Ever since the Denver Broncos signed Peyton Manning in March of 2012, playing complimentary football has been the goal. Complimentary football simply means that the defense feeds off the offense and vice versa. With training camp now only six weeks away, it looks like the Broncos finally have the right mix to be able to do that; at least on paper.
We all know the Broncos are going to score points on offense; Manning says he’s feeling great and there are weapons all over the field. They may not score 600+ points again, but they should average 30 easily.
The goal for the Broncos offense will be to put points on the board early with the passing game, and then use Montee Ball and the running game to shorten the game. They were unable to follow this blueprint in 2013 for two primary reasons with the first being the simple fact that they were not a great running team. That needs to change in 2014 if the Broncos are going to take the next step.
The other reason for a lack a real running threat was due to a suspect defense. There were too many times last season when the offense did build a two score lead early only to see their defense give it up just as fast. That forced Manning and the offense to keep scoring, and that meant throwing the football.
The best example of this was the Broncos 28-20 win over the San Diego Chargers last November. The offense rolled to a 28-6 lead early in the second half but the defense let the Chargers back into the game, and the Broncos had to convert a late third-down to secure the victory. Granted there was a key turnover that aided the Chargers cause, but the point remains the same.
John Elway has built the Broncos with a very specific plan, get the lead and then turn the pass rushers loose. For the first time since Elvis Dumervil got lost at a Kinko’s, the Broncos have the pieces in place to execute Elway’s vision.
Assuming they are healthy and right in the head, Von Miller and free agent acquisition DeMarcus Ware have a chance to be the best pass rushing duo in football. Offenses will be unable to double team both and even if they do, the Broncos have others who can get to the quarterback. Derek Wolfe is healthy, Terrance Knighton is coming off of his best season as a pro and Sylvester Williams could be in for a breakout season after a solid rookie campaign.
If the Broncos get a lead, then opponents will be forced to try and keep up with Manning and that’s when the pass rush should wreak havoc. In addition to the improved pass rush, the Broncos also feature an improved secondary that should capitalize on hurried and forced throws from opposing quarterbacks.
That’s the theory on paper but how should it play out on the field? It’s opening night versus the Indianapolis Colts and the Broncos come out fast, and jump out to a 14-0 lead. Even though it’s early, Andrew Luck and the Colts feel the pressure to try and keep up. They abandon the run and start throwing on every down and that’s where the Broncos defense needs to change the game. The Broncos must force turnovers and make impact plays in 2014.
One turnover or one sack on third and seven in that situation, and the Broncos have complete control of the game. Just as the defense can feed of the offense, the offense can feed off of the defense. A pressure by Ware that leads to an interception by Aqib Talib and Manning is on a short field. All of the sudden it’s 21-0 and the defense can pin their ears back even more. That’s complimentary football; the offense gives the defense a lead and the defense gets the ball back to an explosive offense.
This has been Elway’s plan since the day he signed Manning and it worked for the last 11 games of 2012 until the playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The plan just never got off the ground in 2013 due to injuries and suspensions on defense, and the offense had to do too much.
The Broncos now have the personnel on both sides of the ball to play complimentary football, just as Elway envisioned when Manning said he wanted o be a Bronco.