On Thursday, Chris Hall of DenverBroncos.com sat down with Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway for the most recent installment of Elway Access.
Since the team’s last game, the Broncos have been able to enjoy some time off to get healthy and ready for the Ravens. Coming off a Thursday night victory in Oakland, the players were off on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, giving them a breather going into the final three weeks of the season. In the win over the Raiders, Denver jumped out to a 13-0 lead en route to a 26-13 victory that came despite some red zone difficulty for the offense. Elway said that win, which improved Denver’s record to 10-3, made the trip to Oakland on a short week well worth the difficulty.
“It’s great now that we got that one over,” Elway said. “The first thing is you have to get through the short week. And we were able to do that, go in there, and even though it wasn’t our best football game, we were able to get in there and get a win. It’s always tough to win on the road, no matter where you go, against one of our archrivals in the Raiders. We were able to go in there, obviously 2-for-7 in the red zone isn’t what we want to do coming out of games. But we were able to get the job done. So once we won that game, then it became the benefit of having the extra weekend.”
Up next for Denver is a trip to Baltimore to take on the 9-4 Ravens. Baltimore is currently in first place in the AFC North and is one of three teams, including Denver, fighting for the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, which would mean a first-round bye.
“We’ve got our hands full because they are a good football team,” Elway said. “They’ve lost two in a row, they’ve been banged up, they have had a lot of injuries. They play very, very well at home so we’re going to have our hands full. This is going to be a great test for us to see where we are and how we’re going to be able to handle it. This is the type of game that depending on where you end up, you’re going to have to win, beat good football teams on the road in the playoffs.”
One big development for the Ravens this week was Monday’s change to the team’s offensive coaching staff. Jim Caldwell was promoted to offensive coordinator on Monday, replacing Cam Cameron. While the move will impact some of Baltimore’s game-planning, Elway expects the Ravens’ offensive identity to remain the same.
“Their offense is not going to change,” Elway said. “The play-calling is going to change because obviously you have a different play-caller. But as far as the picture of what the Ravens are going to be, we’re going to see pretty much the same thing. It’s just tendencies are going to be a little bit different than maybe what we’d seen in the past, so we’ll have to be ready for that. But it’s still going to be a physical game. They’re going to try to run (running back) Ray Rice and get him the ball, and we’re going to have to hopefully contain him a little bit.”
One of the biggest challenges for the Broncos will be turning trips to the red zone into touchdowns. Denver scored touchdowns on only two of seven possessions that penetrated the Oakland red zone in Week 14. Improving in that area will be a tall order against the Ravens’ defense, the No. 1 unit in the NFL in the red zone.
“Those windows really shrink down there,” Elway said. “They’ve got a lot of veterans. (Safety) Ed Reed down there roaming center field makes a lot of plays for them. They just understand, it’s a veteran-savvy team that knows that the closer they get, maybe there’s a little bit more intensity to them to make sure people don’t get in the end zone and they hold people to field goals, which they have been able to do. We just know that even though people are talking about their defense not being what it has been in the past, it’s still a very formidable defense and we have our hands full.”