The Detroit Lions said after Sunday’s game against the Broncos that they went into the game with the plan to put pressure on quarterback Tim Tebow and the Broncos, and they did just that, registering seven sacks. All in all, that brings the total times opponents have sacked Tebow to 13 this year.
However, on ‘Elway Live’ Tuesday, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway said a lot more goes into blitz pickup than meets the eye, and the responsibility lies with the entire offense.
“The thing is, everybody can take their turns getting beat, but if you’re taking it at different times then you don’t have very good protection,” Elway said. “That’s why it’s so important for everybody to be able to hold up. So therefore, the ball’s got to get out of there quicker with a little more anticipation and those are the times we have to make big plays; receivers have to run great routes and get open quickly, catch the football and try to get it there where they can catch it and run with the ball after they catch it, and hopefully break a tackle, then you’ve got a big play.”
Elway said there are two ways the Broncos are getting beat by blitzes. One is by the opponent physically beating players. The other is defenses using what Elway calls a ‘hug linebacker.’ In that situation, the defense will blitz a player, and if the running back picks up the blitzer, then the defender who is assigned to cover the running back should he be in a position to receive the ball, blitzes as well.
While this takes more time to develop, it creates an extra blitzer for the defense.
“That usually gives you a little more time but again, you’re going to be outnumbered and one short as far as blockers,” Elway said. “So when that’s the case, the ball’s got to get out of there quicker.”
Elway said that recognizing and executing plays against blitzes is part of the learning curve of young NFL players. Of the Broncos’ 11 offensive starters Sunday, seven have three or less years of NFL experience, and only one player has been in the league for more than four years.
“That’s the learning curve in this league,” Elway said. “This league is so much faster than any young guy that is coming out of college has seen before. The speed of the game, down-in and down-out, is much quicker. So it’s the learning process and that’s why you see these guys mature year three, year four, because now they understand the speed of the game, where they have to be, and the expectations of them getting to their spots.”
SECOND QUARTER IMPROVEMENT
Elway also identified another area in which the Broncos had room to improve.
In the second quarter this year, Denver has been outscored 83-20. The Broncos often start games well, as they did against Detroit Sunday. The offense drove down the field, nearly scoring a touchdown on a play that had to be reviewed, before kicking a field goal. Elway said the team needs to keep that momentum going.
“Our issue is that we’ve struggled in the second quarter all year long,” Elway said. “We’ve had a tough time sustaining anything we’ve done in the first quarter and carrying it into the second quarter. So looking at that first drive, everybody was encouraged, but then, from that point on, we stalled offensively.”
TWO GAMES BACK
But despite the loss, the Broncos are only two games out of the division lead with Kansas City’s victory Monday night over San Diego. The Chargers, Chiefs and Raiders all sit at 4-3 and the Broncos play all of those teams in three out of the next four games.
“You never know when it’s coming,” Elway said. “There’s always hope that we’re going to start playing really good football and start getting some turnovers and do some things to get us going that put us in a position to win games. There’s no question, going into playing the Raiders and Kansas City the next two weeks, if we can win the next two, then we’re right back in the hunt for the division.
“But we got to take it one game at a time, and it’s the Raiders this week.”
To listen to the entire ‘Elway Live’ podcast, in which Elway talks more about Tebow and young players getting playing time and previews the Oakland Raiders’ matchup, click here.
You can also check out all the previous episodes of ‘Elway Live’ by going to www.DenverBroncos.com/ElwayLive.