- Jeff Legwold, ESPN Staff Writer
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It seems no matter how many plays the Denver Broncos have run on offense as they have jumped in and out of warp speed over their first two games, there is still only one football to go around.
A fact certainly not lost on the team’s running backs these days.
The Broncos ran the ball 29 times against the Giants, 13 by starter Knowshon Moreno, 12 for Montee Ball, one for Ronnie Hillman, and three kneel-downs for quarterback Peyton Manning. Moreno, the only back averaging more than four yards per carry and the preferred option in the three-wide receiver set, figures to keep leading the carry totals in the foreseeable future.
While Broncos coach John Fox keeps getting asked about Ball carrying the ball more, he said Ball and Hillman are in a rotation that will continue to be just that. Asked Monday if Ball’s first-quarter fumble limited his carries or if Hillman’s carries were limited for any specific reason, Fox said:
“No, it’s just hard to get three people in there … You just kind of go with how you prepared guys through the week, and some guys get more reps than others.’’
What it means is Moreno will remain at the top of the depth chart, with his 5.5 yards per carry average, with Ball and Hillman sorting out what’s left over.
When Fox addresses the team this week, one of the topics certain to be on the docket will be penalties. The Broncos were penalized 13 times for 132 yards in Sunday’s win against the Giants, totals usually associated with a far different outcome by those with designs on the postseason. The 13 penalties tied for the third-highest single-game total in franchise history (the Broncos have hit 13 in four previous games, the last time in 1995). The eight penalties on the team’s defensive backs were also double-take worthy for Fox, a defensive backs coach early in his NFL career. “We’ve got to coach it better, we’ve got to do it better, execute better,’’ Fox said. “ … I’m sure when we get things started back (this week) that will be an emphasis … We’ll try to clean it up.’’ With 23 penalties enforced in their first two games the Broncos are tied with Philadelphia for being the third-most penalized team in the league. Tampa Bay leads the way with 26 penalties and San Francisco has 25. The only other teams with at least 20 penalties after two games are: Buffalo (21), Seattle (21), Detroit (20) and Washington (20).
The Oakland Raiders will likely come to Denver leading the league in two categories that have been important to the Broncos during Fox’s tenure. Oakland is tied for the league lead in sacks with nine (Tampa, Miami and Kansas City also have nine) and the Raiders also lead the league in rushing, by a wide margin, at 198.5 yards a game with Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. The Raiders were 28th in the league in rushing last season, but Pryor has certainly changed the offensive dynamic. The Broncos will have to defend the run out of some of their specialty packages (the nickel and dime), which has been an issue at times in recent seasons.
The Broncos love it when return man Trindon Holliday dials up that world-class speed to change a game with a touchdown return, so they do live with the occasional bobbles or the high-risk choices he makes to try to make a play. Sunday, Holliday dropped the opening kickoff before he scooped the ball up to scamper out to the Broncos’ 21-yard line. But in the fourth quarter, with the Broncos having built a 31-16 lead, Holliday flashed the other side of the coin when he took a punt back 81 yards for a score, putting the game out of reach. “(The kickoff) was a knuckler, it was breezy there, it was a tough ball to handle,’’ Fox said. “ … It was a bad hop so to speak, it was a tough ball to handle, it wasn’t catastrophic. He recovered it and did the next best thing, and then responded later in the game.’’ The only concession the Broncos have made to Holliday’s roller-coaster work at times is to have wide receiver Wes Welker field punts deep in Denver’s territory in games. However, Welker muffed a punt in the opener that the Baltimore Ravens recovered at the Denver 1-yard line. Last year the Broncos used safety Jim Leonhard as the designated returner at times.
Fox on whether he gave any thought to the chances of going back to MetLife Stadium in February with a Super Bowl team; “I think everybody in the league knows that’s where the Super Bowl is, I think it passes your mind, it’s a goal for everybody to end up there.’’
1dEric D. Williams
8dEric D. Williams