Ground Game: The Broncos passing problems can be solved with an old school approach

Nov 22, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) hands the ball off to running back Phillip Lindsay (30) in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

“This generation, we make things too complicated.”

– Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay, age 26

And with that, Phillip Lindsay said it all. If there’s ever been an old soul, it’s Lindsay, who’s just a bit past the midway point of his third NFL season. Young and energetic, Lindsay still takes an old school approach.

And that approach was precisely why his Denver Broncos took care of business against the soaring Miami Dolphins on Sunday afternoon. Denver turned Tua Tagovailoa from the league wunderkind into the rookie that he is, ran wild over one of the Miami D and sent the Dolphins back to South Beach still in second place in the AFC East. Vic Fangio’s team grabbed its fourth win of the season by securing a 20-13, workmanlike victory that put an end to Miami’s five-game winning streak.

Neither team is great – or was great on Sunday – but the Broncos did enough to do what they needed to in order to win.

“It’s the NFL. We all do the same thing. It’s about executing,” Lindsay said afterwards.

And execute they did. What they executed best, however, is as old school as it gets – especially in Denver.

They finally ran the damn ball.

It wasn’t about “Melvin or Phil” either – both Melvin Gordon and Lindsay were stellar. Gordon rattled off 84 rushing yards on 15 carries, while Lindsay slashed his way to 82 yards on 16 carries. They outran, ran over and outlasted the Dolphins. It felt like old times in Denver.

The talk, for the better part of a pandemic, has been about the quarterback – and whether or not he’s the answer. Short-term. Long-term. Any-term. Unfortunately, Drew Lock’s play on Sunday didn’t answer that question. Lock was certainly better than he’s been of late. His first possession interception drew a Mile High groan, but he proved to be – if anything – mentally tough. Lock bounced back and turned in an acceptable effort – one that read 18-30, 270 yards and a rating of 75.7 – but not one that definitively appointed him the future of the franchise (or not).

Maybe the game provided another solution, however.

Don’t have Patrick Mahomes? Aaron Rodgers? Kyler Murray? Probably won’t be bad enough to go the route of Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or even Ohio State’s Justin Fields? Your quarterback isn’t the answer?

No problem.

If your quarterback can’t make miracles, don’t ask him to.

Run. The. Ball.

“I’ve always said a quarterback’s two best friends are a running game and a good defense,” Fangio said after the game.

To the naked eye, Fangio and Lindsay look nothing alike. But to a keen observer, they might be closer to the same guy than one might think: They’re both old school.

And that’s not cool in the high-flying NFL, a league that’s infatuated with points and stats and airing it out at all costs. But at last check, there are still only a handful of really, really good NFL quarterbacks – most teams don’t have one; only a few lucky ones do. Denver has been in search of one since one of the best ever retired, and they haven’t had much luck.

It doesn’t have to be all or none though. Landing the likes of Peyton Manning in free agency is a once-in-a-franchise occurrence. Searching for the “next” is actually more common. But while the search – or Drew Lock’s development – is ongoing, why not do what you can do well along the way?

Did Ryan Tannehill suddenly become a top-10 NFL quarterback? Or could it be that a formerly “bad” quarterback was suddenly handed a really good running game? This season, Tannehill looks fantastic – leading one the NFL’s best running offenses.

When it’s all said and done, Lock may be great, mediocre or below average. That’s all still to be determined. But on Sunday against the Dolphins, he was a winning quarterback.

Why?

As Phillip Lindsay wisely suggests, there’s no need to overcomplicate things. Lock won because the Broncos did what the best Broncos teams have always done.

They ran wild.

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