Heading into Sunday’s game against the Falcons, the Broncos defense hadn’t allowed an opposing running back to gain 100 yards from scrimmage in 14 games.
In the 23-16 victory, Falcons running backs Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman both passed that plateau. Coleman, who played despite concerns about how his sickle cell trait would fare in the high altitude, had 132 receiving yards and added 31 yards on six carries. Freeman ran 23 times for 88 yards and had three catches for 35 yards.
The backs were deployed in various spots around the field and consistently won their battles with Broncos linebackers Todd Davis and Brandon Marshall over the course of the afternoon. Broncos cornerback Chris Harris said it was reminiscent of the way the Patriots have attacked the Broncos in the past, although safety T.J. Ward said he didn’t think it was something every team can use to put the Broncos on their heels.
“Everybody doesn’t have the same personnel,” Ward said, via the team’s website. “You’ve got two good backs in Atlanta. Detroit has two good backs. Every team doesn’t have those types of backs. They’ve got good personnel, they matched up against us well, we didn’t play our best, and they won the game. We’ll be back next week.”
You can bet that other teams will be trying to use their personnel in similar ways in the coming weeks and the Broncos will need to make some adjustments to protect against what’s looked like their only defensive vulnerability over a long period of time.