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Broncos Roundtable: How can Denver find a win against the best team in football?

Zac Stevens Avatar
October 13, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The last time the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams met, it was under drastically different circumstances.

Not only was the game played in St. Louis — the two team’s starting quarterbacks were Shaun Hill and Peyton Manning.

Oh, what a difference four years makes.

Currently, the Broncos are riding a three-game losing streak, while the Rams are arguably the hottest team in football, sitting atop the NFL with an unblemished 5-0 record.

Back in 2014 when Hill and Manning squared off, the Broncos were 9.5-point favorites on the road, yet were stunned as the home team went on to beat them 22-7 in a game in which Denver ran the ball only 10 times.

On Sunday, the home team is yet again a heavy underdog — seven points to be exact — but this time it’s the Rams that are favored.

Can the Broncos be the team with the massive upset this Sunday?

The BSN Broncos crew breaks it down.

WHAT CHANGES NEED TO HAPPEN THIS WEEK?

Ryan

Play Calling — This is one of the easiest things to criticize, but I think the criticism is warranted at this point. Heck, even Bill Musgrave said he wasn’t happy with his calls last week.

If the Broncos want to put together a winning formula this week, it starts on offense. As we said time and time again before the Chiefs game, the best defense for Denver in this one is their offense sustaining drives and keeping LA’s offense off of the field.

Denver needs to establish the run, and when they stray from it, they would do well to utilize the play-action game. At this point, it should be obvious to them that Case Keenum isn’t going to lead the team to victory in many games, they need to find ways to make things easier of the veteran QB, and it starts with handing the ball off to their two young stars.

Zac

Offensive philosophy — The Rams’ defense is good — ranking in the top 10 in points allowed and yards given up — but their offense is better. That’s why the best defense for Denver is keeping their offense on the field.

The best way to do that is establishing and maintaining an effective running game.

Over the past two weeks, when Denver’s run the ball, they’ve been in the game. However, when they’ve given up on the run, they’ve quickly dropped out of the game.

In Week 4, against the Kansas City Chiefs, an incredibly efficient running game helped the Broncos take a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter. After that, however, Denver ran the ball only one time and let their double-digit lead slip out of their hands.

The next week, against the New York Jets, Denver ran the ball more than they passed it in the first quarter and had a 7-0 lead. The next three quarters, the Broncos lost sign of this and only ran the ball nine times on their way to an 18-point loss.

Vance Joseph said Royce Freeman was going to get more touches after Week 4. That didn’t happen.

If they want a shot at handing the Rams their first loss, they’ll need to stick with the run all game long.

Andre

Get back to the fundamentals — It’s easy to think major changes need to occur after the beatdown in New York, but the truth is the team just needs to get back to the basics; no more breakdowns in coverage, make tackles in the open field, and play assignment-sound football.

Against a team like the Rams, if you play sloppy, you might not even show up.

The Broncos need to cater to their strengths, bring pressure with NASCA fronts, stuff the run with that formidable front-three rotation, and run the damn ball.

This team hasor at least should havean established identity by now, it’s time for them to show it.

CHOOSE ONE TO STOP: TODD GURLEY OR JARED GOFF

Ryan

Goff — Look, there’s no right answer here as you need to contain both, but how many people were talking about Kareem Hunt on Monday Night Football after he went for 121 yards and a touchdown? Not many.

You can survive while giving up a chunk here and there to Gurley, but you can’t survive if Goff is picking you apart all the way down the field.

Take away the big pass in this one, and you’ll give yourself a chance. The gameplan should honestly look similar to the one you employed against the Chiefs. You want to get Goff feeling anxious to make the big play when it’s not there and maybe catch him forcing it.

Zac

*Gulp* Goff — Whichever “G” the Broncos choose could very well be the wrong answer, and that’s the problem with the Rams — They have so many different ways to beat their opponent.

Trying to limit Goff and the Rams’ passing attack is the right move and look no further than two weeks ago to see why.

Denver took this same approach when they played the Chiefs led by Patrick Mahomes and Kareem Hunt in Week 4.

In the first three quarters, Denver’s approach worked as the Broncos held the league’s best offense to only 13 points despite Hunt rushing for 108 yards, but limited Mahomes and the air attack.

In the fourth quarter, Mahomes heated up and dropped 14-unanswered points on the Broncos.

As Joseph says, “To score points and to make big plays, that’s through the passing game. That’s never going to change in this league.”

That, and the gameplan against the Chiefs, is why the Broncos first priority on Sunday must be Goff.

Either way, however, they’re playing with fire.

Andre

Gurley — Typically I’d say Goff, who’s been amazing with Sean McVay’s tutelage and his ability to attack defenses vertically. 

However, the Broncos might’ve caught the Rams offense at the right time with their top two receivers slowed by injury, and with Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks not at 100 percent, Gurley’s the one to stop.

Where Gurley really must be kept in check is in the passing game, where he can be devastating in the open field. The Broncos run defense was strong in the first four weeks and will have to be again, the same goes with the linebackers who must be keyed in, attacking the line of scrimmage and stuffing the run before LA’s talented RB gets a head of steam.

Do all that, and Goff and his beat-up wideouts could face a lot of third-and-longs. If you challenge Kupp and Cooks at the line in press and pressure Goff—who is converting only 30 percent of his third-and-long attempts for first downs—you’ll have a chance. All that only works if you first stop Gurley.

KEY MATCHUP

Ryan

Bradley Roby vs. Whoever — If the Broncos had a better option to throw out there, there’s a good chance Roby would have been benched this week. It was clear on Sunday that his confidence is shaken at best.

Let’s just say that going up against this offense isn’t exactly a confidence builder.

Whether he’s lined up against Cooper Kupp, Brandin Cooks or Robert Woods, it’s going to be a tough draw for the struggling corner, and you better believe Jared Goff is going to know exactly where he is at all times.

The Rams are going to go at Roby early and often, it’s up to him prove that’s he’s up to the task.

Zac

Denver’s interior offensive line vs. Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh — The interior of the Jets’ defensive line manhandled the interior of Denver’s offensive line last week in the passing game, playing major roles in all four of Case Keenum’s sacks.

That was a Jets team led by Leonard Williams and Steven McLendon.

On Sunday, the Broncos will be faced with one of the best interior duos of all time in Suh and Donald.

If the interior of Denver’s offensive line plays the way they did against the Jets, Keenum’s pocket will be collapsing on him all day long.

Andre

Unleashing the pass rush — Lost in all the big names in this game is the fact that the Rams offensive line, and especially their tackles, is unbelievably good.

If the Broncos star outside pass rushers are to get back on track, they’ll have to do it against a pair of OTs that have allowed one sack all year between the two of them.

Generating pressure on Goff and winning the battle in the trenches against the run is key for the Broncos to win, doing so against a unit that’s playing great right now won’t be easy.

More than any other week, the Broncos will go as far as Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and the gang up front can take them.

THE BRONCOS WIN IF

Ryan

Things get weird — You’ve already heard that the forecast is calling for some serious snowfall on Sunday, that’s a good thing.

For the Broncos to win this one, they’re going to need that snow to turn this into a weird football game. Fumbles, interceptions, bad snaps on punts, missed field goals, they need a blackout on a bingo card of things that happen in a crazy football game.

Most of all, they need to create turnovers. They need drives that don’t end in kicks for the Rams, and they need short fields for their offense.

Get some breaks and weird bounces early, and this team will get their confidence going behind 76,000 strong.

Zac

They hold the Rams to 20 points — This year, there is not currently a blueprint on how to beat Sean McVay’s team as they remain undefeated. However, over the last two weeks, their defense has shown holes and given up 31 points in back-to-back weeks.

Additionally, in 2017, the Rams scored 20 or fewer points in five of their six losses. Their lowest point total in their 11 wins was 26.

If Denver’s defense can limit the Rams’ offense to 20 points, they’ll give themselves a chance at an upset.

Even in snowy conditions, that’ll be tough as Los Angeles is averaging 34.6 points per game.

Andre

The Rams beat themselves — This is the NFL, anyone can beat anyone even these Broncos against these Rams. Just look at the Buffalo Bills, they won off of their opponent’s mistakes and stuck to their guns to win two.

So test the Rams, let Goff attack Denver’s coverage and see if he can be off with his placement. See if the QB can identify the blitz pre-snap and confuse him with some disguises.

The Rams haven’t been a great run defense, stick to the run, control the clock, set up play-action and complete just a couple big throws towards Sam Shields, the Rams backup CB—starting in place of Aqib Talib.

With the Mile High crowd against them, even the mighty Rams can lose.

RESULT (RAMS -7)

Ryan

Rams 28, Broncos 17 — Too many things need to go right for the Broncos in this one, and the fact of the matter is, they are not nearly as good as the Rams are.

I think Denver can hang in there for three quarters or so, but eventually, that high-powered LA offense will pull the game away.

Zac

Rams 31, Broncos 20 — The Rams aren’t just favorites to win the Super Bowl, they’re the heavy favorites sitting at +300 with the next team, the Kansas City Chiefs, coming in at +600.

Additionally, not only are the Broncos are riding a three-game losing streak, they’ve admitted they’re going to make changes. Sure, those changes could help, but it could also be a desperation move that backfires.

One team is hot, the other is not.

Andre

Rams 28, Broncos 21 — The Broncos are a different team at home with a 6-and-5 record in Vance Joseph’s tenure, and only one of those five losses was a blowout—when the New England Patriots came to town. This won’t be an easy game for the Rams.

Ultimately though, I don’t think the Broncos have it in them to play mistake-free football, which is why I’m predicting they’ll lose by a touchdown but play better than expected—it’s a push as far as the spread is concerned.

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