The Denver Broncos travel to arguably the toughest place to play in the NFL for their first road game of the year. Undefeated at 2-0, Denver travels to Seattle to take on the world-champion Seahawks in Week 3.
This is a rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII—a game that most Broncos fans want to forget. The Broncos were embarrassed in that game, losing 43-8. The 35-point deficit has been a motivating number for the Broncos during the offseason.
After practice on Wednesday, Peyton Manning talked about using the Super Bowl as motivation for this week.
“Yeah, I think naturally you’re motivated anytime you play a team that beat you last year. Being motivated, or being mad doesn’t mean anything if you don’t go out there and execute and do your job. It’s a really good football team we’re playing. Like I said, they’re tough at home.”
Manning highlighted some of the differences between then and now: “We have different players. Emmanuel Sanders wasn’t here last year, [T Ryan] Clady wasn’t here for the majority of the season. So I think everybody has different ways to get motivated for this game and so whatever they have to do to get ready to play solid football.” Manning concluded, “You make a lot of mistakes in this game, it sure is tough to beat a good team like them.”
Seattle enters this game with a blemish on their record. In Week 2 against the San Diego Chargers, the Seahawks lost on the road.
Broncos head coach John Fox talked about what the team could take away from the Chargers win.
“They played very well. They’re a good football team. Everybody talks about their division, and rightfully so, but our division isn’t bad either. So we’re very familiar with San Diego as well as Seattle and they’re two very good football teams.” Fox continued, “Like all days, on gameday, whoever executes the best wins.”
Let’s take a look at how the Denver Broncos will attack the Seattle Seahawks on both sides of the ball.
When the Broncos Run the Ball
Montee Ball has had an up-and-down start to the 2014 season. His 127 yards rushing over the first two weeks of the season ranks 15th in the NFL. However, his 3.63 yards-per-carry average ranks 34th in the league even though he's tied for the sixth-most carries to start the season.
Fox has seen improvement from the Broncos running game over the last two weeks. “I thought we improved from Week 1 to Week 2 in the run game. We were more efficient. I think our average was good. Even yesterday, their average gain of play was 5.1 and on the season, you would go with that.”
The Broncos don't need Ball to rush for 100 yards against the Seahawks (even though it would be nice). They do need maintain the determination to run the ball so they can help grind down the Seattle defense. If Ball can soften up the defensive front, it will only help the rest of the offense.
Behind Ball, we're likely to see C.J. Anderson as the primary backup. Anderson has plenty of power when he runs, and he's got arguably the fastest 10-yard split of any back on the roster.
Here we see the Broncos lined up in a single-back formation. C.J. Anderson is lined up behind Manning as the Chiefs cramp the line of scrimmage with seven in the box.
As Anderson gets the ball, the offensive line has moved to the right effectively. There is a clear lane, and Anderson hits the hole quickly for a 13-yard again.
When the Broncos Pass the Ball
The Broncos will be able to attack the Seahawks in the air. The Denver offense flows through Manning, and if he's given time to throw, there are areas to target in Seattle's secondary.
Denver is getting back Wes Welker this week. Welker had been suspended for the first four games of the regular season due to violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Fox talked about Welker’s first day of practice on Wednesday.
“We didn’t just throw him back in there and run him every rep. We’ll be smart about that, getting him back in there. He is a veteran player, very familiar with our offense, so the mental aspect is not problematic.” Fox concluded, “But just getting him back timing, getting the burn back in his chest, getting him in shape and getting him ready.”
The Broncos have looked good passing the ball without Welker on the field. In the play below, we see tight end Jacob Tamme filling in Welker’s role near the end zone. Tamme motions from the right side of the formation to the left just before the snap.
After the ball is snapped, Emmanuel Sanders clears out the defense by running to the back pylon. Andre “Bubba” Caldwell runs to the middle of the field and essentially picks two players. This clears the way for Tamme to cleanly catch the pass and score a touchdown.
When the Seahawks Run the Ball
Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib knows who the defense’s top priority is. “I think priority No. 1—you’ve got to start with [RB Marshawn Lynch] ‘Beast Mode.’ You’ve got to stop that run.”
Lynch is a powerful player who gets stronger as the game goes on. He's currently dealing with a minor back injury, but Lynch should be able to get his full workload on Sunday.
Another piece of the ground game the Broncos must concern themselves with is wide receiver Percy Harvin.
In this picture, we see Harvin lined up at tailback for the Seahawks. Lynch is lined up in front of him at fullback. The team is watching to see what the defensive end does at the snap of the ball.
As you can see, the end crashes to the play fake to Lynch. Wilson then tosses the ball to Harvin on the outside.
Look at the size of this rushing lane for Harvin as he carries the ball 51 yards for a touchdown.
When the Seahawks Pass the Ball
Wilson is a developed pocket passer, and he can be dangerous because of both his arm and his legs. He'll keep plays alive with his feet while keeping his eyes downfield. Wilson can pick up yards scrambling if the play breaks down. However, he can also make plays as a passer from the pocket if need be.
Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton knows that facing a mobile quarterback can complicate what pass-rushers can do.
“You still go full-go, but in the back of your mind, you’re thinking about your rush lanes and not allowing him to get out of the pocket and make things tough for our [defensive backs].” Knighton continued, “So we’ll just have to rush smart and just have a cage-rush mentality, just keeping him in the pocket, forcing him to beat us with his arm and make the receivers beat our DBs.”
The Seahawks have a weapon in the passing game that doesn’t get as much publicity as the other receivers. Tight end Zach Miller is an athletic player with toughness and the ability to pick up yards after the catch.
On this play, we see the Seahawks in the pistol formation. Miller is on the right side of the offensive line, and there are two wide receivers lined up next to him.
As the ball is snapped, Lynch runs to the right side, faking a majority of the defense to follow him. Miller is blocking at the line of scrimmage, but he times his break away into the open field perfectly.
This picture shows how effectively the play fake worked. Miller has a clear field in front of him, and it makes for an easy throw from Wilson.
This is must-see TV at its finest.
Seattle has arguably the loudest stadium in all of football. Playing in front of the 12th Man (no, not Texas A&M—the original 12th Man) at CenturyLink Field can be quite difficult.
“It’s very loud.” Fox said, “When you come out of the tunnel at some stadiums, it’s louder than others. But that’s the challenge of playing the game. On the road, typically it’s loud when you’re on offense. When you’re at home, it’s loud when you’re on defense. So it’s all a challenge.”
How good are the Broncos? We’re going to find out in Week 3 against the Seahawks.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos unless otherwise noted. Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac.com. Transaction history provided by ProSportsTransactions.com.