When Interim Head Coach Jerry Rosburg stepped into his new role with the Broncos, he expected significant improvement from special teams — and on Sunday, the unit delivered.
Rosburg, who served as an NFL special teams coordinator for almost two decades, said that special teams would be a focal point in the final two weeks of the season. As an active participant in the unit's meetings and practice sessions throughout the week, he worked hard to make corrections. In the Broncos' Week 17 game against the Chiefs, the results were immediate.
In addition to a blocked field goal and improvement in the return game, Denver's special teams unit made its best play of the season. As Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney attempted to return a punt in the second quarter, inside linebacker Alex Singleton punched the ball out and tight end Eric Saubert jumped on it, setting up the Broncos' offense at Kansas City's 16-yard line.
The turnover quickly led to seven points for Denver, as quarterback Russell Wilson ran for a touchdown on the offense's first snap of the drive.
"I was covering a punt, and I was making a tackle and the runner was trying to bounce off, and I felt the ball move," Singleton said after the game. "I figured it was going to come out with my whole left hand on the ball."
Saubert noted that Rosburg's decades of experience coaching special teams was apparent throughout the week of practice, and his approach paid off during the game.
"[He emphasized] just getting back to fundamentals," Saubert said. "A guy like him, how he has been in special teams a long time, he brought a different perspective to all of our guys. That is always helpful, when you get to work with the coaches. He was fresh, and a lot of guys bought in."
Rosburg said after the game that while there is still room to grow, he was pleased with the special teams' performance against the Chiefs and expects the unit to build on that success.
"I was happy about that [fumble recovery]," Rosburg said. "I was happy about the blocked field goal. I wasn't happy about the opening kickoff return. I wasn't happy about us getting a touchback. Special teams has to be finely tuned. These players need to play with fundamentals. We worked so hard this week on teaching these players how to play special teams. I saw that out there. We played penalty-free on special teams, if I am not mistaken. We played with aggression. We played with fundamentals. Good things happen when you do that. It is not about scheme or all that. It is just play[ing] well, and that fits with the offense and the defense. That is why we need to do better. There are a number of situations in a game where we didn't do that, and we need to improve. I was encouraged by the players' effort this week. As I told you all back in Denver, I got in the middle of that. We will be trending upwards, I hope. I am going to work this week to make it better."
Below the Fold
Following the injury to Bills safety Damar Hamlin on Monday night, the NFL community has raised more than $6 million for The Chasing M's Foundation’s toy drive as of Wednesday morning. Hamlin's foundation supports toy drives, back-to-school drives, children's camps and more in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.
Prominent members of the NFL community, including current and former Broncos, have contributed to the fundraiser. Russell and Ciara Wilson and the Why Not You Foundation were some of the top donors, Mike Klis of 9NEWS reported.
Pro Football Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe, center Lloyd Cushenberry III, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford were also among the top contributors.