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Vance Joseph says one rookie "needs more opportunities" after impressive Monday-night performance

Zac Stevens Avatar
October 2, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos bullied the big-bad Kansas City Chiefs in the first three quarters of Monday night’s game.

Through 47:13 minutes of play, until 12:47 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Broncos ran to a 23-13 lead against the hottest, most dangerous, team in football in large part due to their success on the ground.

Up until that point, Denver had 159 yards on the ground on a mind-blowing 7.57 yards-per-carry average.

Then, it vanished.

In the team’s next two possessions, Denver ran the ball once for zero yards.

Instead, they put the balls in the hands of Case Keenum for the team’s final 11 plays of the game.

Yes, Denver was trailing by four with 1:39 left on their second possession, forcing them to throw the ball. But the series before, they had a three-point lead with 6:27 left on the clock and they abandoned the run after the first play.

“It was really about getting first downs, however we get them — throwing the ball, running the ball — it’s about getting first downs,” head coach Vance Joseph said on Tuesday, trying to explain why the red-hot running game was nearly nonexistent in the final quarter. “We went three-and-out — not good. We didn’t run any clock — not good versus that offense.

“We can look back and say ‘Boy, we could have handed the ball off two more times that drive and made some yards and burned some clock,’ but that’s hindsight. If you get a first down there, you’re not saying that today.”

On Tuesday, while Joseph didn’t want to admit he would change his team’s actions from the night before, he all but said it will be different moving forward.

“Royce, the last two weeks, is hitting his stride. He is playing at a high level,” Joseph said Tuesday, praising the Broncos’ third-round pick Royce Freeman. “A couple times he turned nothing into something. That’s Royce. That’s what he was in college.

“I’m looking forward to getting him more touches. He played about 16 or 17 plays last night, but he needs more opportunities because he is playing good football.”

Freeman saw the field on only 27 percent of the offensive snaps, yet racked up 67 rushing yards on eight carries for a game-high 8.4 yards-per-carry average.

Despite being listed as the starting running back, Freeman had the fewest offensive plays of the team’s three running backs.

Running the football relentlessly would also help in another crucial component of the game.

“The struggle was just the third downs being very, very long,” Joseph said, pointing to the team’s 2-for-11 third-down conversion rate. “We have to have a plan, really on second-and-long. First down, if you can hit a play for six, you’re in a pretty good situation. On first down, if you hit nothing, then you’re in 2nd-and-10. Now, what’s your plan? Because you don’t want to be in 3rd-and-10.

“Maybe running the football there more often, getting four or five back would help you get more manageable third downs.”

Precisely the opportunity Denver missed on their three-and-out possession in the fourth quarter, where they threw the ball on second down, setting up for a long third down, which they weren’t able to convert.

“But again, it’s the next morning, so it’s easy to say now, but when you’re calling a game, you’re calling a game to win, and you have a plan going in,” Joseph said, not making any excuses. “Obviously, you want shorter third downs so you can covert easier.

It’s clear Monday night’s gameplan didn’t call for a strong emphasis on the running game, as Denver dominated on the ground, yet only had 22 rushing attempts to 37 dropbacks.

What also became clear on Tuesday, was Joseph will have an emphasis on pounding the rock, especially with Freeman, especially on second down and especially when it’s working as well as it was against the Chiefs.

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