4. Denver’s newfound ground and pound
The Broncos under new head coach Sean Payton were at a crossroads after a humiliating Week 3 loss at Miami by a final score of 70-20. It forced the veteran head coach to revamp their offensive approach, which flipped their run-pass percentages.
“The scheme that they ran in Denver at the beginning of the year, playing the hero ball with Russell Wilson, throwing the ball like 40 plus times against Washington, running it like 15. That’s how you lose. That’s how you go 3-5 ,” said Denver podcast host and former NFL offensive lineman, Matt McChesney in an appearance on ‘Bills by the Numbers’ this week.
So, Payton flipped the play calling script and began leaning on Denver’s run game to not only keep the ball out of the hands of elite quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, but also to control the time of possession to protect a Broncos defense that was still working out the kinks.
Following a nine-point loss to the Chiefs in Week 6 (18-9) in which they ran the ball more than they passed and held Kansas City to their second-lowest point total of the season, the Broncos were committed.
Two weeks later using that same approach, Denver upset Kansas City holding them to a season-low nine points in a 24-9 victory.
“Against Kansas City the second time they ran the ball 40 times and only threw it 19,” said McChesney. “Three of those throws turned into touchdowns. It was just 114 yards passing but three touchdowns.”
Another reason the Broncos have taken a run-first approach is their pass protection is suspect at best. On 19 pass attempts against the Chiefs, the Broncos offensive line gave up six sacks and 10 quarterback pressures. It helps explain why Denver ranks 28th in the league in sacks per play.
Russell Wilson has been sacked 26 times this season, twice as many times as Buffalo’s Josh Allen (13).
Buffalo’s pass rush, which ranks fifth in the league in sacks, will need to take advantage of their limited opportunities when Wilson drops back knowing Denver is likely to take a similar ball control approach to keep the ball out of Josh Allen’s hands.
Denver ranked 20th in the league in rushing entering Week 4. They’ve improved that ranking to 11th over the last five weeks.