Ever the optimist, the Broncos quarterback said the offense made “strides” this week in practice, working on timing, precision, and everything else that is essential to being competitive in the NFL. He better be right. Otherwise, those still reveling from the emotional high of Denver’s overtime win against the Dolphins could be in for a sobering wakeup call Sunday.
The Detroit Lions will have none of it.
You may be thinking, “On paper? But with Tim Tebow on the field, what’s ‘on paper’ doesn’t exactly matter.”
You’re right…to a point.
Perhaps more importantly is how the Broncos handle Tebow. The onus is on offensive coordinator Mike McCoy – and John Fox to a lesser extent – to make set adjustments to cater to Tebow’s style by exploiting his strengths and concealing his weaknesses.
Right now, this is still an offense designed for a traditional pocket-passer (i.e. Kyle Orton). For whatever reason, McCoy is seemingly reluctant to make many (any?) revisions to Denver’s offensive schemes.
The result? Ultra-conservative play-calling for 3.5 quarters against Miami.
It was only when the Broncos were down 15 points in the mid-late 4th quarter we saw any offensive excitement, and then, it was only by necessity – the necessity of mounting a comeback. Funny how a guarded game plan is abandoned in times of desperation?
But did you see what that abandoned game plan accomplished? A victory.
Cautious play-calling doesn’t benefit Tebow. It doesn’t benefit his offense, either. The Broncos need to play to win from the 1st quarter, not the 4th. When the Broncos tried using Tebow as a kind-of quarterback nothing jelled. When Tebow had to start throwing the ball late in the game his accuracy improved, and so did the entire team. Denver’s coaches need to demonstrate faith (no pun intended) in their quarterback to make the quick reads and quick throws from the first offensive series.
That doesn’t mean the Broncos should shelve the running game. In fact, quite the contrary. With Willis McGahee out Sunday, it’s up to Knowshon Moreno, and likely Lance Ball, to make things happen. Remember, the consensus is that if Moreno doesn’t show something this season, he’s likely at best a role player for the rest of his career.
The timing, at least for Moreno, couldn’t be better. The Lions run defense ranks 28th in the NFL. Moreno isn’t a between-the-hashmarks type of runner, so to make a real impact, he’ll need to find the sideline or continue to develop his catch-and-run game. Ball’s running style is closer to McGahee, so if the Broncos offensive line creates a hole, Ball can get, say, six yards per carry.
A decent showing by Denver’s offense will be the defense’s best friend. If – and I keep using that word – the Broncos’ offense can score on long, sustained, ground-first drives, it not only keeps the defense fresh, it the Lions’ offense on the sidelines, which brings me to:
The Broncos coaching staff is losing sleep over…
This one’s easy: Calvin Johnson. Champ Bailey will have the “honors” of covering Megatron, who’s easily the best wide receiver the Broncos will face all year, and arguably the best receiver in the NFL. Lions QB Matthew Stafford is gimpy, but should play, but even if Shaun Hill gets the nod, Johnson will see many passes come his way. He’ll catch those passes, too. Because he’s that good.
There’s no way to take Johnson out of the game, other than physically taking him out of the game. No, not by hurting him, but keeping the Lions offense on the sidelines where it belongs.
Matchup That Could Be Crucial or Insignificant
Crucial matchups? How about a plethora, but one that could also be insignificant? I’m drawing a blank here. This game is all about matchups.
Final Score: Detroit 31, Denver 17