Lack of deep passing game keeps Broncos grounded

By: FRANK SCHWAB
November 10, 2009
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photo - Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton is slow to get off the ground after being pressured by the Pittsburgh Steelers defense during the second half at Invesco Field in Denver on Monday, Nov. 9, 2009. Photo by BRYAN OLLER, THE GAZETTE
Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton is slow to get off the ground after being pressured by the Pittsburgh Steelers defense during the second half at Invesco Field in Denver on Monday, Nov. 9, 2009. Photo by BRYAN OLLER, THE GAZETTE 

Every running play seemed like a wasted down, and most passing plays after halftime were a struggle. The Denver Broncos offense, once a pleasant surprise, has to regroup.

The team is in a major offensive slump, with only one touchdown in two games. Denver’s only touchdown Monday came courtesy of the defense. The Broncos never got inside Pittsburgh’s 20-yard line.

Denver, which had 66 rushing yards against Baltimore two weeks ago, had 27 against the Steelers. Quarterback Kyle Orton, who didn’t reach 100 yards passing against the Ravens until a meaningless final drive, had 58 second-half yards against Pittsburgh. Denver averaged 9.8 yards per drive after halftime Monday.

“As a quarterback, I put it on myself,” Orton said. “It is my offense, and I will get it back on track.”

The lack of a deep passing game could be affecting productivity as the offense relies on short and intermediate routes. Denver is tied for 22nd in the NFL in passes of 20 yards or more. According to the NFL’s game statistics site, only 31 of Denver’s 269 pass attempts have been deep throws — which are defined as 16 or more yards.

Coach Josh McDaniels said protecting the quarterback and finding good matchups are two factors that dictate how often the team tries a deep pass. And if the safeties are playing deep, he doesn’t want the quarterback to lob a low-percentage attempt.

“You’re trying to look at it from both sides: be smart and take shots,” he said last week. “Not all shots have to be 60-yard throws down the field. We’ve never really done that where I’ve been. We try to make sure we’re smart with the ways we try to make explosive plays.” 

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