Broncos standing pat with short-yardage team
ENGLEWOOD – Amid the Denver Broncos’ 3-0 start, one disquieting element has been the team’s difficulties in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Fullback Peyton Hillis, who resumed practicing Thursday after sitting out the day before because of a blow to the head, said the short-yardage issues that cropped up during last week’s 23-3 win at Oakland can be addressed with better preparation and execution.
Coach Josh McDaniels agreed, saying he had no plans to make changes in personnel or play calls.
“We’re going to run the same stuff down there,” he said. “We’ve just got to do a better job of getting it in, that’s really what it comes down to. Once you’re down there inside the 5-yard line, it’s not a whole lot about scheme. It’s about executing.”
The Broncos, who host Dallas (2-1) on Sunday, had a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line in the first quarter against Oakland and failed to score. On two other occasions, the Broncos settled for field goals after getting inside the 5-yard line.
Hillis said he deserves blame for the Broncos’ initial goal-line failure after drawing a first down false-start penalty that pushed them back to the 6.
“Most of it was my fault, going off sides, stuff like that,” Hillis said. “But I don’t think it’s really a problem. I just have to prepare better.”
After getting back to the 2 on a run by Knowshon Moreno, the Broncos sent Hillis into the Oakland line twice and he netted a yard and Lamont Jordan’s fourth-down try from 1-yard out was stuffed for no gain.
Hillis was knocked woozy on a subsequent kick return, and though Moreno broke through for a 7-yard TD run during the course of the game, the rookie made no headway on a first-down run from the Raiders’ 3.
Two subsequent incomplete passes led to a Matt Prater field goal.
A similar scenario unfolded in the fourth quarter when the Broncos had a third-and-1 at the Oakland 4 only to have Moreno stopped for a loss on a sweep, leading to another Prater field goal.
“Last week, Oakland did a nice job there on the goal line for two or three straight plays, doing a little better job than we did,” McDaniels said. “We know that and we’ve got to do better if we want to get it in.”
McDaniels said he’ll continue to count on Hillis as the team’s short-yardage specialist and Jordan as the “four-minute” back when the Broncos are holding a lead and trying to run down the clock. Still, he said, any of the team’s running backs should be ready to take the ball in goal-line or short-yardage situations.
“We still have a lot of confidence in Peyton Hillis,” McDaniels said. “We’re going to have a lot of confidence in Peyton Hillis. But all of our backs take reps on goal-line. That’s not uncommon.”
Hillis said it’s critical for the short-yardage specialist to finish the drives the offensive unit starts.
“You kind of put the whole team on your shoulders at that point,” he said. “They drive the ball way down to the goal line, and, you don’t want to create undue pressure per se, but you know you have to get it in.”