ENGLEWOOD – One of Josh McDaniels’ biggest priorities when he became coach of the Denver Broncos was fixing the special teams. About two-thirds of the way through the season, there have been some improvements but not enough to judge the special teams a complete success.
While McDaniels pointed out some of the things the Broncos have done well on special teams – or, as he prefers to call it, the “kicking game” – such as steady improvement from punter Mitch Berger, kicker Matt Prater’s good season on field goals and kickoffs, and coverage on punts and kickoffs, consistency has been an issue.
“I think we feel we have an opportunity to win the kicking game each week with what we’re doing and who we’re playing with, but it’s a matter of going out there and executing well that day,” McDaniels said. “There’s definitely been days we’ve done it and there’s been days where we’ve played against teams that outperformed us in the kicking game.
Special teams coach Mike Priefer pointed out that the play of the special teams has often determined the final outcome of the game.
“In games we’ve won, we’ve contributed well for the most part,” Priefer said. “In games we’ve lost, we haven’t executed well enough to help our football team win.”
Priefer said in a game like Denver’s loss at Baltimore, when the Ravens returned a kickoff for a touchdown, the special teams didn’t have the intensity or urgency they needed to contain Baltimore’s special teams.
The Broncos are concerned about this week’s opponent, Kansas City, and not letting the Chiefs win the special-teams battle.
“This week it’s going to be huge,” McDaniels said. “I don’t know if we’re going to play a team that wins field position quite the same as Kansas City does.”
McDaniels saved special praise for Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt, who is third in the NFL among qualifiers in net punting average.
“Their punter is certainly one of the best, maybe of all time, and does a great job changing field position,” McDaniels said. “We have to do a good job trying to limit that and we can’t let them swing the whole field on one play.”