It’s safe to say that the rushing attack Denver had against the Las Vegas Raiders was disappointing. They couldn’t get anything going the entire game and I would say that it was a massive factor as to why they ended up losing. But the question I have is whether it was the fault of the running backs, or if the offensive line couldn’t handle the Vegas defense.
Let’s take a look.
The big picture
The Denver Broncos finished with just 48 yards on the ground on 20 carries for an average of 2.4 yards per carry. If you don’t include the three scrambles by Stidham, then the Broncos had 17 carries for 46 yards for an average of 2.7 yards per carry. The rushing yards that Denver managed to accumulate are less than half of their average yards per game as Denver was averaging 110 heading into this game. The Raiders were even giving up 118 rushing yards per game so it’s not like they have that great of a rushing defense either. This game was an anomaly.
After rewatching the film, I would say that the offensive line may have had one of their worst days blocking. We know that the pass protection wasn’t great, but the run game was severely lacking as well. I think one of the biggest mistakes that the line made was their inability to pick up the second-level defender. Numerous plays were ruined because of a lineman either being too slow to get to the linebacker or them not having proper leverage on the block and not cutting off the backer from the rushing lane.
According to the RGS, the offensive line had two “great” blocks, nine “good” blocks, three “meh” blocks, and three “bad blocks”. This would result in a final grade of 13 points or 76%.
The first play I want to take a look at is a really solid job up front by the offensive line. This play looks something like an inside zone to the left. A very simple play, but if blocked up properly, it can be very effective.
The most important part of the blocking that I want to point out is how much vertical displacement the left side of the line gets. Bolles and Powers get an immediate push on the defense, and then Bolles is also able to quickly come off of the defensive lineman to pick up the linebacker. And then another great effort play you can see is Quinn Bailey running in there near the end in an attempt to push Javonte Williams another couple of yards.
This is some clean blocking and, even though he almost biffed it, let’s give some credit to Bailey for his recovery against Crosby. He lunged and nearly got himself into a lot of trouble, but was able to regain his balance and keep inside leverage.
This play perfectly demonstrates what I mentioned earlier with the line’s inability to pick up the second-level defender.
Cam Fleming is responsible for picking up the backside linebacker on this play and is unable to get to the linebacker quickly enough. He actually gets off of the first level well, but I think the mistake here is the angle that he takes to get to the linebacker. He is not taking a shallow enough route and instead goes to where the linebacker is rather than where he is going to be. It’s a really simple mistake, but it does lead to the downfall of this play.
To his defense though, the NFL game moves so fast and this is an easy mistake to make. I would like to see him lay out on this play though. A good technique to use when you find yourself in this position is to try and rip your right arm and essentially throw yourself in front of the defender. It is a last-ditch effort that you can attempt to make.
Here is another play that goes poorly for Denver.
This play is likely inside zone to the left, and if that’s the case, then it would mean that Fleming and Meinerz would have the backside DT and linebacker, Cushenberry and Powers would have the play side DT and linebacker, and Bolles and Bailey would have the defensive end and that cornerback that is playing close to the line of scrimmage. It’s that cornerback that ends up making the play.
Given where he is lined up, you can make the assumption that he is going to be blitzing. And while he does back up on the snap, he still is playing aggressively and Bolles is unable to pick him up. Bolles has to have his eyes up and watching him in this play. It is possible to block two guys at once on the offensive line. You can be blocking on guy with your hands and another with your eyes. And while Bolles was blocking one, the defensive end, he failed to block the other.
The last play I want to take a look at is another one that is blocked up well.
This play initially looks like it is going to be blown up for a loss, but a couple of linemen make some key recoveries in order for this play to be a success. The first that I want to point out is how Bolles doesn’t have proper leverage at the beginning, but then he throws his left arm in front of the defender and turns the block into more of a reach block.
Another is how Cushenberry reacts to Meinerz having to pick up the linebacker. While Cushenberry didn’t have the best leverage when Meinerz had to bail, he switched from trying to take over the lineman into just washing him down the line of scrimmage, which opened the cut-back lane for Williams.
If Powers was able to stay on the linebacker that he picks up, then Williams is running for a little while longer. All-around a good play up front though.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this game. I think overall the line did alright. It wasn’t pretty though and they should bear most of the blame as to why they weren’t able to run the ball effectively against the Raiders. There were simply too many mental mistakes made by the line, and I think that is ultimately what led to most of their bad blocks.