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Lack of pass rush haunts Broncos in loss to Raiders

The Broncos defense stopped Davante Adams, stopped Josh Jacobs. But it couldn’t stop Jimmy G. Sigh.

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Los Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Good morning, Broncos Country!

On a radio show last week, I noted that two keys to beating the Raiders would be to win in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

Namely, the offensive line keeping Maxx Crosby at bay and the defensive line stopping the run and getting to the quarterback.

Two of those three things happened on Sunday. But the one that didn’t turned out to be a huge problem...

Lack of pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo.

“We’re all for pressure, and obviously it’s an important stat line in our league when it comes to hurrying these quarterbacks,” head coach Sean Payton said Monday.

But that important stat line was nonexistent for Denver. Vance Joseph’s defense had zero sacks and only three QB hits.


Payton and players have been justifying the low numbers by highlighting how quickly Garoppolo gets rid of the ball.

Sometimes that’s route design and sometimes that’s just the quarterback, Payton noted, saying the answer is then to disrupt the route in other ways if edge rushers aren’t getting to the quarterback in time.

“We knew that it was going to be a ball-out-fast offense,” Payton said, recalling his Saints teams playing against Jimmy G at the Niners. “He was always someone that had low sack totals, so how do we disrupt the passing game? We disrupt it at the line of scrimmage with the receivers. We disrupt it possibly with batted-down balls, and then we disrupt it with hurries and sacks. Obviously that’s something we pay attention to.”

But obviously it was something the Broncos didn’t do enough of Sunday afternoon.

Asked how the Broncos can generate more pressure, Payton said they either need to win the one-on-ones or bring more people.

“You dog or blitz, or you win your one-on-ones,” he said. “A lot is dependent upon what you’re wanting to do coverage-wise within the framework of a scheme. There are times sometimes when you want to keep the quarterback in the pocket and play a certain coverage. A lot of it is dependent on your game plan.”

Given that Denver blitzed among the most of all teams last week (41.4%) but had among the fewest pressures and no sacks, it would indicate that perhaps the Broncos don’t have the personnel they need and better try a different game plan.

In fact, Alfred Williams, former Broncos’ defensive end, said on KOA Colorado that watching the film, he saw defenders stopping once they got to the QB, telling him that the game plan was to keep the quarterback in the pocket.

“We didn’t get the kind of effort that I know they have in them,” Williams said, adding that he hadn’t talked to players but he did watch the film. “The film doesn’t lie. I’m watching them get to the QB and stop. I’m watching them not turn the corner. I’m watching them do all the things that say they were told to keep the QB in the pocket.”

And Williams could understand why that may be - a lot of big plays by Garoppolo came when he escaped, including the big run for a first down that essentially ended the game.

“But as soon as you say that to a defensive lineman,” Williams added, “you are telling him, ‘you can’t be an artist today.’”

Broncos defensive end Zach Allen, who went up against Jimmy G many times while playing for the Arizona Cardinals the past four seasons, anticipated the tough matchup.

“He’s very smart. He knows where the ball’s going before it’s even snapped,” Allen said. “Obviously, you can’t get frustrated. I think there were some good (pass-rush) wins out there, but we can definitely improve in that aspect.”

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