Tennessee presents some unique problems for the Broncos. As Ian St. Clair and I discussed on the Mile High Report Radio podcast this week, the Broncos struggle pretty mightily against the run. So much so that when Ian and I discussed it I was shocked to hear exactly how much.
Brace yourselves Broncos Country. 11? 15? 21? Nope. 28. One of the greatest defenses in the history of the NFL last year, and this year they rank 28th against the run. That number hit me in a way that I was not ready for. How is that possible?
Well, there might be a few reasons. Let’s start up front. The defensive line just isn’t as good in 2016 as they were in 2015. Malik Jackson may have been more important than previously thought. Jared Crick has been a downgrade. Sly Williams has never been good. Adam Gotsis is raw, not quite ready for prime time. That interior has been shaky, and the run defense has suffered.
Teams know they can’t really pass on the Broncos No Fly Zone defense. In order to loosen things up, the run game becomes paramount for offenses preparing to play Denver. Imagine preparing to play Denver right now. Which area of the defense would you feel most confident about beating? It isn’t the secondary.
And of course, the offense has not been very effective this year. Denver’s offense ranks 27th in time of possession. Maybe the defense is getting a little tired? By the end of the game, the defense has been on the field for over half the game. Remember the game in Oakland? The Broncos only had the ball for 20 minutes in that game.
The Broncos have become accustomed to winning games where they lose the time of possession battle. The defense has carried the team for almost two full seasons. At some point, that will catch up with them. Fatigue is the ultimate team killer.
The Tennessee Titans are going to get a shot at a banged up Trevor Siemian, or a raw Paxton Lynch. The Broncos defense is going to be on the field a lot if they can’t stop the run. Fatigue will be a factor. The defense needs to step up against the run, but the offense needs to contribute to take some of the pressure off of the already beleaguered defense.
The old cliché is alive and well, and winning this game is just the next must-win in a long line of must-wins. That being said, winning these games will only get harder if the defense continues to struggle against the run.