As Head Coach Josh McDaniels pointed out in his Wednesday address to the media, there are many superlatives applicable to the Colts — a squad the Broncos head coach referred to as “one of the two finest teams in the National Football League over the last decade.”
There are plenty of stats to back that praise up. One above all immediately jumped out to McDaniels as he started preparing this week: The Colts have a lead at some point in 61 of their last 64 games.
Understanding that, McDaniels said Thursday he’s preparing to find his team behind at some point in Sunday’s clash at INVESCO Field at Mile High — and that’s just fine.
“There’s a lot of truth to trying to get ahead and play from ahead — you’d love to be able to do that,” McDaniels said. “I also think you need to be realistic and understand that there’s going to be an ebb and flow to the game and if you’re playing well and they’re playing well, that they may be ahead at some point. You’re going to have to handle that, too — whether it’s early in the game, in the middle of the game or sometimes at the end of the game and you’ve got to try to catch up then.”
McDaniels credited teams needing time to adjust to the speed of the Colts defense and understanding what it takes to the stop Peyton Manning and the potent offense as reasons the AFC South squad has been so effective jumping out early in games.
Last season, the Broncos felt some of those effects when they fell behind 21-0 in an eventual 28-16 loss in Indianapolis.
With a unique style of play predicated on a no-huddle offense and a smaller, faster defense, the Colts present an interesting challenge. McDaniels said it’s important not to get sucked into trying to match that style and focus on the important parts of their own gameplan.
The head coach cited the fact that the Colts are generally toward the bottom of the league in time of possession, yet have one of the NFL’s most efficient offenses.
That was particularly evident in last season’s meeting when the Broncos won the time of possession battle but finished only two of four trips into the red zone. The Colts scored on all four red zone trips and won the game.
McDaniels said the team will try to make sure they win the red zone battle when the Colts visit to the Mile High City.
“Every week that’s a big deal,” Spencer Larsen said. “The games are so close all the time in the NFL a lot of it comes down to what you do in the red zone.”
The Broncos have spent the week doing whatever it takes to simulate what the Colts will bring come Sunday. Manning and his cast of talented, veteran teammates have made it tough on teams to gameplan even after years of success.
Denver understands that challenge — especially given that McDaniels has faced Indianapolis so often in his coaching career — and hopes to focus on the right areas to derail the Colts.
Part of that is trying to start fast and maintain a lead. If that doesn’t work — and history says it will be tough — the Broncos are prepared to grind out a home win in the closing minutes.
“At the end of the day what it boils down to, is you have one more point than the opposing team,” Brian Dawkins said. “However you get there, that’s how you get there. Whether it be special teams, whether it be the offense or the defense or everybody playing collectively a good game, it’s about having that one extra point.”
Champ Bailey (foot), Andre Goodman (thigh), Ryan Harris (ankle), and Jamal Williams (non-injury related) did not participate in Thursday’s practice. Chris Kuper (knee) and Wesley Woodyard (hamstring) had limited participation in the session. Laurence Maroney (thigh) and Darcel McBath (forearm) had full participation.
Bailey addressed the media on Thursday and said he’s feeling better every day. The cornerback said he’d like to return to the practice field tomorrow with the hope of playing on Sunday.
“Any time I’m banged up I absolutely want to get one day (of practice) in — regardless of what the injury is — because you want to get a feel for the defense we’re putting in and whatever,” Bailey said.
BALL JOINS PRACTICE SQUAD
Lance Ball, who was waived on Tuesday when Andre Brown joined the active roster, was back on the Dove Valley practice field on Thursday as a member of the practice squad.
The second-year running back from Maryland saw action in the first two games of the season, recording one special teams tackle. Ball also spent time last season on the Broncos practice squad.
- Eric Detweiler, DenverBroncos.com
Below are some more photos from today’s workout: