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Winning in the Trenches

Posted Nov 7, 2012

The play of the offensive and defensive lines has played a key role in the Broncos' current three-game win streak.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As the men up front go, the rest of the team follows.

In the Broncos’ case, that’s been a good thing, as the play of the offensive and defensive linemen has set the tone for the team’s current three-game win streak.

During that span of games, which began with Denver’s Week 6 win at San Diego, the Broncos are the only team in the NFL to not allow a sack.

“They have done a great job and certainly every quarterback appreciates (them),” Manning said about his offensive linemen. “That way you don’t sacked. Really, I didn’t get hit a whole lot against Cincinnati. I appreciate the effort those guys have made week after week. There have been some different guys in there playing and whoever’s been in there stepped up to the plate, so I’m grateful for their effort.”

Keeping the quarterback from getting sacked involves all 11 offensive players. The line has to do its job, running backs have to pick up blitzers and anybody running a route has to get open.

Then, the quarterback has to be able to recognize where blitzes are coming from and unload the ball in a timely fashion.

“The O-line’s been doing a tremendous job,” tight end Jacob Tamme said. “Tight ends, we take a lot of pride — we’re not in there as much as they are, but we take it very seriously, and Peyton does a great job of getting the ball out when he needs to."

"It’s really a combination of the whole offense doing things well in the passing game and getting better. If we can continue to do that, we’ll be good.”

Tackle Ryan Clady, who is the only starting left tackle to have not allowed a sack this season, credited Manning’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly with playing a major role in keeping the quarterback clean.

“I think we’re just kind of in a rhythm right now,” Clady said. “Peyton Manning, he’s been getting rid of the ball fairly efficiently. That always helps and we’ve just been able to sustain guys back for long enough for him to get the ball out.”

Since giving up a total of eight sacks over the team’s first three games, Manning has only been sacked twice. In that span, he’s compiled an NFL-best passer rating of 114.3.

Manning attributes that improvement to an increased comfort level between himself and an offensive line with which he’s in his first year working behind.

“Those guys practice well,” Manning said. “We spend a lot of time together talking during meetings, watching film together. The one thing between a quarterback and his offensive line is constant communication. You’re always talking. We treat practice like a game, treat meetings like a game where we’re constantly talking, trying to be on the same page, especially when you play on the road.”

On the other side of the ball, Denver’s defensive line has been making itself at home in opposing backfields.

Since the win streak began, teams have run for an average of 77.3 yards per game against the Broncos, which ranks second in the NFL.

Dropping back to pass hasn’t worked much better for opponents, as Denver is tied for second in the league with 10 sacks in that span. That pressure up front has helped the secondary, forcing opposing quarterbacks into hurried passes under pressure.

The secondary has capitalized, tying for second in the league with 25 pass breakups and ranking third with six interceptions over the past three games.

“We’re supposed to complement each other,” safety Mike Adams said. “That’s how it’s supposed to be. If the rush is good, the back end plays well; if the back end plays well, the front seven plays good.”

Getting reps against one another in practice dating back to training camp has helped both sides of the line continue to improve.

“That’s probably true in any phase of the game,” Head Coach John Fox said. “The next thing is the mindset to get better every day. You’re always tweaking, adjusting your scheme. Sometimes it might be player related – changing players and what not – but all in all, I think it’s just that mindset to improve every week. There’s been a lot of rough starts in this league and it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish and that could be as a team, a defense, an offense, even special teams.”