There is a strong debate going on regarding who is to blame for the large amount of sacks that the Denver Broncos have given up this year, in particular, the Week Eight game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The debate is about who is to blame. Is it the offensive line’s fault, or is it Russell Wilson’s fault?
The Broncos offensive line has not been the best this year. In fact, at least up until the last couple of games, you can say that it has been the most underwhelming position group and I wouldn’t argue. Especially when you think about how much money the Broncos are spending on their right tackle. Mike McGlinchey has not lived up to expectations. At least not yet. And Garett Bolles looks better than he did last year but is still not quite that dominant and consistent left tackle that every franchise hopes to have.
The facts are that Denver has given up a total of 26 sacks over the course of the season. That averages out to 3.25 sacks a game. The most they gave up in a single game was seven and that was against the Commanders. But is all of this because the offensive line can’t block, or is it because Wilson holds on to the ball too long? We’ll use our sample size of the second Chiefs game to determine this.
The big picture
The Broncos gave six sacks and 10 quarterback hits on Sunday. They technically gave up seven sacks but one of them was wiped out due to a defensive holding call.
Every single one of the sacks came on either third or fourth down. The average loss from the sack was about 4.5 yards. The average distance to go for a first down was about seven yards.
Four of these sacks came while in Kansas City territory. And three sacks came within field goal range.
Also, four of the seven sacks came off of blitzes, while the other three came off of four-man rushes with no stunts.
Now, let’s take a look at the individual sacks.
8:26 2nd QTR, 4th and 2 at KC 40 for 0 yards
We’re starting off with a play that was actually pretty well executed by both the line and Wilson. It’s a simple boot off of play action, which can be a smart play call with the defense biting hard on inside run action given the situation. The line absolutely dominates the defense with their down blocks and Wilson has tons of time.
The left inside backer keys on Wilson and rushes him as soon as he realizes the boot action. But since it’s fourth down and Wilson has no options downfield, he just has to tuck the ball and try to fun for the first.
I would say that neither group is at fault here and the Chiefs just played this one well.
4:10 2nd QTR, 3rd and 10 at DEN 40 for -5 yards
Here the Chiefs bring an extra rusher to the A gap and an extra rusher to the C gap. We can do that math and determine that they now have six rushers. But Denver has six blockers so there is no way that Wilson should be getting sacked here, at least hypothetically speaking.
This is also a tricky blitz that the Chiefs dial up, and they execute it perfectly. This is something that gives offensive linemen nightmares. That is because of the C gap blitz by the CB and then having the DE stunt back inside to the right A gap while the inside linebacker takes the left A gap. The defensive tackle over the right guard slants out to B gap.
This is a time when effective communication and vision are imperative if you want to pick this up. Denver fails to do so. How this should have been blocked up is that the right tackle should be taking the slanting defensive tackle, the right guard should be taking the stunting DE, and then the running back should be taking the CB rushing the outside. But what you see happen is that the right guard gets fixated on the slant and leaves the stunting DE completely untouched.
This is totally on Quinn Meinerz and the offensive line.
0:09 2nd QTR, 3rd and 4 at DEN 49 for -6 yards (fumble recovered by KC)
This is a horrible rep by Garett Bolles. He basically does the job of the DE for him. The goal of the DE on a pass rush is to turn the outside shoulder of the tackle to decrease the distance to the quarterback. Bolles not only turns his shoulders to parellel with the sideline, he starts to turn around backwards. That is a massive mistake that gives the edge up to the DE, forcing Wilson to step up in the pocket, at which point he fails to feel the pressure and doesn’t get the ball out before getting strip sacked.
Bolles has to be better with keeping his shoulders in line with the line of scrimmage, which forces defenders to have to take a longer path around the tackle.
This sack is on the offensive line, but you can blame Wilson a little bit if you want to be harsh.
10:51 3rd QTR, 3rd and 4 at KC 29 for -8 yards (wiped out by defensive holding penalty)
I’m going to blame both Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers for this sack. Powers gets manhandled off the line of scrimmage on what is just a simple bull rush. This would be the time where he needs to use the hop and catch technique i’ve described before. Something that he has clearly shown that he is more than capable of doing.
McGlinchey he his shoulders in a somewhat good position, but his mistake here is that he stopped moving his feet before contact, which meant that the DE had all of the momentum and speed and McGlinchey had to restart himself. He just gets beat quickly around the edge and the DE didn’t have to do anything that impressive.
Another sack on the offensive line.
7:19 3rd QTR, 3rd and 9 at KC 13 for -7 yards
Finally, a sack that the offensive line won’t really take the blame for. But that doesn’t mean that it was a perfect rep by them either.
Mike McGlinchey almost gets beat inside late by the DE. I would say that is because he was leaning to heavy on the DE and didn’t have a good base underneath him. It is also harder to change your motion back inside when you are turned out towards the sideline and shuffling. That’s a main detail I always harp to my offensive line at where I coach. It is a lot easier to post back up inside when your shoulders are square to the line of scrimmage (also I’m sure you’re all tired of me mentioning that detail in every clip we look at).
But ultimately it’s a third down in the redzone and Wilson is trying to extend the play so someone can get open in the endzone. Luckily a sack here does not take them out of field goal range.
12:01 4th QTR, 3rd and 8 at KC 27 for -9 yards
At first glance, you may want to ask what the heck Bolles is doing. I did. But when you watch it back you can see that Ben Powers completely messes up his left tackle.
He is going up against a defender that is in a two point stance. Immediately you should be thinking that he is going to use a speed rush. Powers doesn’t kick back quick enough, but then he also kicks out towards the rusher and lunges at him. He misses, and gives up an easy lane to Wilson. If Powers just kept kicking and maintained proper leverage on the defender then he would’ve been fine.
Another sack that is the fault of the offensive line.
7:26 4th QTR, 3rd and 13 at DEN 24 for -3 yards
I’m a little torn on this play.
I think the blitz could’ve been handled a little better by the line, but Wilson has a large pocket to step up into or to roll left in. It makes sense that Wilson would choose not to roll to his weak side, but he absolutely should be stepping up here to avoid the outside pressure.
And if I want to blame McGlinchey on this, you can easily make that argument. His failure would come with his attempt to help Meinerz with his block. When McGlinchey chooses to do so, he turns his eyes inside and puts both his inside and outside hand on the defender. If he were to do this correctly, he would get hip to hip with Meinerz and set his inside hand on the defender. What he would not do is to turn his eyes inside and place his outside hand on the man. If he kept his eyes downfield he would’ve seen the late rusher. And if he had his outside hand free, it would’ve been easier to kick out to that rusher.
I can blame Wilson, but I’m going to go with giving the fault to the offensive line here.
According to my analysis, I am faulting Wilson with two of the seven sacks. You can make the argument for maybe one or two more being faulted to him, but the offensive line could’ve done a lot better at their jobs over the course of the game.
This wasn’t a poor performance by the line, but they left a lot on the table. Bolles should be credited with giving up one sack, Powers gave up one sack, Meinerz gave up one sack, and McGlinchey gave up two sacks. Once again, Lloyd Cushenberry III is not even close to being an issue on this line in pass protection. He deserves a high amount of credit for the leap he has taken from last year to this year. I had a feeling after watching the preseason film that he would be the most improved, and he is proving me right so far.