Speaking at his Monday press conference at Dove Valley, Head Coach Josh McDaniels talked in detail about the team’s erratic rush defense in Sunday’s 20-19 loss to AFC West rival Oakland.
The Raiders had eight runs for 150 yards — good for a 18.8 yards-per-carry average. The rest of the game, however, Denver’s defense was much stronger against the run — allowing a 3.5 yards-per-carry average on Oakland’s 26 other rushing attempts.
“It wasn’t all bad, but certainly on those (eight) plays, it was close to terrible,” McDaniels said. “Again, if you don’t make the plays in those critical situations this time of year, you’re going to be in close games, and ultimately, those are the plays that determine the outcome most of the time.”
McDaniels said Oakland’s drive late in the third quarter — in which the Broncos ended up making a goal-line stand on the first play of the fourth quarter — was symbolic of the team’s rush defense throughout the contest.
On that specific drive, the defense allowed the Raiders to amass 86 rushing yards on three-straight plays (18- and 40-yard runs by Michael Bush followed by a 28-yard run by Darren McFadden) to move the ball to the Denver 3-yard line. On the next four plays, the Broncos held Oakland on four consecutive runs at the goal line, forcing the Raiders to relinquish possession.
“You can break down statistics however much you want to,” McDaniels said. “The bottom line is we gave up way too many big runs, obviously.”
McDaniels said the Broncos inability to stop Oakland from making big plays in the run game mostly came on cutback runs, and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan echoed similar sentiments.
“There was a common thing from the standpoint of where it happened,” Nolan said. “It happened on cutbacks — all but two of them. And it really just has to do with the responsibility to stay home … We have to do a better job of maintaining our responsibility on the cutback. It was really just a case of us over-pursuing on the backside.”
After giving up a handful of big plays against the Raiders, Nolan and the defense are set to prepare for a Philadelphia team filled with big-play threats. At the forefront of those players is explosive wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who has given defenses headaches all season.
“He is certainly somebody we will take close notice to as we are game planning,” Nolan said. “DeSean has been a big part of the big plays. But they’ve always been explosive. It is my understanding that they will get the running back, (Brian) Westbrook, possibly back this week and if they do, he is an outstanding player. They’ve got playmakers.”
PRO BOWL VOTING
Remember that balloting for the 2010 Pro Bowl will conclude tonight following the conclusion of Monday Night Football. The teams will be announced at 2 p.m. MST Tuesday, Dec. 29 on a special NFL Total Access 2010 Pro Bowl Selection Show on NFL Network.
– Zach Eisendrath, DenverBroncos.com