Broncos After Further Review: Saints’ stacked box dominates running game

The Broncos knew the difficulty against the New Orleans defense on Sunday was high, and that was before all available quarterbacks had been banked by the NFL office.

Against a Broncos foul led by wide receiver Kendall Hinton and Co., that hard defense became dominant, allowing just 112 yards in a 31-3 win.

Hinton and running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman took the quarterback and / or direct snaps. The Saints were prepared for the run game and were in every rusk. The Broncos had 33 tries for 100 yards.

The key? Flooding the box.

According to The Denver Post’s game charting (excluding Hinton’s scramble and the botched snap that resulted in a fumble) …

Six-man box: Six rushes for 52 yards (one “bad” rush – profit of one yard or less). Lindsay contributed 14 yards on the second game of the game and Freeman 23 yards on the penultimate snap of the game.

Seven-man box: Eight rushes for 11 yards (six “bad” rushes). Gordon had a load capacity of 11 meters.

Achtmans box: Seventeen rushes for 37 yards (eight “bad” rushes). Gordon had a load capacity of 11 meters.

The Broncos refused to use fullback Jeremy Cox in an offensive attack to serve as the main blocker role that helped Saints quarterback Taysom Hill gain 44 yards on 10 carries. The Broncos’ 15 “bad” rushes were one season high. Center Lloyd Cushenberry was booked for three “bad” run plays.

Here’s the rest of our Saints-Broncos review:

Violation

Playtime. Gordon led the skill position in players (35), followed by receiver Tim Patrick (31), tight end Noah Fant (30), receiver KJ Hamler (28), Hinton (24) and receiver Jerry Jeudy (22). Elijah Wilkinson replaced Demar Dotson’s right-hand tackle at half-time and played 21 snaps, his first move since he sustained a leg injury against Tampa Bay in week 3.

No answer for Jordan. It would have helped the Broncos’ offense if they had blocked the Saints Cameron Jordan’s excellent defensive ending. He threw off Gordon to take Hinton down on his first pass attempt. He dusted off Gordon to stop Hamler for a six-foot loss. And he beat Dotson for another knockdown. Also effective was the defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who twice defeated Cushenberry for two run stuff.

Exert pressure. The Saints rushed with five players on five of Hinton’s 11 drop-backs. He was fired once (booked for Wilkinson in 3.21 seconds) and knocked down four times. “Air” yards for Hinton’s nine passes (not counting his throwaway) – 22, 22, six, 29, 16, 28, 0, and nine yards. The Broncos’ last pass was Hinton’s interception with 10:04 left in the third quarter. They ran on their last 16 snaps.

Third misery. The Broncos had no chance for third place because of their quarterback situation and there was nothing boiling on the first and second downs. They were 1-of-10 in third place and needed an average of 7.7 meters. They couldn’t convert on third and third (first series) and 1 (Cushenberry snap led to lost fumble). The only conversion was a seven-meter rush by Freeman on the third and fifth.

Defense

Playtime. Protections Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson played all 64 snaps, followed by linebacker Alexander Johnson (63), cornerback AJ Bouye (62) and linebacker Josey Jewell (55). Dre’Mont Jones led the linemen with 50. Cornerback Michael Ojemudia played 25 snaps in relief for Bryce Callahan (foot), his first action on defense since the Atlanta game. The Broncos only played two snaps of dime (six defensive backs).

Saints go wild. New Orleans rushed 44 times for 229 yards. The Saints had 17 rushes of at least five meters. The Broncos had eight run “stuffs” (gain or one or less yards, not including the short yardage / goal line). Johnson led with 1 1/2 “stuff”. The Saints had wide lanes to run and play well blocked, indicated by just one booked missed tackle (Jewell). The Broncos just got blocked. The first touchdown run (Hill one yard) was well designed. The formation had two tight ends, one to the left and back, Alvin Kamara made a gesture from right to left. Hill walked in along the right edge, where the Saints had five blockers for five defenders.

“Blowout Package.” Coach Vic Fangio revealed the 4-3 front late in the Las Vegas blowout loss and during five of the last six games against New Orleans. Jewell comes off the field and a fourth lineman comes in as a way to turn the run game tide and just get to the finish line.

Two pockets for Walker. The Broncos rushed five or more on eight of Hill’s 22 drop-backs (36.4%), pressing three sacks, one knockdown and five times for nine total upsets. Defensive ending DeMarcus Walker had two sacks – 3.22 seconds when he looped out during a stunt and the tackle James Hurst was too late to pick him up, and 5.90 seconds when he forced Hill to fumble (making him got the bag). Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb’s pocket was in 3.85 seconds when Jones’ pressure forced Hill into Chubb’s path.

Slow cover day. It was a semi-dull day for the Broncos in coverage. Callahan was attacked twice (two three-yard catches by Michael Thomas) and Hill was 0-for-2 against Bouye (incompleteness and pass break-up that led to the interception of Essang Bassey). Ojemudia had a pass-break-up while playing zone coverage, when Chubb did a good job with a tight Jared Cook downfield in cover and allowed a 20-yard catch by Thomas. Ojemudia made a nice tackle on a side of Thomas (one yard gain).

Special teams

McManus sets record. Kicker Brandon McManus was able to try and score a 58 yards field goal when the Broncos’ third-down game lost five yards (Hamler at end-around). It was McManus’ seventh mark by at least 50 yards this year (franchise record for one season) and the seventh longest field goal in team history. His second kickoff was a 3.13 second pop-up that rolled to the end zone and a 4.15 second touchback.

Strong day for Martin. Sam Martin continued his strong puncture with an average of 3.96 seconds on seven attempts (47.4 average / 41.9 net) and one touchback. The Saints’ only return was 17 yards when Martin drilled a 55-yarder.

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