ENGLEWOOD — Be quick, don't hurry.
Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden unintentionally described the Broncos' offensive philosophy. When looking at the Broncos' season, the group boasts improvement. And they've done some of their best work in two-minute drills against Chicago and Jacksonville. For argument's sake, I asked offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello if he considered sprinkling in more hurry-up throughout the game.
His answer was honest.
"No, I wish you could. You can do some tempo, but the reality of it is that you just don’t have the depth and bodies to go fast all the time. Like you said, you want to keep your defense off the field. It’s just different than college football where you’ve got 85 guys. We’re suiting up really four wideouts, If one of them gets hurt or gets tired, you just don’t have the depth to do those things," Scangarello said. "So yeah, you want to use tempo, you want to apply pressure where you can to the defense, but you’ve got to be smart how you approach that. I do feel we’ve been very efficient in two-minute. I think our system is growing together and that’s a good thing. Under the gun, they’ve had some successful drives, and we hope to continue that.”
Scangarello knows how pressing down on the gas pedal can work. His previous teams in Atlanta and San Francisco enjoyed success on drives before halves and at the end of games. But the reality is the Broncos don't have the personnel to pull it off more. When Peyton Manning sat in the cockpit of a fighter jet, his targets included Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas and Knowshon Moreno. The current Broncos boast proven standout Emmanuel Sanders -- he's on pace for roughly 1,200 yards -- and developing prospects Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant.
While uptempo can work, it brings a side effect. The quick drives put more pressure on the defense. That's the last thing the Broncos need right now. While the offense deserves the bulk of the blame for the 3 1/2-year slump, the defense is currently an issue. The Broncos have had more trouble closing games than Wade Davis, and they are brutal against the run, gashed for 149.5 yards per game. Putting them on the field more is not a prescription for recovery.
To pull off the upset against the Chargers, the Broncos need balance. The Broncos average 100 yards rushnig per game. They need that number to reach 125 to execute a U-turn. They stunned Los Angeles last season by rushing for 108 yards and three scores, while peppering in Case Keenum's best late drive. A similar scenario needs to play out Sunday for the underdog Broncos to snap their eight-game losing streak.
"If you notice every week, we’re getting better and better, and that comes with more confidence. It’s going to be very important for us to run the ball this week. We have to find ways to stay on the field. When your defense is struggling at times, you have to find ways to stay on the field," Lindsay said of the forgettable third quarter last Sunday when the Broncos were outgained 195 yards to 8. "We went three-and-out. We didn’t help them out. They were gassed and we went three-and-out. That’s not what we’re supposed to do so we need to find ways to stay out on the field when it matters the most. That’s very important.”
Linebacker Josey Jewell (hamstring) did not practice Friday, making it unlikely he plays. Alexander Johnson figures to replace him. ... Safety Kareem Jackson (hamstring) has practiced, and should play. His return could free up Duke Dawson to play some nickel corner with Jackson working at corner and safety.