No answer for no-huddle puts Broncos in a bind
AP Sports Writer
ENGLEWOOD, Colorado – No longer is the Denver Broncos defense so mystifying. The code has been cracked.
By turning to a version of the no-huddle in the second half, Baltimore and Pittsburgh each have gashed the Broncos for big plays and turned close games into runaways.
The approach also has provided a blueprint on how to solve one of the top defenses in the league. The Broncos (6-2) are expecting to see plenty of no-huddle situations Sunday at Washington.
“Let them keep trying,” Champ Bailey said Thursday. “It’s not going to work every week.”
The Broncos are going to have to show they can stop it before opponents abandon the no-huddle.
Participate in The Longevity Project
The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
A disaster of a defense the last few seasons, the Broncos were well on their way to shedding that reputation as they rounded into an elite unit with a new crew and scheme. They had allowed just 10 combined points in the second half during a six-game winning streak to begin Josh McDaniels’ tenure.
Now, the Broncos are struggling, allowing 45 points after halftime in those back-to-back losses.
A cause for concern?
Not to safety Brian Dawkins.
“If I walk around panicking and pouting, that’s what I’m going to preach to others,” the 14-year veteran said. “If I’m working, diligent in my study, busting my hump in practice, that’s something I’m also going to preach. There’s not too much that needs to be said. We know what we need to do.”
Like keeping the quarterback contained. The Broncos did just that with Ben Roethlisberger in the first half, limiting Big Ben and the Steelers efficient offense to just three first downs.
In the second half, Roethlisberger broke containment and threw three touchdown passes in the 28-10 win.
“You’ve got to pay closer attention to the detail, because it’s really probably what got us hurt,” defensive coordinator Mike Nolan explained. “When we shifted gears in the second half, we weren’t as detailed and (Roethlisberger) got out of the pocket a couple of times, and one of them he scored a touchdown on … Had we kept him in the pocket, it wouldn’t have looked much different than it did in the first half.”
As for Baltimore and Pittsburgh employing more of a no-huddle strategy, Nolan didn’t think that was necessarily the issue. That style of play is nothing the team hasn’t already seen.
“We practice that frequently. Our disappointment is not so much in what our opponent did, but just in the way we played some things,” Nolan said. “It wasn’t like we had to get out of our game. It was that we had to shift gears and when we did we just didn’t handle it as well.”
What burned the Broncos the last two weeks were opponents running the ball out of three-receiver sets against Denver’s nickel defense. The Steelers gained 150 yards on the ground in the second half Monday night, much of that against smaller defenders, turning a tight game at halftime into a rout.
“That’s something that teams are going to do. We just have to prepare for it and stop it,” Dawkins said. “Every individual has to do their job, regardless. The personnel on the field, we still have the talent to be sound in our jobs to get off the field. We’ve done it before. Why, all of the sudden, is this a problem now? We’re not going to make excuses. We have to make sure we detail our work, period.”
The Broncos have been extremely detail oriented all season. That’s why they’ve turned this once shaky defense into a top-notch unit.
“We got tired of hearing about the Denver defenses of the past, the last couple of years or whatever,” linebacker Andra Davis said. “We wanted to go out there and prove everybody wrong. Just go out there and try to get it done. We’ve got a lot of veteran players, who’ve experienced some success.”
And some valleys along the way, which is coming in handy right now.
“I’m not going to panic,” Bailey said. “We hit a few bumps. I think we need to stay the course, keep believing in what we’re doing, improving every week and we’ll be fine.”