Clinging to a three-point lead but keeping a nearly eight-minute possession advantage over the New York Giants in Week 1, Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur had a twofold goal to start the second half.
Score to create separation against points-challenged giants and wear New York’s defense to a figurative pulpit.
To do both, the Broncos went heavy… literally.
During the 16-play touchdown drive, the Broncos used two-tight end personnel on eight snaps, giving a glimpse of Shurmur’s mannerisms during a 3–0 start.
Use big guys to knock down opponents.
Entering Sunday’s game against Baltimore, the Broncos are fourth in rushes (31.7 per game) and seventh in rushing yards (127.3).
“I believe in running football,” Shurmur said before practice on Thursday. “I believe in involving the backs in the game plan by handing them over and I think it helps your team.”
It certainly helped the Broncos’ offense.
• According to the Denver Post’s game charting, 96 of his 199 offensive snaps accounted for at least two tight ends on the field (not counting knee strikes), including 50% in wins over the Giants and New York Jets.
• He has the fifth highest rush-play rate (42.8%) in the league.
• They are tied first in five-minute drives (seven) and lead the league in average time of scoring drives (4:43).
• And they lead the league in time of possession (36:16).
Tight end Noah Faint has played 80.2% of Snape (162 out of 202), followed by Albert Okwegbunam (103, 51%) and Eric Soubert (70, 34.7%). Against the Jets last week, tight end/fullback Andrew Beck was active and played 12 snaps.
“We have a set up where I love putting three tight ends in there and there are times when some receivers get a little break,” Shurmur said.
During the above campaign against the Giants, the Broncos started on their 25-yard line. In two-tight end personnel, Melvyn Gordon had for five, six and six yards and Jevont Williams did twice for six yards. Not big plays, but positive running set up the action and fatigue of playing an opponent, especially in the Broncos’ home games.
Shurmur is committed to using multi-tight end personnel throughout the game, not just as a change in pace.
Against Jacksonville, the Broncos used “13” personnel (one tailback, one receiver and three tight ends) on four consecutive opening-drive plays, scoring 12 yards and scoring 22 yards for a field goal. was passing by the way.
Against the Jets, the Broncos opened their second drive with four consecutive snaps of “12” personnel (one tailback, two receivers and two tight ends) to advance from their 25 to 49-yard line. At the goal-line, the Broncos began their “23” personnel package (two running backs and three tight ends) for two plays, including Gordon’s 1-yard touchdown.
Beck had a healthy scratch at 1-2 weeks, but served as a blocking back against the Jets.
“There’s a ton of versatility in that (tight end) room,” Beck said. “People can run, block, get physical, catch passes, miss people and (Shurmur) know that he has a lot of faith in people running around.
“It can open up the playbook from those sets a little more than other coordinators.”
Don’t expect to see a multi-tight ending. It is working and the Broncos are low on receivers after losing Jerry Judy (ankles, at least another two games out) and KJ Hammer (ACL, out for the year).
“What I love about (our run game) is that we are able to stay consistent throughout the game,” Shurmur said. “We’ve been able to use it in all areas of the field.”
Being undefeated allows for nit picking. There is one field per rush yards for the Broncos: they are 15th on 4.02. Can they continue to thrive on the basis of winning a thousand paper cuts? Possibly. But some stand-up doubles or home run play won’t hurt.
“When you go back, there are always places where we like to say, ‘We left some meat on the bone,’ and we could have gotten a little bit out of each play,” Shurmur said. “Like every element of our aggressive plan that you’re trying to improve, you’re trying to squeeze every yard into everything you do.”
committed to playing
Here’s a look at where the Broncos’ running game is in the first three weeks of the season:
|rushing yard||127.3||tied seventh|
|average per carry||4.02||15th|
|four yard race||36||12th tied|