Do you know how sometimes people say a football team isn’t built to play from behind? The 2011 Broncos were such a team, and the 2012 Texans and Vikings seem to be also. Teams which rely heavily on their running game, and which lack the ability to complete passes downfield in obvious passing situations tend to fit this description.
Although the Broncos have only really had one comeback win this year (the first Chargers game), they showed a good ability to put up points quickly in the second half of games, in the losses to Atlanta, Houston, and New England. I feel pretty good about their ability to play from behind, if necessary.
Do you know what I feel great about? The Broncos' ability to play from ahead. I was listening to Pat Shumur talk on Sirius last week, and he mentioned something about the Broncos that I’ve also made note of during the 2012 season. That is, when the game gets one dimensional, such as in a second half, with the Broncos holding a lead of two or more, the pass rush becomes dominant, and next to unstoppable.
This year’s Broncos team tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks. Thirty-eight of those sacks came in the second halves of games, and while 7 of the first 13 of them came with the Broncos trailing, none have since. Check out this list of sacks, courtesy of our friends at Pro Football Reference, and enjoy the memories.
|9/9/2012||Steelers||Broncos||3||4:31||2||11||PIT 34||14-13||Ben Roethlisberger sacked by Joe Mays and Chris Harris for -7 yards||-7|
|9/9/2012||Steelers||Broncos||4||1:58||1||10||PIT 20||31-19||Ben Roethlisberger sacked by Von Miller for -5 yards||-5|
|9/9/2012||Steelers||Broncos||4||1:01||3||5||PIT 25||31-19||Ben Roethlisberger sacked by Von Miller for -10 yards||-10|
|9/9/2012||Steelers||Broncos||4||0:54||4||15||PIT 15||31-19||Ben Roethlisberger sacked by Wesley Woodyard for -5 yards||-5|
|9/17/2012||Falcons||Broncos||4||10:20||3||5||ATL 25||14-27||Matt Ryan sacked by Von Miller for -11 yards||-11|
|9/30/2012||Raiders||Broncos||4||12:20||1||10||RAI 39||34-6||Carson Palmer sacked by Wesley Woodyard and Elvis Dumervil for -2 yards||-2|
|9/30/2012||Raiders||Broncos||4||1:21||2||10||DEN 19||37-6||Carson Palmer sacked by Elvis Dumervil for -8 yards. Carson Palmer fumbles (forced by Elvis Dumervil), recovered by Willie Smith at DEN-27||-8|
|10/7/2012||Patriots||Broncos||3||14:21||3||7||NWE 22||7-17||Tom Brady sacked by Von Miller for -3 yards||-3|
|10/7/2012||Patriots||Broncos||4||13:50||2||13||DEN 49||14-31||Tom Brady sacked by Derek Wolfe for -3 yards||-3|
|10/7/2012||Patriots||Broncos||4||13:28||3||16||NWE 48||14-31||Tom Brady sacked by Von Miller for -4 yards||-4|
|10/7/2012||Patriots||Broncos||4||8:17||4||5||DEN 37||14-31||Tom Brady sacked by Elvis Dumervil and Wesley Woodyard for -11 yards. Tom Brady fumbles (forced by Elvis Dumervil), recovered by Nate Solder at NWE-43||-11|
|10/15/2012||Chargers||Broncos||3||4:56||3||8||DEN 33||14-24||Philip Rivers sacked by Elvis Dumervil for -2 yards. Philip Rivers fumbles (forced by Elvis Dumervil), recovered byTony Carter at DEN-35 and returned for 65 yards, touchdown||-2|
|10/15/2012||Chargers||Broncos||3||3:26||3||5||SDG 27||14-24||Philip Rivers sacked by Derek Wolfe for -9 yards||-9|
|10/15/2012||Chargers||Broncos||4||1:20||1||10||SDG 47||35-24||Philip Rivers sacked by Von Miller for -6 yards||-6|
|10/15/2012||Chargers||Broncos||4||0:52||4||16||SDG 41||35-24||Philip Rivers sacked by Elvis Dumervil for -7 yards. Philip Rivers fumbles (forced by Elvis Dumervil), recovered byMike Adams at SDG-34 (tackle by Tyronne Green)||-7|
|11/4/2012||Bengals||Broncos||3||1:54||3||6||DEN 24||17-10||Andy Dalton sacked by Von Miller for -7 yards||-7|
|11/4/2012||Bengals||Broncos||4||1:03||3||8||DEN 17||31-20||Andy Dalton sacked by Elvis Dumervil for -6 yards||-6|
|11/11/2012||Panthers||Broncos||3||12:35||3||2||CAR 31||17-7||Cam Newton sacked by Kevin Vickerson for -9 yards||-9|
|11/11/2012||Panthers||Broncos||3||7:32||2||10||CAR 22||24-7||Cam Newton sacked by Kevin Vickerson for -2 yards. Penalty on Kevin Vickerson: Horse Collar Tackle, 15 yards||-2|
|11/11/2012||Panthers||Broncos||3||6:27||3||10||CAR 35||24-7||Cam Newton sacked by Chris Harris for -3 yards||-3|
|11/11/2012||Panthers||Broncos||4||11:19||2||7||CAR 14||27-7||Cam Newton sacked by Robert Ayers for -12 yards||-12|
|11/11/2012||Panthers||Broncos||4||10:39||3||19||CAR 2||29-7||Cam Newton sacked by Mike Adams for -2 yards, safety||-2|
|11/18/2012||Chargers||Broncos||3||14:10||3||12||SDG 49||17-7||Philip Rivers sacked by Von Miller for -6 yards. Philip Rivers fumbles (forced by Von Miller), recovered by Rex Hadnotat SDG-43||-6|
|11/18/2012||Chargers||Broncos||3||7:51||3||4||SDG 46||17-9||Philip Rivers sacked by Von Miller for -9 yards. Philip Rivers fumbles (forced by Von Miller), recovered by Wesley Woodyard at SDG-37 and returned for 12 yards (tackle by Malcom Floyd)||-9|
|11/18/2012||Chargers||Broncos||4||0:17||2||6||SDG 17||30-23||Philip Rivers sacked by Elvis Dumervil for -5 yards. Philip Rivers fumbles (forced by Elvis Dumervil), recovered byPhilip Rivers at SDG-12||-5|
|12/2/2012||Buccaneers||Broncos||4||4:10||1||10||DEN 39||31-13||Josh Freeman sacked by Von Miller for -7 yards. Josh Freeman fumbles (forced by Von Miller), recovered by Josh Freeman at DEN-46||-7|
|12/6/2012||Raiders||Broncos||3||5:50||3||6||RAI 12||16-7||Carson Palmer sacked by Von Miller for -9 yards. Carson Palmer fumbles (forced by Von Miller), recovered by Mitch Unrein at OAK-2 (tackle by Carson Palmer)||-9|
|12/16/2012||Ravens||Broncos||4||2:36||2||1||RAV 25||34-17||Joe Flacco sacked by Derek Wolfe for -12 yards||-12|
|12/16/2012||Ravens||Broncos||4||0:33||1||10||RAV 35||34-17||Joe Flacco sacked by Robert Ayers for -6 yards||-6|
|12/16/2012||Ravens||Broncos||4||0:05||2||16||RAV 29||34-17||Joe Flacco sacked by Elvis Dumervil for -14 yards||-14|
|12/23/2012||Browns||Broncos||3||11:32||3||9||DEN 28||14-3||Brandon Weeden sacked by Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil for -7 yards. Penalty on Mitchell Schwartz: Offensive Holding (Declined)||-7|
|12/23/2012||Browns||Broncos||3||4:27||2||10||CLE 20||21-6||Brandon Weeden sacked by Von Miller for -9 yards||-9|
|12/23/2012||Browns||Broncos||3||3:54||3||19||CLE 11||21-6||Colt McCoy sacked by Derek Wolfe for -3 yards||-3|
|12/23/2012||Browns||Broncos||4||4:02||4||10||DEN 47||31-12||Colt McCoy sacked by Elvis Dumervil for -8 yards||-8|
|12/23/2012||Browns||Broncos||4||1:55||1||10||CLE 20||34-12||Colt McCoy sacked by Elvis Dumervil and Wesley Woodyard for -7 yards||-7|
|12/23/2012||Browns||Broncos||4||0:44||4||13||CLE 17||34-12||Colt McCoy sacked by Wesley Woodyard for -7 yards||-7|
|12/30/2012||Chiefs||Broncos||3||7:49||2||12||KAN 30||28-3||Brady Quinn sacked by Keith Brooking for -8 yards||-8|
|12/30/2012||Chiefs||Broncos||3||0:59||1||10||KAN 23||35-3||Brady Quinn sacked by Von Miller for -7 yards||-7|
If the Broncos don’t have to play the run, there’s very little chance any offense is getting them blocked consistently. A lot of times when a Derek Wolfe or Justin Bannan is deemed to have failed in the pass rush by PFF, they were playing the run; if the need to do that goes away, look out. When you couple the Broncos' ability to rush both edges at an elite level with their strong coverage on the back end, offenses just aren’t able to match up.
To beat the Broncos, you have to stay in the game, and the best way to do that is to complete a lot of passes on first down. To do that, you typically need to run the ball effectively, and force Broncos defenders to bite on play action, and maybe even to bring an eighth defender into the box.
I highly doubt that the Ravens will be able to complete enough early-down throws on Saturday to stay in the game. The Broncos excel in man-to-man coverage, and Champ Bailey and Chris Harris have already proven that they can handle Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin.
If the Ravens can’t dominate in the running game, and complete some play-action stuff to their TEs, I foresee this game getting ugly in the second half, particularly since it’s being played in Denver. At that point, the Ravens will just be left to hope that they don’t get Joe Flacco seriously hurt.