Three keys to the Broncos beating the Titans in Week 10 matchup
The Denver Broncos are coming off their bye week, and they want to keep the momentum going after getting a victory the last time out. Beating up on a hapless Jacksonville Jaguars team, and barely winning, is one thing. Beating a significantly better team is something else.
On Sunday, the Broncos have an early game against the Tennessee Titans. They travel to Nashville to take on a team who understands who they are and what they want to do to win the game. While Denver is struggling to find an identity, the Titans know what gives them the best chance to win.
The Titans can play any team tough, just like they did last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. On the road against the Chiefs, the Titans took them to overtime and barely lost by a score of 20-17. If they can slow down a high-powered offense like the Chiefs, what can they do against one of the league’s worst offenses facing the Broncos?
Here are three keys to victory in Week 10.
Slow Down Henry
The Titans love to use their battering ram on offense aka running back Derrick Henry. He’s a huge running back, measuring 247 pounds, and he’s tough to bring down when he builds a head of steam. The Broncos are going to have their hands full when it comes to stopping Henry as he is the centerpiece of what the Titans do on offense.
I don’t think the Broncos can stop Henry. Even though he’s a little bit banged up with a foot injury, Henry is missing some practice time but he enters this contest on a five-game streak of 100 yards rushing or more. During those five games, Henry not only gashes opponents on the ground, but he also has scored seven rushing touchdowns during that time.
They’re a one-handed team as their passing game has been struggling. Rookie quarterback Malik Willis started last week against the Chiefs, and he could barely complete a pass but the team stayed in the game until the end. Veteran Ryan Tannehill is trending towards playing against the Broncos on Sunday, and that makes the Titans more well-rounded on offense. Even if Tannehill is playing, the Titans are still going to lead the way on the ground.
Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett knows the team must match the Titans’ physicality.
“They are an unbelievably physical football team. That’s what they pride themselves on. That’s how they run the ball. That’s how they do everything—from defense, offense, and special teams, also. They bring it. It’s something you point out to the team. You let them know that these guys are going to bring it every single down. They love contact, they love being physical, and they pride themselves on that. It’s a challenge for our entire team to go against a very, very good physical football team.” Hackett said.
Better Special Teams Play
For years, the Broncos have been bad on special teams. It doesn’t matter who is the special teams coach or who is on the roster, the Broncos haven’t been good in that phase of the game for I don’t know how long. First-year special teams coach Dwayne Stukes is a motivator, and he’s a fun coach to talk to at press conferences. However, he’s not getting the job done and the Broncos special teams is as bad as ever.
Not only is Stukes not getting his guys to play well, there are too many mistakes made by the players in all four phases. Rookie return man Montrell Washington has barely done anything positive in his first season. Sure, he’s a rookie from a Division II program, but Washington has been entrusted with an important part of the team and he’s failing to make an impact. The next big play Washington makes as a return man will be the first one of his career.
Instead of playing within himself and waiting for a big play to come, Washington has been trying to do too much almost every time he touches the ball. He’s fielding punts and kicks he has no business trying to return. He’s also letting punts and kicks go that he probably should field and try to make a play. Simply put, Washington’s head is spinning and his play is suffering because of it.
A couple of weeks ago, Stukes expressed confidence in Washington. One must wonder if his confidence level in the rookie has changed after more bad play.
“I’m very confident, and we drafted him to be the returner. He’s a dynamic returner. Like I said before, the last three weeks—which I haven’t had a chance to speak on—those punters have done a good job of hangtime. Those hangtimes have been 5.0 [seconds], 4.95 [seconds], and things that have sort. We haven’t had an opportunity to return the ball like we’ve done in previous weeks.” Stukes said.
Protect Wilson From Himself
There is no doubt that quarterback Russell Wilson likes to play ‘hero ball’ at times. Just like he did with the Seattle Seahawks, Wilson will put too much responsibility on himself, and his decision making has been off. Instead of taking what a defense gives him, too often Wilson is looking for the big play that usually does not materialize.
Hackett needs to protect Wilson from himself. That means the team should run the ball early and often to set up play-action passing. If the Broncos have success on the ground, it puts the offense into a rhythm and seems to put Wilson at ease. I don’t even care who is running the ball, so long as the Broncos have an intent and commitment to the ground game. They have four good running backs, so Melvin Gordon, Latavius Murray, Chase Edmonds, and Marlon Mack could all contribute and produce if/when called upon.
There will be times Wilson needs to make a play. However, those moments must come organically. Wilson is able to work through the chaos and make plays with improvisation. He needs to make sure the chaos is not self-made and instead just part of the natural flow of the game. If that happens, then I have confidence Wilson can come through when the chips seem to be down.
Over the 2022 season, Hackett has learned a lot of Wilson and vice versa.
“I think going through these first eight games, I’ve learned about how he operates out there. He’s learned how I operate and how we call plays. There’s been some plays that we started off early that I did not like, and I did not want to do. We ended up calling them and they’ve been very successful. That’s kind of the give and take throughout the whole thing. We just want to continually work together and grow. I think after these eight games—we saw a little bit in this last game. Not enough, and we still have a long way to go. We have to continually learn each other because there’s nothing that can substitute experience on a game field with a guy out there. I think that the more that we work together, the better it’ll be. We’re definitely learning the ins and outs for the both of us.” Hackett said.