On Tuesday, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway sat down with Chris Hall of DenverBroncos.com for the latest installment of Elway Access, where Elway discussed the Bronco’s AFC West-clinching win over Tampa Bay and the team’s outlook going forward.
The Broncos welcomed the Buccaneers to Sports Authority Field at Mile High with a chance to wrap up their division, and did exactly that, taking a 28-10 third-quarter lead and hanging on for the 31-23 victory. A big reason for the win was the team’s ability to stymie Buccaneers running back Doug Martin just one week after giving up 148 yards rushing to Kansas City.
“I think we just concentrated,” Elway said. “We knew we had to stop Doug Martin. They do some good, different things play-action wise. They can throw the ball better than the Chiefs did, so therefore they have a double threat, which makes you able to concentrate a little bit more on the run as we did with Doug Martin. Plus I think everybody was a little bit embarrassed giving up 140 yards rushing against the Chiefs, so it was important to shut him down, and we were able to do that.”
Stopping Martin was a task that required a strong collective effort from all 11 players on the defense.
“That’s a lot of times how you stop a great back, the fact that you have to get a lot of people to the ball because very rarely is the first guy there going to bring him down,” Elway said. “So that’s why you have to rally to the football, get a lot of people there. That’s why you saw our guys hustling to get there, because there’s several times we missed three or four times, and then finally got him down.”
On the offensive side of the ball, one of the highlights of the victory was the play of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who displayed solid chemistry with quarterback Peyton Manning on his way to catching eight passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns. One of those scores came when Tampa Bay sent a heavy blitz and Manning beat it with a quick throw that required a great deal of trust in Thomas.
“That was one of the best throws I’ve ever seen, when he threw it early, he (Manning) got a blitz, he put it one spot,” Elway said. “He knew the DB had his back turned the whole time, so therefore wasn’t too worried about anything negative happening. He was able to put it in there because he did get a blitz with a guy coming free. That is something, you’re seeing the growth with Demaryius Thomas too, that he ran the exact route that we was supposed to, he was where he was supposed to be. And Peyton made a great throw and put it where the ball needed to be. Those are the type of things when you get guys that are comfortable working with each other, good things happen like that. That was an amazing play.”
With four weeks to play, Denver has guaranteed itself at least one home playoff game, with the team now setting its sights on the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. The Broncos would be the AFC’s No. 4 seed if the playoffs started today, as Denver is one of three teams that are currently 9-3.
“Seeding is huge,” Elway said. “This is the next piece of the puzzle that we have to solve to get to where we want to get. That’s the best thing we possibly can get going into the playoffs. Obviously you feel more comfortable at home and it would be nice to get a couple home games here. The higher the seeding, the more chance we have to get a couple games at home. That’s important, but you really don’t go past that because we just know that if we don’t do our work against the Raiders and get that done, it’s going to take a lot of the other things that we’re thinking about and make them mute.”
The Broncos travel to Oakland Thursday to take on the Raiders and Head Coach Dennis Allen, who was Denver’s 2011 Defensive Coordinator. Allen’s father passed away Monday, and Elway said that Allen’s family is in the thoughts and prayers of everyone in the Broncos organization.
“Having been through losing a father, it’s always very difficult,” Elway said. “My heart goes out to Dennis and his family. I’m sure that the relationship that they had was quite unique. That’s always a tough time for anybody that goes and loses a parent. As I said, our thoughts and prayers go out to Dennis and family.”