Broncos need to stick to their formula in showdown with Vikings
Nov 18, 2023, 9:05 AM
(Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
After a shockingly slow start to the 2023 NFL season, the Denver Broncos have managed to turn things around under Sean Payton’s leadership.The team started the season 1-4 and had one of the worst losses in recent history when the Dolphins put up 70 points against them and ended up beating them by 50.
It was an embarrassing loss that sparked a fire in this team. And they haven’t looked back since.
After that monumental loss to the Dolphins, the Broncos slowed things down and took it back to the basics. It was time to reevaluate and adjust.
Vance Joesph turned one of the worst defenses in the league into one of the most-dominant seemingly overnight. After making some personnel changes and having players return from injury, they’ve significantly improved their defensive takeaway rate over the last few weeks, which has been a critical factor in winning these last three games. The Broncos defense had seven takeaways in the first seven games of the season; in the last two games, they have had nine — an impressive turnaround in such a short timeframe.
Meanwhile, Payton focused on fixing his current offensive scheme and created a new game plan based on player strengths and weaknesses.
Payton realized that Russell Wilson and the offense had been struggling to complete medium to long-range passes and adjusted his offensive scheme to accommodate that. This change has allowed Wilson to complete short-but-effective passes that keep the ball moving downfield.
The only complaint so far is they need to utilize Marvin Mims Jr. as a receiver more often. He’s a talented young athlete who needs his chance on the field to prove himself. After earning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, it’s clear that he’s earned his opportunity to have a more significant role on the team.
They’ve also taken advantage of their three fantastic running backs – Javonte Willams, Samaje Perine and Jaleel McLaughlin – and stayed loyal to the run game. It’s keeping the opponent’s defense honest and creating more opportunities for Wilson downfield.
The short passes and loyalty to the run game have allowed the Broncos to dominate in time of possession in their last couple of games. It’s been a critical factor for the Broncos success, and they need to stick to what’s been working.
When Payton was asked about the run game after beating the Bills, he stated, “We ran it a lot the other night. I didn’t think we ran it particularly as well as I would have hoped. From an efficiency standpoint, it wasn’t, maybe, as high as other weeks, and yet, it was important in that game. I just finished saying what was unusual was we had 17 or 18 third downs. I think they had eight, including fourth down. I felt time of possession was important. All of that happens when you have four takeaways. I did feel like most of the game was played on their end of the field. When that happens, mistakes are magnified to your advantage.”
These adjustments to their game plan have resulted in the Broncos going 3-1 in their last four games and beating the Chiefs and Bills back-to-back. Payton’s been able to work through the issues presented at the beginning of the season, and the team is now better because of its failures.
It’s been an impressive comeback. And there’s now a chance they can make a run for the playoffs this season if all goes to plan.
It’s also important to note that the Cincinnati Bengals just announced that they are placing Joe Burrow on injury reserve for the rest of the season, which could drastically change the AFC playoff picture.
The Broncos are on a three-game winning streak heading into Week 11 and have a chance to end the Minnesota Vikings five-game winning streak. Backup quarterback Josh Dobbs has shocked the world with his play since he replaced Kirk Cousins earlier in the year, and star wide receiver Justin Jefferson may be coming back from injury reserve this week. It’ll be a tough matchup for the Broncos, but a win this week is crucial for making a playoff run this season.
The Broncos play the Vikings in primetime on Sunday night at home in Denver. Hopefully, they’ll find a way to walk away with a four-game winning streak and one step closer to making the playoffs.