A great win this past Sunday, and a good start to the season. Now there are plenty of quality game reviews, studs and duds, and in depth looks, but last season I tested out a new series where I look at four to six overlooked topics from the past game. This won't be a complete game review, if I leave something out it's likely because it's been covered in a number of articles and posts already, this is rather taking a look at things that flew under the radar.
This week I'll be looking at four topics, two bad and two good, and hope to shed some light on these things that shaped the game, but aren't being talked about. Hope you enjoy.
Defensive Play Calling
I was fairly disappointed with the play calling from defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Maybe because we've been spoiled by more complex schemes in the past few years under Dennis Allen and Mike Nolan, but Del Rio was almost never able to confuse or throw off the Steeler's offense. Now the defense did play well overall, but it was more in part to the players putting in the effort rather than outcoaching the opposing team.
Overall I was expecting more out of the defensive game plan, and against a team that is healthy and actually has a solid offensive line, it's going to require more than we saw. I was pleased with the defensive players overall, especially safety Mike Adams and linebacker Von Miller, who both had exceptional games with few mistakes. A few players struggled, Joe Mays in coverage along with Rahim Moore, who wasn't able to really ever settle in and play safety. But as a whole, the unit played better than their scheme, which says a lot of good about the defensive players.
Lack of Defensive Leadership
Say what you will about D.J. Williams, but he is the play caller on defense, and while Mike Adams did a decent job doing that against the Steelers, there were issues when the Steelers used motion or gave the Broncos a confusing look, the Broncos defense wasn't able to adjust as well. This past off-season I went back and watched Williams' adjustments and coaching on the field, it made a difference last season, especially in terms of adjusting the blitz, that was lacking on Sunday.
Now luckily Williams isn't gone forever and Adams and linebacker Joe Mays will improve in their on the field leadership roles, but as of right now, when the Broncos are going to face quality offensive play callers, like we'll face against the Falcons, Texans and Patriots before Williams returns. These are teams that can run any type of play on any down and execute play action and draws well, Del Rio is going to have to spend a lot of time prepping his new leaders for these offenses.
But it's this simple, anyone who watched the game saw the defense was able to adjust on the field, pure and simple. If another leader can step up and do better, awesome, get rid of D.J. but till then, this defense will have a weakness against audibles and the no huddle, I mean even John Fox noted as much in his post game interview.
Real fast, before anyone jumps down my throat, I'm not saying the defense was bad, it played well, just the leadership and ability to adjust on the fly was lacking in this one game.
No Huddle Offense
- While the McDaniel's and Kyle Orton years didn't leave a good taste in the mouth of some fans, but the Broncos should be thankful to them right now, if only grudgingly. The reason for this is because for those two season, the Broncos ran a large amount of no huddle, audible heavy drives. For most offensive lines it takes one to two seasons to get used to a no huddle and audible heavy offensive, but because four of the five starting offensive lineman had two years of experience starting in a similar play calling style, there was almost zero struggle for the offensive line in terms of running Peyton's offense.
Center J.D. Walton said that it took almost no time to get used to Manning behind center because of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. So while very few people look back on those season fondly, at least take heart that the offensive lineman drafted those years, and the offensive scheme, helped prepare those players for a future quarterback that no one at the time predicted would come to Denver. Had the offensive line never had those two seasons, the offense likely wouldn't have run as smoothly.
What Offensive Balance Brought
While the run game was solid on Sunday, it wasn't spectacular, averaging 3.96 yards per carry. The biggest thing to note was the Broncos has had a pass/rush ratio of 28/27, nearly perfectly balanced. Now don't expect this to continue, but it was part of the game plan, and it succeeded. By consistently running the ball, the Broncos were able to throw off the Steelers game plan. Watching the 1st and 2nd quarters, it's clear the brilliant (no sarcasm) defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau came into the game expecting 35+ pass plays, but by coming out and running at key points early in the game the Broncos were able force the Steelers to adjust, and that allowed for some of Peyton Manning's biggest plays.
Now I would look for the opposite to be true next week against the Falcons, where there will be more pass plays, but along with more pass plays, look for the run game to improve it's efficiency as the pass game airs it out. Also something to note is that Moreno was almost exclusively the 3rd down back and three of his five runs achieved 1st downs. While he was used almost exclusively on inside runs, I wouldn't expect that to last as the screen game will likely open up against the Atlanta Falcons defensive scheme.