The Broncos have a brutal schedule in 2019. And after an 0-2 start, things don’t get any easier in Week 3. They’ll be on the road this week to take on the Packers on Sunday at historic Lambeau Field.
Green Bay has one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Aaron Rodgers. He can still play at an incredibly high level. And now, the Packers can feature a strong rushing attack and a suffocating defense to further complement what their quarterback can do. This is going to be one of the toughest opponents the Broncos face in 2019.
Let’s take a look at how the Broncos will attack the Packers on both sides of the ball.
When the Broncos Run the Ball
Broncos fans should get ready for more Royce Freeman in the near future. In fact, if all goes according to plan, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Freeman post career-best totals against the Packers in Week 3.
The Broncos can play defense against the Packers by keeping their offense cold on the sidelines. They do that with sustained drives and likely Freeman leading the way on the ground.
In the play below, you see tight end Noah Fant influence Freeman and the direction he wants to go. The rookie tight end is able to get in the way of All-Pro Khalil Mack and give Freeman the cutback lane to his right. This play moves the chains because Freeman does not hesitate once he feels like the backside is open.
The line moves to their left at the snap of the ball, forcing the linebackers to follow as they watch Freeman closely. Freeman begins like he’s going to his left but quickly plants and bends to the right for a 12-yard gain.
In addition to what Freeman can do as a runner, the Broncos will also use Phillip Lindsay. This 1-2 combination can be tough for a defense to deal with. Freeman has a different rhythm than Lindsay and defenders can’t fall asleep after getting punished by Freeman or Lindsay can get by them in the blink of an eye.
I’m not predicting the Broncos to win this game (spoiler alert!), but if they do, it would be because of Freeman, Lindsay and the rushing attack.
When the Broncos Pass the Ball
The Broncos offensive line is going to face a tough challenge against the Packers. This is a rejuvenated defense with a ton of talent at all three levels. However, the Broncos can give Joe Flacco easy options by following tried and true pass plays.
In the play below, we see Flacco in the shotgun with Lindsay next to him. Before the play, Emmanuel Sanders is motioned over to the left side of the formation to determine whether the defense is in man or zone. Once the ball is snapped, Lindsay runs to his right and the blocking up front shows a run in that direction.
The play is designed to influence middle linebacker Danny Trevathan. The motion showed the Bears were in man coverage, and by moving Trevathan to his left with the play fake, it opens up a window for Sanders to catch the ball and gain 12 yards in the middle.
Had the Bears showed zone defense, Flacco could have easily just handed the ball to Lindsay and worked for a four-yard (or so) gain. If Trevathan wasn’t influenced by the run flow, then Flacco could have thrown it to Sutton on the outside slant.
This play is simple but effective. One thing against the Packers swarming defense the Broncos must do is get rid of the ball quickly and this type of play can help them do just that.
When the Packers Run the Ball
It’s already difficult enough to slow down the Packers offense due to Rodgers, but now it seems like they’ve found a steal in running back Aaron Jones. A fifth-round pick out of UTEP in the 2017 NFL Draft, Jones looks better than ever under new head coach Matt LaFleur. He’s coming off a career-high in carries (23) last week, as Jones fought hard for 116 yards against a tough Vikings defense.
In the play below, you can see Jones use the influence of offensive line to set up a play that he bends back opposite play side. At the handoff, the line and Jones flow to the defensive left, and linebacker Eric Wilson overcommits to that side. Jones loves – and I mean loves – to find the cutback lane. He does that with ease since the linebacker got out of position and gashes the Vikings for 11 yards on this play.
The Broncos must play with great discipline at all three levels in this game. Jones wants to cut back and the Packers do a good job of using toss plays and handoffs to make a defense flow one way just so Jones can cut back against the grain for a big gain.
When Jones is not in the game (although sometimes they’re in the backfield together), the Packers can turn to power back Jamaal Williams. While Jones is more of a slasher, Williams is a battering ram who can grind down a defense with strength and determination. Not only does Aaron Rodgers have a ground game to go with his elite arm, but he’s got two different backs who are both talented in what they bring to the football field.
When the Packers Pass the Ball
The Packers feature a ton of size and speed at the wide receiver position, and that could be difficult for the Broncos defense to match up against on Sunday. Their best weapon is All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams. Rodgers has rare arm talent and can buy time inside (or outside) the pocket to find his best playmaker down the field.
The Broncos defense has to be ready for the post-corner routes Adams has perfected. In the play below, you see Adams lined up on the right side of the formation. At the snap, Rodgers drops back and fakes a handoff to Jones, but rather than rolling out to his left (and the routes initially show), Rodgers drops straight back waiting to strike.
Adams runs hard at the start of his route, showing post route all the way. But when he gets to the start of the third level of the defense, he breaks back to the corner route. This superstar receiver is then wide open and it makes for an easy throw for Rodgers to make and it goes for a 39-yard gain.
This was their first play from scrimmage against the Vikings in Week 2, and it shows that anytime they are willing to strike and take chances other teams wait for. The Broncos have to be on their toes from the jump.
Finding a victory is not impossible this week, it’s just improbable based on the way these two teams are trending and the talent on these two rosters.
The Broncos have to run the ball and win the time of possession battle. If they do that with the rushing attack, the Packers swarming defense might be tired at the end of the game. They need to put the lean on them with Freeman early and often then gash them with Lindsay if at all possible.
Flacco needs to keep working the middle of the field. It’s a cover-3 league now and the seams are going to be open.
Flacco must get rid of the ball quickly to prevent breakdowns on his offensive line. So far after two games, Flacco has the fifth-fastest “Time before Pass” at 2.48 seconds and that will need to continue against this type of defense.
Stopping Jones and the rushing game for the Packers will be crucial for the Broncos. Opponents are keeping Bradley Chubb and Von Miller out of the game by running the ball often. Jones is a dynamic runner who loves to take it against the grain. It’s going to require great discipline for the Broncos to slow this down.
They might not be able to slow down or stop Rodgers. The Packers have a tall group of wide receivers who are all fast. They are unlikely to have tight end Jimmy Graham this week due to injury, and that’s a break for the Broncos defense. They’ll have their hands full enough with Rodgers and the rest of his receiving threats – including those two aforementioned running backs as receivers out of the backfield.
This game might get ugly quick. I’m predicting a Packers victory by a 27-13 margin. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve picked the Broncos to win their first two games of the year. I can’t bring myself to do that on the road against such a quality opponent in Week 3.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via email from the Denver Broncos unless otherwise noted. Game screenshots from NFL Game Pass. Contract and salary-cap information provided by Spotrac.com. Transaction history provided by ProSportsTransactions.com.
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