Broncos remain determined to run play, offensive balance after loss to Ravens
ENGLEWOOD, Colorado – The strengths were apparent.
Javonte Williams carried a defenseman on his back and broke a 31-yard run. Melvin Gordon III had gains of seven, eight and 14 yards on the Broncos’ first three records.
The Broncos appeared to be successful early in the game against the Ravens, with Denver averaging 8.1 yards per carry in the first quarter as the team rushed nine times for 73 yards.
The difficulties, however, were also evident to head coach Vic Fangio – and that early success, which helped Denver take a 7-0 lead, could not be sustained for the remainder of the game.
“It bottled up pretty well as the game progressed,” Fangio said on Sunday.
After the end of the first quarter, the Broncos only ran the ball eight times for 33 yards. As Fangio explained on Monday, the Broncos’ lack of play after the first period contributed to the heavy passing offense. In the last three quarters, the Broncos have run eight times and retreated to pass 33 times.
“Part of it is when you play three and out, you don’t have a lot of games,” Fangio said. “It’s hard to get anything moving when you’re playing three-a-side and away as much as we did, or a first on the floor and away. You just don’t have a game, and that distorts everything. “
And when the Broncos had the first downs, it’s not hard to see why the team was more comfortable throwing the ball. In their 15 games on the first down in the first half, the Broncos executed the ball seven times and fell back to pass eight times. The Broncos were averaging 7.43 yards per carry, but that number drops to 3.5 yards per carry, with the outlier of a Williams carry removed.
When Teddy Bridgewater came back to pass, he completed 4 of 7 passes for 56 yards, which was good for 14 yards per achievement and eight yards per attempt. Bridgewater also scrambled once for two yards, but took a 15-yard penalty on the play.
This success on the first down when throwing the ball helps explain Denver’s decision to rely on their passing offense.
Fangio also noted that the team’s 8.1-yard-per-carry average in the first quarter was not an accurate indicator of the running game’s performance.
“Statistically, it was not [very good]”Fangio said.” You just look at the meters per run – which [is boosted] when you throw a 31 yard, then we had two other good runs there by Melvin. But overall, they won the race. When you look at the yards per carry, that’s probably the worst thing to watch. “
Some of the team’s few running plays after the first quarter were successful – Gordon started the third quarter with a six-yard run and Williams had a 10-yard run early in the next possession – but he there were certainly others who helped stall the workouts. In the second quarter, led 14-7, the Broncos faced a second and 7 from the 50-yard line. The Broncos executed the ball in the ensuing snap, but the Ravens blew the game up and knocked down Williams for a three-yard loss. Denver couldn’t convert on the third and the 10 and had to kick.
In total, Denver had just two points from over five yards from the end of the first quarter until the last seconds of the game.
Fangio noted that he was impressed with Williams’ run in the first quarter that set up Denver’s only touchdown of the afternoon. Williams bounced off several tackles, then carried cornerback Marlon Humphrey on his back for a big win.
“It was great, but that’s why we traded for him in the second round,” said Fangio. “We knew if we had waited he wouldn’t have been here, and he agreed with us. He’s a very good fullback and we are very happy with his game.”
As the Broncos advance into Week 5 – still without wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler – Fangio knows finding a more consistent approach will be essential.
“It’s important,” Fangio said on Sunday. “Anytime you can have balance you are a better offensive football team.”
Drew Lock, who entered the game after half-time and only handed the ball four times, agreed with Fangio’s assessment.
“You know, [the] Running game in the NFL is No. 1, ”Lock said Sunday. “He’s undefeated. You have a good racing game, you can do a lot of things. So being able to feed Melvin, being able to feed Javonte, keeping them in the game, rolling them around, keeping them warm, I think that will always help us. Every time you step into a game, especially like this one where both defenses are playing well… it’s about controlling the ball, staying on the pitch, converting third downs. “
Tight end Noah Fant also believes increased engagement in the race should help against the Steelers and beyond.
“I think we just have to keep going,” Fant said on Monday. “Sometimes those big plays don’t break out all the time. You just have to go on and keep moving forward with these. Sometimes you’ll only get three yards with each play, but you just have to keep grinding it. C is what I expect us to do fully. I think we have a good running game, and we can do a lot of yards in that area. [We] you just have to keep doing it. “
The Broncos defense allowed a pair of touchdowns, including one that ended in a 49-yard strike from Lamar Jackson to Marquise Brown, but the defense otherwise held up relatively well.
Denver forced three consecutive punters to start the game, and after Brown’s touchdown that gave the Ravens a 14-7 lead, the defense settled in.
After a 42-yard punt return gave the Ravens the ball over the Denver 26-yard line with 31 seconds left, the Broncos defense held their ground and forced a field goal before half-time. Then, to start the second half, Denver forced punters on three of the first four drives of the half. On the scoring record alone, Denver held Baltimore to a field goal.
Throughout the third quarter, the Broncos trailed only 10 points and never fell behind by more than two scores. The defensive performance wasn’t perfect, but Denver still managed to keep Baltimore 1 of 3 in the red zone and 7 of 17 on the third down.
Address the end-of-game scenario
A day after the Ravens opted to run the ball with three seconds remaining rather than take a knee, Fangio addressed Baltimore’s decision to forgo routine NFL practice.
“Yeah, I thought it was a bit [expletive], but I expected it from them, “said Fangio.” Thirty-seven years in the pro ball, I’ve never seen anything like it, but that was to be expected and we expected it. “
Fangio said he knows “how they work” and “player safety is secondary”.
Fangio added that his dissatisfaction with the decision stemmed from both the risk of injury and lack of sportsmanship.
The Ravens gained five yards on the play, which pushed them over 100 yards in the afternoon. With the rush, they tied an NFL record for most consecutive games with 100 rushing yards.
“It was one hundred percent my choice,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said on Sunday. “It’s one of those things that makes sense. It’s one of those things that I think as a head coach you need to be aware of your team, your players and about your coaches and what that means to them. This is a very difficult record to achieve and it is a long term record. I am not going to say that it is more important than winning the game. As a head coach, I think you do this for your players, and you do it for your coaches, which is something that they will ‘have for the rest of our lives.’