Good morning, Broncos Country!
Week 1 is underway, and unfortunately the Kansas City Chiefs looked every bit the reigning Super Bowl champions they are, having taken down the Texans 34-20 on Thursday Night Football.
So that means one thing - the Broncos must beat the Titans.
Which is no small task.
Looking to build off of an AFC Championship Game appearance last season, the Titans’ offense will be led by veterans Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, key weapons in Tennessee’s offensive assault the second half of 2019. And now that Jadeveon Clowney has joined the Music City squad, the Broncos’ offensive line better be getting in a little extra practice this weekend.
So the key to a win on Monday night is a defense that can stop Henry and an offense that can get past Clowney and score some points.
Those two keys were severely hampered this week after extremely depressing news that Von Miller will likely miss the season with a dislocated peroneal tendon in his ankle and that Courtland Sutton may miss some time with a shoulder injury.
But four days before the home opener, the Broncos aren’t running scared.
“I think we’ll be fine. I have a ton of confidence in our group,” said safety Kareem Jackson. “On Monday night we’ll have to execute. I have a ton of confidence that we’ll go out and execute and do what’s necessary for us to win.”
Jackson even has confidence the secondary can rattle Tannehill enough to cause some turnovers.
“For all 11 of us out there, we’re a lot more comfortable, and I think it showed in camp,” said Jackson, who picked off Tannehill once in last season’s matchup. “We created quite a few turnovers in camp and we’re looking to carry that over into the season. It’s about us being comfortable and knowing where our help is and knowing the things we need to take away within the calls, while also running around and getting to the ball.”
After @ReemBoi25 picked off Ryan Tannehill in last year's game, the Titans QB threw just five INTs the rest of the season.— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) September 11, 2020
The Broncos expect to have limited opportunities to force turnovers on Monday — but they know they have to take advantage.
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But that doesn’t mean Jackson isn’t concerned about the damage a running back like Henry can do.
“For us, the key is going to be getting multiple hats to the ball. We can’t rely on one guy to get him down. He’s a big guy and he can run. He has great vision and they have a great offensive line as well. We have to get multiple guys to the ball. We have to make sure we wrap up and make the for sure tackle.”
Justin Simmons sounded a little more grounded in his assessment of the Monday night challenge.
“Tannehill’s a great game manager. In watching the film, he rarely makes mistakes that the defense can capitalize on,” Simmons said. “Then it’s also a little bit easier on his plate when you have someone like Derrick Henry who can run the football as effectively as he can.”
Simmons noted that Henry is so long that he’s able to stiff arm the defender even before a defensive back can make contact with his body, making tackling Henry “tough.”
“The best way to defend it is to get multiple guys to the football, trying to eliminate as many one-on-ones as you can, try and meet him in the hole before he kind of gets a head of steam and can break out to the second level. That’s why it’s important for us, especially in the second level, to be able to decipher run, pass and be able to help our front seven get him down before he’s able to get to the second level because we see he’s obviously more than capable to do that.”
#ItTakesAllOfUs! pic.twitter.com/HfQExdA3QS— Bradley Chubb (@astronaut) September 10, 2020
It’s clear Vic Fangio has emphasized swarm tackling because A.J. Bouyé also noted the technique.
“Coach has made a good emphasis on playing with good leverage, studying up in practice,” Bouyé said. “You really can’t simulate it until you get into the game. We know how tough he is to tackle. He has a great stiff arm. When he gets going in the open field he gets going. It’s going to come to just everybody getting to the ball, swarm tacking, things like that, just the regular fundamentals that we have on defense.”
For Simmons, the main key for the defense on Monday night is eliminating the kinds of mistakes near the end of the game that so often cost the team a win last season.
“The biggest thing is eliminate the big plays. We’ve seen the defense be consistently good for a couple of series then it’s that one big play that’s given up that kind of puts them in field goal range or even helps them score a touchdown,” Simmons said. “That really was like our Achilles heel towards the end of the season.”
Creating the big play will be the job of the Broncos’ offense, and second-year quarterback Drew Lock is relishing that opportunity.
“I’m excited,” Lock said, admitting he’s most anxious about seeing how the Titans come out and play them, particularly where Clowney may line up. “I’m just excited to finally get out on the field and stop playing against Vic’s defense.”
Not having Miller leaves a huge void, but the Broncos will also face the Tannehill-Henry duo without linebacker Todd Davis, who was a major part of the equation for stopping Henry last season. Alexander Johnson grabbed nine tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss, and Todd Davis added seven tackles with a half tackle for loss - successfully holding Henry to just 28 yards total.
But Lock knows this means he and the offense have to be that much more efficient.
“It’s just going to come down to us not playing at that ‘A’ level but playing at an ‘A+’ level,” he said.
Although there’s a lot of expectation for Lock riding on this game, the second-year QB reminded BroncosCountry that everyone has to absorb the added pressure.
“I can’t put an extra amount of pressure on myself. It really comes down to this whole team making one more play because Von isn’t there to make that play,” Lock said. “Whether that’s me making a couple more plays or Courtland making a couple more plays, or Melvin or Phil or Noah. ...If that means the offense is going to be on the field a little longer, then we have to go put a drive together.”
A week after a tough practice at @EmpowerField, Drew Lock and Denver's offense returned and posted far better results.— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) September 10, 2020
"I knew where to go with the ball on every single play we were going to call. I just kind of re-found some confidence in myself."
» https://t.co/3j3uh8OKZ7 pic.twitter.com/AoGBlSi0KJ
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