The Denver Broncos Run Defense is Teetering on the Edge

Giving up 200 yards on the ground is hardly a recipe for success.

It is safe to conclude that the Denver Broncos defense that was so instrumental in bringing a Lombardi trophy back to the Rocky Mountains last year was a once-in-a-lifetime unit. Starting the season strong, it looked like the No-Fly Zone would be able to overcome the losses of key free agents and continue to dominate the league like it had done just one year earlier. Just after the team had picked up a win against Tampa Bay, warning flags came up during a loss to Atlanta that would see Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman gain chunks of yards through the air and the ground.

That trend continued with Melvin Gordon of the Chargers gashing the Denver defense for long gains in both contests, doing nothing to ease the concern of Broncos Country. While the team continued to toe the proverbial line that all that was needed was a few tweaks to cure its ails in stopping the opposition's running attack, that didn’t come to fruition on Sunday night.

Running behind a massive offensive line that has produced at least 100 yards rushing in every contest it's played in, while allowing just 10 sacks over the course of the season, the Oakland Raiders returned to their bully roots of yesteryear and ran through the Broncos last night. In pounding out a 30-20 win and racking up 218 yards on the ground, Oakland left last night’s game asserting themselves and moving atop the AFC West while leaving the Broncos to lick their wounds and regroup.

Head Coach Gary Kubiak expressed his thoughts about where his run defense is at this point in the season. “It’s a concern. You asked me about that last week when we gave up to San Diego, I think 4.8, but we won the game. We played from the lead. You get behind a team and they’re sitting there pounding that ball like they are and they really made big plays and short yardage if I’m correct . . . A bunch of short-yardage plays that came busting out. That’s something we’re going to have to improve upon or we’re going to have a hard time from a time standpoint. I think we lost the time of possession almost 2-1 tonight, 3-1 maybe”, Kubiak said as he recounted instances during the game where the defense failed to get off the field.

Coach Kubiak elaborated further on his run-stopping woes.

“They ran the ball on us first. They had over 130 yards rushing in the first half, so you can’t go there. Stopping the run is a group effort. It is what it is. It looked like to me we could tackle better and do a lot of those things better.”

Maligned cornerback Bradley Roby lamented on his team performance in stopping the Latavius Murray and company. It was a rough night for the third-year corner.

"They run the ball well," Roby said. "Anytime you can run the ball for over 200 yards, you control the game [and] that’s basically what they did.”

Defensive captain DeMarcus Ware was the voice of reason in the despondent Denver locker room last night and concluded that with more attention to detail the defense could return to its run-stuffing ways.

“I think when you look at the plays where there was so many missed tackles, maybe some missed assignments that we had, and the yards after the catch," Ware said. "Those were really big, so we need to make sure that we go back to the fundamentals of football, and work on those things in practice. I tell the guys to keep your poise. It is not the end of the season.

"The championship isn’t won yet. We have to improve from this game because there were a lot of mistakes made, and get ready for next week." It was a troubling sight to see the Denver defense surrender so much yardage on the ground to Oakland. Denver rarely forced the Raiders into third-and-long situations, which would have played into its strengths of getting to the passer.

Instead, the Broncos found themselves on the wrong end of far too many 2nd-&-4 or 3rd-&-short situations, nullifying its strongest assets on the defense in rush linebackers Von Miller, Shane Ray, Shaq Barrett and Ware in the process.

There is no rest for the weary as Denver will travel to the bayou next week to take on the New Orleans Saints, who have their own talented backfield to deal with in Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower. With the loss of Derek Wolfe along with lingering injuries to Brandon Marshall and Aqib Talib, the Broncos will need to dig down keep to find a way to shore up its leaky run defense in order to head into its bye week on a winning note.

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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