ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After two weeks of watching Peyton Manning take seven sacks, the Broncos turned to the pistol formation to change up their offense against the Lions in Detroit.
The coaching staff had seen Green Bay have success using it in the 2014 regular-season finale against the Lions and decided to implement it during the week, Manning said postgame.
The usage was successful, with Manning able to operate with more time in the pocket to find receivers and put the Lions defense on its heels. He finished the game 31 for 42 with 324 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and just one sack.
"We operated cleaner," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "That's the best that we've protected our quarterback. Whether it was the pistol or whatever, it's the best that we protected him. There was some progress from that standpoint."
Whether it was the formation or improvement in the line, Manning wouldn't make a conclusion in either direction, but he knew that such an effort against the Lions' defensive front was impressive.
"I don't know," he said Wednesday. "We had some third-and-long calls. At times, we had some things that Detroit was doing up front that forced you maybe to move to relocate in the pocket with some of their games in order to move to find the throwing lane or whatnot. [...] Like I said, Detroit had a good front. These guys [the Minnesota Vikings] have a good front. You want to be able to throw it on time, but if you have to move a little bit to get it there, I think I can do it."
Although the offense performed better in pass protection and moving the chains through the air, Kubiak was not satisfied with the lackluster production on the ground (19 rushes for 41 yards).
"We still didn't run the ball well," Kubiak said. "We played a little more effectively, stayed on schedule and at the end of the day moved the ball better. There were some good things, but still the struggle to get the run game going and it's something that we have to continue to press with."
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson prefers to run out of the I or single-back formation, but has rushed 15 times out of the shotgun so far this season. He totaled 36 yards on those carries, all of which came in the first two weeks.
"I don't really think it is as big a challenge," Zimmer said. "Adrian, I think the second week, ran out of the gun a few times more than he did this past week. He does a good job out of that. Teddy does a good job of making sure that we get him into the right plays when we're in that. It just adds another dimension. I think it's the same as what they're doing in Denver now with the pistol."
The Broncos got back to the practice field on Wednesday, beginning on-field preparation for the Vikings. (All photos by Ben Swanson unless otherwise noted)
Whether they continue to lean heavily on the pistol remains to be seen, but as the offense progresses and coalesces, the Broncos are making steps to find ways to be most effective.
"I think we're finding some things that maybe we do better," Manning said of the offense's strides since Week 1. "We're kind of repeating some of those things. I think the coaches are just trying to put us in a better position to move the ball and execute.
"We're still learning every week because you're getting a new challenge because you're playing a different type of defense. We're playing another four-down defense that has different types of blitz packages. Every week presents a new challenge, but you're just looking to improve in certain areas. There's still plenty of improvement to be made, but I thought we made some strides last week."