In football, the phrase is “run out the clock”, not “pass out the clock.” Pass out the clock sounds exhausting, time consuming and perhaps includes poor decision-making and intoxication. However, the Denver Broncos prolific offense is not built to run out the clock, and if they continue to push that strategy they will likely run out of chances.
The Broncos three lowest point totals have come in the past three weeks. While they beat San Diego 28-20 and Kansas City 27-17, the 34-31 loss to the New England Patriots could have been avoided with a change in strategy. The Broncos stopped throwing when they recorded a 24-point halftime lead over the Patriots.
The Broncos threw just three passes in the third quarter as they watched their lead melt away. Peyton Manning found running back Montee Ball, who quickly fumbled and turned the ball over. The other two passes before Manning fumbled were to Wes Welker.
For the game the Broncos threw on under 43% of their offensive plays, which included a fourth quarter comeback and an overtime period. It is a trend that has been featured in each of their games under interim head coach Jack Del Rio. In the Chiefs game the split was about 50%, and in the Chargers game they rushed on 38% of the plays, but that was still quite a lot considering it was a close game as well as the Peyton Manning offense.
Broncos’ fans will find it hard to believe that the John Fox-led Broncos are the more liberal team over Del Rio’s considering the nature of the criticism that the sidelined Fox has received from the fan base; however, the current Broncos seem to be inserting a running game that won’t help them win.
Sure the running backs can eat up time, establish the play-action and gain yards, and this is not to negate Knowshon Moreno’s brilliant 224-yard day, but it does not win football games. Outside of fantasy football, the running game has become a tool rather than a solution for offenses.
Now critics will point to reasons that the offense does not throw more. Peyton Manning certainly isn’t the mailman, as he has more trouble making deliveries in rain, wind and snow, but an impressive fourth quarter comeback drive showed that 37-year-old still can make the plays. According to ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, the Broncos receivers dropped a season high seven passes in the game, which brings us to rhythm.
One of the storylines the Broncos offense harped on after last season’s playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens was that the offense could not find its rhythm. With Trindon Holliday turning in a two-touchdown performance off kick returns, Peyton Manning and company had trouble finding their rhythm, in the coldest game in Denver history.
How the Broncos coaching staff could not see the similarities to the Patriots game was astounding. Yes, Manning obviously struggles more in cold weather, but it’s also a matter of warming up his offense with his arm. A second half team has defined the Broncos Peyton Manning Era. The running game does not bring cohesion to the receiver core, but instead stalls their advancement. If Manning’s offense was as warmed up in the third quarter as in the fourth, the Patriots wouldn’t have been able to briskly walk back into the game.
Finally, Manning has been just as effective getting virtual running yards with short passes as his running backs haven often been. People look to the Broncos-Ravens game of last year and see a team that lost because of its running game. The Broncos too seem to believe they can survive if they use the running game to limp to the finish line.
It’s time to stop limping. This team can pass out the clock. They just need to warm the delivery truck up earlier.