Sports

Broncos' running game running out of excuses after Ravens loss -- but who deserves the blame?

Last week, we suggested that based on her performance in a familiar Snickers commercial, Betty White would be an upgrade over the current Broncos running backs -- a reference that, truth be told, we thought was kinda funny. But after yesterday's worse-than-the-score-implies 31-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, we're not laughing anymore. Which begs the question: How the hell can the Broncos step up the ground game before the season goes down like the Hindenburg?

The dubious quality of running backs like Laurence Maroney and Correll Buckhalter is only part of the problem -- and anyone who thinks a healthy Knowshon Moreno would cure all the Broncos' ills is being hopelessly naive.

The root of the problem is Coach Josh McDaniels's decision to ditch Denver's zone-blocking scheme, which served the team well for many years. Even if the mostly revamped offensive line gels, players like Zane Beadles, Ryan Harris and Chris Kuper have shown little ability to overpower opponents, as McDaniels' current approach requires. Whether that's because they aren't being put in a position to excel or due to a talent deficit hardly matters at this point. They haven't gotten the job done week after week after week -- and because of their inability to open holes in rival defenses, every team left on the Broncos' schedule will be able to do as the Ravens did -- essentially disregard the run.

And in today's NFL, a lousy running game offers a one-way ticket to Loserville. Joe Flacco's stats weren't nearly as impressive as Kyle Orton's, but with Ray Rice regularly slashing the Broncos' D, they didn't need to be. Besides, big passing numbers aren't necessarily translating to wins this year throughout the league, as Philip Rivers' 431 yards in a loss to the friggin' Raiders demonstrates.

Point blank, yesterday's miseries are on McDaniels -- and if he doesn't swallow his pride and start tinkering with an offensive line approach that's not working in the slightest, he'll deserve a lot more blame as the season moves forward.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts