offensive strategy against the Jets, but Manning’s revelation that the Jets were dropping eight guys into coverage wasn’t something I really noticed when watching the game live. Perhaps it was the fact that the Broncos weren’t getting bigger chunks of yardage in the game on the ground.
The Jets must have made some pretty great halftime adjustments, because the Broncos had momentum and even scored on their first possession of the second half. It looked like we were on our way to another 40 plus points on the scoreboard, but the offense just absolutely tanked after that one drive in the second half. They couldn’t do much of anything, and were causing the field position battle and time of possession battle to be lost.
Ronnie Hillman was the major benefactor of all the running the Broncos did. He had his first 100-yard game in his first ever NFL start just one week after coming off the sideline for 64 yards on 15 carries against the Cardinals. For Hillman to have 164 yards rushing against the defensive fronts of Arizona and New York is really impressive to me for his first real significant action of the season.
It wasn’t all roses for Hillman, who got caught from behind by Sheldon Richardson and fumbled the football, into the arms of Andre Caldwell, fortunately. Hillman also got stuffed on a few plays and doesn’t gain a ton of yards after initial contact, but when he can make guys miss, he is able to burst through small areas and give the Broncos bigger chunks on the ground.
The pace of the offense, at least in the second half on Sunday, was upsetting and not very Broncos-like, but they had to do it, apparently. They had to grind it out, and they did, and they won the game.
That’s all that really matters, at this point.