Hindsight is 20/20 - or in the case of Denver Broncos’ head coach Sean Payton - it’s 25/38.
That is ... Samaje Perine and Jaleel McLaughlin.
And if he could do it over, Payton would like to draw up more plays for those two in Sunday’s game against the New York Jets.
“It’s hard to get down the field with what they were doing defensively, and yet, I would have liked for us to have been better running the ball yesterday. Part of that—a good part of that—falls on me and being more patient,” Payton admitted, noting the tape showed some good runs, including by the quarterback.
“Russell did a really good job in the first half with plays that really came outside the framework of design. It was off-schedule, either keeps or throws,” Payton added, noting the Broncos have a very thin margin of error, so “we’re going to have to be more patient and better at running the football.”
This is particularly true in the red zone - a place the Broncos had to settle for two field goals Sunday instead of punching it into the end zone after reaching 1st-and-goal from the 10.
“Obviously you have to run the ball well in the red zone. Any good red-zone offense at the end of the season is able to run the ball, as well as throw it,” Payton said. “There are breakdowns in what we’re doing in the running game, but I think that’s the thing that—and I knew going into that game—that was going to be an important number for us, so it was frustrating. But nonetheless,
Aside from Wilson’s 49 yards rushing, Perine and McLaughlin combined for 90 yards rushing, with McLaughlin averaging over seven yards a carry, thanks in part to his 38-yard scramble for a touchdown. Both backs added passing yards to their stats - 73 for Perine and 21 for McLaughlin.
Mile High Huddle’s Thomas Hall wrote before the game that a key to the Broncos’ success against the Jets would be sticking to the run game. He noted that if there were a weakness in the Jets’ defense, it was against the run, pointing out that through the first four weeks, New York lead the NFL in the number of rushing attempts by the opposing offense, allowing 141 over four games.
And the teams who had abandoned the run against the Jets - the Bills and the Chiefs - struggled, Hall noted. The Bills ended up losing in overtime and the Chiefs nearly lost.
Now the Broncos can be added to the list of victims.
Listening to Peyton on the #ManningCast right now talk about bad running play calls makes me really wish we had his live commentary yesterday... would have at least made that frustration funny.— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) October 10, 2023
"Those plays never work in practice; why would you do it in a game?"
On the other side of the ball, though, the run game is even more atrocious.
Ranked last in the NFL in
“That was the first topic this morning,’’ Payton said Monday. “It’s going to be tough to win games if we can’t stop the run defensively, and we’ve got to get it cleaned up.”
The Broncos defense gave up 234 yards rushing, including 177 by Breece Hall that featured his 72-yard sprint for a touchdown on 1st and 10 in the Jets' first play of its first drive of the second half.
In the last three games, the Broncos have allowed a mind-boggling 755 yards rushing - an average of 251.7 yards on the ground per game...the third most in NFL history in a three-game span over the past 40 years.
“Just going through (the tape), our gap integrity has been poor in all three games. We got wide yesterday on the big run,” Payton said, adding that fixing it starts with “pitting the right gaps and then understanding, scheme-wise, what we’re getting and how to restrict those holes.”
Josey Jewell said the defense has to focus on better communication and execution.
“We are going to have to find out. We will have to look at the tape. I am not exactly sure what happened. We had a couple guys out of place every single time it seems like,” Jewell said. “We have to deal with it. I think we have to have better communication, execution, stay in our gaps and play football.”
But the head coach emphasized the problem is a technique issue, not a communication one.
“That has to get better.”
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“That was the first topic this morning,’’ the head coach said. “It’s going to be tough to win games if we can’t stop the run defensively, and we’ve got to get it cleaned up.”
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