We all know the main storyline for Monday night: Will Russell Wilson & the Denver Broncos defeat Wilson’s old team? If so, Wilson will appear vindicated for his part of the mutual separation. If not, his doubters will get louder and more numerous.
But neither of those resulting narratives will really be true. It’s just a storyline; a soundbite for TV & radio and a bone of contention to be worried over on blogs & social media. The real tale of whether Wilson’s move to Denver was the right call, and whether he or the Seattle Seahawks were right about his value, will take much longer to tell: 18 weeks at the very least.
In the meantime, let’s zoom in on Monday night’s game in Seattle. What are the most important factors? What do the Broncos need to do to ensure victory and a strong start to their season?
#1: Play Complementary Football
The single most important thing the Broncos can do to notch that W is something they haven’t done with any regularity since the first half of the 2014 season: play complementary football. All three phases need to carry their weight. The offense needs to sustain drives and consistently score points. The defense needs to dictate what the Seahawks can and can’t do, and keep them out of the end zone. And the special teams unit needs to be consistent and effective.
We don’t need, and shouldn’t expect, pure excellence in all 3 phases this early in the season. But competence and discipline, and the limitation or elimination of mistakes and penalties, will provide a peek at this team’s true potential.
#2: Stop the Run
Seattle’s rookie running back Kenneth Walker III has been getting great reviews in camp and preseason, but is expected to miss Monday night’s game with an injury. But that doesn’t leave the Seahawks bereft of a rushing threat. Rashaad Penny finally got his chance as a starter at the end of last season. And 4 of those 5 consecutive starts resulted in 100+ rushing yards games, with an average of 7.8 yards per carry.
The 1 non-100 yard rushing game is interesting: It came against the Los Angeles Rams and the defense that new Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero helped put together. In that game Penny rushed 11 times for 39 yards, or just 3.55 yards per carry.
#Seahawks rookie RB Kenneth Walker III is highly likely to miss MNF vs the #Broncos, per a source.— Jordan Schultz (@Schultz_Report) September 8, 2022
Walker, the former Michigan State star, is coming off hernia surgery.
I’m told: “He’s had an excellent camp and exceeded expectations, but there’s no reason to rush him.”
If the Broncos can echo that success against Seattle’s run game, that will get the team most of the way to victory. Doing so will cripple the Seahawks’ ability to control the clock and to grind out long, sustained drives. It will put the onus of point production almost completely on Geno Smith. And that’s a situation that Denver’s secondary can feast on.
#3: Nail the Details
One of the biggest failings of Vic Fangio’s tenure as head coach of the Broncos was persistent mismanagement of the game from the sideline. Ill-timed or pointless challenges. Failures on when and where to call timeouts. Clock management issues that aggravated fans en-masse.
For Nathaniel Hackett’s time as Denver’s top coach to take a different (and longer) road, he and his assistants will need to be on top of all those details. Their sideline management of the team and the game needs to be smart, logical, and most importantly timely.
The little things matter. Fangio eventually got dragged down by the very “death by inches” he wanted to avoid. So let’s hope that Hackett rides the learning curve quickly- and there will be one- and takes the reins with enough care that his sideline management is an active help to his team.