Three biggest observations from the Broncos loss to the Titans in Week 10
The Denver Broncos were back on the road after their bye in Week 9. On Sunday, they traveled to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans. As expected, it was a low-scoring game and the Broncos were not able to come out on top, losing by a score of 17-10.
The Titans are a good football team. The Broncos are not a good football team. On Sunday, in a close game it was the Titans who came out on top.
Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett seemed to be beside himself after yet another loss that has him and the coaching staff searching for answers.
“For me, it’s about accountability. It’s about holding myself accountable first, the coaches accountable and the players accountable. As long as we point the things out that we can correct and get better on, and everybody understands what that is and what we need to do to be able to go on a run at some point during the season, I think they’llbe able to stay together. That’s what this is. We’re teachers. We’re out there trying to teach them how to be successful out on that field. And all we can do is continually teach and then they go out there. They have the opportunity to make those plays. So, we’ll continue that message and keep growing,” Hackett said.
Here are my three biggest observations from the loss to the Titans.
Can’t Get Ahead
The Broncos are not good on first downs. In fact, they cannot stay ahead of the chains, and it shows. Currently, the Broncos are no.27 in the NFL in terms of yardage gained on first down. They can’t even muster five yards on their first play, currently sitting at 4.7 yards.
Quarterback Russell Wilson seems like a bad fit for whatever the Broncos are trying to make him do. They can’t get things going on first down, and Wilson struggles to connect with his receivers on routes that seem to take too long to develop. Hackett could quicken the pace of the offense, but he has barely done that. Hackett could design plays that have outlet receivers to get to quickly, but he’d rather run downfield concepts.
Wilson doesn’t have the time, and even in the shotgun formation the rush gets to him too quickly. You see Wilson ad lib at times, and those type of plays tend to work. When Wilson is running the plays as designed things don’t look as good – especially on first down. To me, that’s a coaching problem and a design problem. Basically, this is a problem with fit and it’s why the team can’t get ahead.
Hackett picked a different down to highlight as their biggest struggle after the game.
“Third down. I think third down is one of the biggest things. We have to be able to convert on third down. And whenever we get those explosive plays, we start moving the ball a little bit. Again, the third down is kind of what’s continually gotten us. We were better off – we’re almost better on fourth down, I think. So we can’t – we’ve got to get better there,” Hackett said.
Stopping The King a Priority
Entering this game, Titans superstar running back Derrick Henry had rushed for over 100 yards in five straight contests. The Broncos defense is good – one of the best in the league – but they have been gashed on the ground from time to time. Henry is huge, physical, and he presented a huge challenge for the Broncos as he’s the centerpiece of what the Titans want to do on offense.
Henry got 19 of the 23 rushing attempts for the Titans on Sunday. The Broncos were able to hold him to just 53 yards and 2.8 yards per carry. This was his lowest total since Week 2 against the Buffalo Bills where he only had 25 yards rushing. The Broncos were flying all over the field to stuff Henry.
Every player at every level of the defense had to commit to stuffing the run. You saw players in the secondary coming up to defend the run. The inside linebackers were busy all day meeting Henry at the point of attack. Even rookie pass-rusher Nik Bonitto did a great job of setting the edge to turn Henry back inside, and he did a good job chasing down runs that went away from him. This was a full effort from the entire defense, and the results showed up in the box score.
After the game, Broncos inside linebacker Josey Jewell admitted that stuffing Henry first and foremost was the plan.
“Yeah, that was our rule number one for us. Take him down first and then hopefully play off the pass on that one. I thought we did a pretty good job, but there was still too many big plays on that end and we didn’t capitalize maybe on our turnovers. I think we could have had another one or two. We just need to keep on striving for those turnovers,” Jewell said.
False Starts/Bad Snaps
The Broncos are not good up front. Their offensive line is struggling more than they have before in recent memory. Part of that is the rash of injuries that have hit the offensive line. Part of that is the poor coaching they’re getting from Butch Barry.
Wilson was hit eighteen times against the Titans. After the game, Wilson said he felt good and defended his blockers up front. However, he’s coming into these games banged up with a couple of different injuries. Simply put, the veteran quarterback can’t keep taking this type of beating. In addition to being hit almost 20 times, Wilson was sacked a whopping six times against Tennessee. This was the seventh game in a row that Wilson has been sacked at least three times, highlighting how bad things have gotten up front.
Things were not helped when starting center Graham Glasgow went down with an injury. He was replaced by rookie Luke Wattenberg, and the kid was simply not ready for the opportunity. He struggled with blocking, and at one point starting left guard Dalton Risner was seen coaching him up (while looking frustrated doing so) after a Wilson sack. Not only was Wattenberg bad in pass protection, but there were a few snaps that were wobbly or off the mark.
Hackett did bring up the offensive line woes and explained why Wattenberg struggled when he came onto the field in relief of Glasgow.
“Well, we lost Lloyd (Cushenberry) in Jacksonville so we had to get Graham (Glasgow) up to speed with Russ (Russell Wilson). So, Luke (Wattenberg) did not get as much with Russell (Wilson). So that was a little bit of something they had to work out and get some extra snaps and so forth. We’ll have to make sure we get Luke (Wattenberg) going again,” Hackett said.