ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (The Sports Xchange) – Meet the new offense, same as the old offense.
While the Denver Broncos continue to work to get the ground game going, a third game passed with no consistency in that area, despite an emphasis on the pistol formation.
The Broncos used the pistol extensively in their 24-12 win at Detroit Sunday night, in part because it allows for a compromise between the shotgun alignment and a traditional one- or two-back set. Twenty-eight of their 64 offensive plays were in the pistol, with 30 in the shotgun and four under center.
Peyton Manning was more comfortable with the space and time to throw; his 31-of-42, 324-yard performance was more like his usual self, only marred by a tip-drill interception on the first snap of the second quarter.
The Broncos put up 24 offensive points for the second consecutive week, and the offense’s production since shotgun formations were emphasized beginning in the second quarter at Kansas City on Sept. 17 has been transformed night and day from where it was before.
“We’ll continue to do it all, but obviously he was very comfortable and I think we made some strides (Sunday),” Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak said. “We’ve just got to make some more.”
The Broncos’ passing offense is back to near the middle of the table; it ranks 17th after three games.
But the running game is the AFC’s worst on a per-carry and per-game basis. It is not only ineffective, but not explosive; the Broncos are one of just four teams without a run of at least 20 yards so far this season.
“We’re just struggling to run the ball, space-wise,” Kubiak said. “We have to look as coaches too because we’re doing a lot more one-back now than we probably ever have. We have to look at that and find them some space. I think that we can run better a lot of times, so I think that it’s a combination of everybody, but we just need to keep battling through it.”
Exacerbating matters are injuries. C.J. Anderson has battled toe and ankle problems since Week 1 and was evaluated for a possible concussion after a first-quarter collision before returning in the second quarter. Juwan Thompson suffered a neck injury in the second quarter and did not return. And Ronnie Hillman is speedy, but ineffective, and cost the Broncos what would have been a crucial first down by heading for the sideline instead of trying to cut back upfield on a third-down play in the fourth quarter.
The Broncos need Anderson to get back to his Pro Bowl form. But first they need to keep him upright.
“We have to keep C.J. on the field. C.J. has been coming off of the field. In the first three games he’s been nicked up,” Kubiak said. “Things are going on and we have to keep him on the field consistently.
“I think that it’s getting better in every place. I can’t really sit here and say that it’s just one thing and we’ll go out there and rush for 250 yards. I think we have to keep pounding and get better at a lot of things.”
But until the Broncos get better on the ground, they could find themselves in the same spot they did the last few postseasons.