ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) After a long weekend to think things over, Gary Kubiak came to the same conclusion: The Denver Broncos’ running game stinks.
It’s got to get better to help Peyton Manning stay upright, too.
The Broncos are 2-0 despite an offense that ranks dead last in the league, a quarterback who’s averaging 43 pass attempts, and a ground game that manages just 65 yards a game and 2.8 yards a carry.
The Broncos are imbalanced with 85 pass plays and 47 runs so far.
Ten of Pro Bowl running back C.J. Anderson’s 24 carries have gone for no gain or negative yards, and Ronnie Hillman hasn’t fared much better, getting stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage on seven of his 21 carries.
All this chatter about whether Manning, who’s been sacked seven times, would be better off taking snaps exclusively from the shotgun or run the no-huddle is moot if the Broncos don’t find some traction, Kubiak said.
”The biggest thing right now offensively to me is protecting the quarterback and finding a way to make big plays,” Kubiak said. ”And the thing that enables you do to those two things is running the football.”
Kubiak has built a coaching career on doing just that.
Taking the snap from under center is usually the ticket to a more effective ground game, he said.
”Running out of the gun is a challenge at times,” Kubiak said, ”but if that’s something you’re doing best, you’ve got to find a way to run it that way. But being physical is a state of mind. It’s an identity. It’s a commitment.”
Take away the victory formation against Baltimore and the Broncos have been stuffed or gone backward on 39 percent of their carries so far.
”That’s too many (times) where the line of scrimmage is ugly, nothing going on,” Kubiak said. ”We studied the heck out of it through the weekend and obviously have to do some things to make it better. You’ve got to get your guys space and sometimes they’ve got to create their own space, too. I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. But it’s just about consistency right now, being better at everything we’re doing.”
The Broncos’ early-season struggles are understandable: They have a new line anchored by two-time Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis, who didn’t play in the preseason, and Manning lost some of his most trusted safety valves since last season with the departures of Jacob Tamme, Julius Thomas and Wes Welker.
They gained just 69 yards rushing against the Ravens and 61 against the Chiefs.
”There’s no excuses unless you’re making an excuse,” right tackle Ryan Harris said. ”If we had rushed for 300 yards against both of these teams we’d be ecstatic right now.”
They didn’t, and so they’re not.
”It’s tough. Offensively we haven’t been playing how we want to,” fullback James Casey said. ”At the same time, we’re winning. We’re 2-0. That’s what you want.”
There’s no pinpointing the reason for the struggles, however.
”It’s not one thing,” Casey said. ”It’s not just on the running back. It’s not just on the line and not just on the tight ends. It’s every little bitty thing.”
Kubiak is counting on a better running game taking some pressure off his 39-year-old QB who is on pace to obliterate his career high of 29 sacks.
”If you run the ball well, you usually protect your quarterback better,” Kubiak said. ”We’ve got seven sacks in two weeks. We can’t ask him to hold up that way throughout the course of the season.”
Notes: DE Kenny Anunike practiced Monday for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in mid-August. Afterward, he said, ”I had no pain today. I felt fast, felt strong and felt powerful.”
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