In a very short time, Adam Gase has become one of the NFL's brightest offensive minds. Following the 2012 season, when Mike McCoy decided to leave the Denver Broncos to become the new head coach of the San Diego Chargers, there was a hole left in the coaching staff.
With Peyton Manning quarterbacking the team, John Elway knew that the team had a unique opportunity to become something special on offense. But they needed a general. Someone who could scheme and put Manning and the offense in the best possible position to succeed. The team didn't have to look far for McCoy's replacement.
Gase was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. His experience as Manning's QB coach in 2012, certainly helped in his transition to offensive coordinator. Gase and Manning had a strong relationship, built on mutual trust and respect. Tapping Gase to be OC was a no-brainer.
It was the right move. Under Gase's stewardship, the Broncos offense decimated the NFL record books in 2013, in just his first season as OC. They set the new league record for most points in a season (606). Manning torched Tom Brady's previous single-season record for passing TDs. Brady's mark had been 50. Manning tossed 55, and also surpassed Drew Brees' record for passing yards, with 5,477.
The offensive production didn't stop there. In Gase's first year as OC, the Broncos had two wide receivers with more than 1,000 receiving yards, four receivers with 10+ TDs, and a 1,000 yard rusher, who also accounted for 13 total TDs (Knowshon Moreno). That's five players with double-digit TDs. Staggering.
Naturally, when the 2013 season came to an end, NFL owners came calling, hoping to lure Gase away from the Broncos by offering him membership in one of the world's most elite job pools; a NFL head coach. There are only 32 such jobs in the world. Gase turned down all offers, choosing instead to remain with Manning, with the goal of winning a Super Bowl.
Today, for the sixth time this season, the Broncos will face a top-10 defense. As the defending AFC champions, their schedule has been fraught with some of the league's best teams. The Broncos have emerged 9-3 and still in the hunt for the AFC No. 1 playoff seed. This week, Gase understands that the Bills present a very stiff challenge. He is up for it.
“The schedule-makers don’t like us (laughing)," he said. "Every week it seems like the front gets better. This group is really good. Three guys with double-digit sacks—you don’t see that very often. Their pass rushers are about as good as what we’ve played against this year.”
“That is what gives them a big advantage," Gase said, speaking about the Bills D-line. "Four guys that can rush the passer and stop the run the way they do. You have to make a decision on each play and somebody’s going to have to hold up one-on-one. I know our guys are up for the challenge and they just know that these guys are a good front.”
But can the Broncos re-shuffled offensive line hold up against these guys, one-on-one? That's the question. Gase is confident in his interior guys, however.
“It’s going to be a challenge for those three guys. The good thing is I like the size of our two guards and then what [C] Will [Montgomery] brings to the table as far as his ability to laterally get to that second level, I really like our matchups. It’s tough. [DT] Kyle Williams, he doesn’t get a lot of credit but he is tough. I was around him when we were at LSU a long time ago and the guy’s been the same for a long time. He’s that [defender] nobody really accounts for. He causes a lot of problems.”
Of course, Gase is referring to Orlando Franklin (LG), Will Montgomery (C) and Manuel Ramirez (RG). This interior unit struggled immensely to start the season, but since John Fox and Gase made the decision to shuffle the offensive line, they have performed at a much higher level.
The Broncos guards do have great size. Franklin (6'7, 320lbs) and Ramirez (6'3, 320lbs) have both graded out positively over the last two games, via ProFootballFocus, and have surrendered zero sacks, 1 QB hit and zero hurries over the same span combined.
Franklin and Ramirez will have to use their recent momentum as a launching pad today, as they face the daunting task of blocking Dareus and Williams. One of the ways to neutralize these guys, is running the ball. Gase recognizes this and will likely strive for offensive balance yet again.
“The problem with the sacks are they usually get turnovers as well," he said. "That is their big thing, sacks and turnovers. They do it well and they get to the quarterback and they make sure they get the ball out. We have to be successful in our run game. We can’t become a one-dimensional team. We have to make sure we have positive plays whether we are running it or throwing it.”
In each of the last two weeks, the Broncos have exceed 200 yards rushing. In just a few hours, we'll see if they can extend the 200-yard streak to three games. With how dominant the Broncos offensive line has been lately, I like their chances of holding up against the NFL's No. 1 sack unit. Execution will be key.