ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos already lost one quarterback. They can’t afford to lose another.
So, they have to protect the passer better in San Diego this weekend.
It was the beatings that sent Peyton Manning to the sideline with a foot injury and it’s the clobbering that Brock Osweiler is taking that have the Broncos concerned about him, too.
“Yeah, real concerned,” coach Gary Kubiak acknowledged this week.
Osweiler has been sacked 11 times in 10 quarters since replacing Manning in the third period against Kansa City three weeks ago.
“That’s way too many,” Kubiak said.
Manning was sacked 15 times in 34 quarters.
Osweiler took some really big hits while bringing the Broncos (9-2) back from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit against New England on Sunday night, a game Denver won in overtime, 30-24.
Although Osweiler would get up, dust off the snow and keep right on going, you can bet Kubiak and general manager John Elway cringed, especially when Osweiler limped away after one hard hit.
“Some of those are his (responsibility) that we’ve got to get corrected,” Kubiak said. “A couple of those are protection issues, but they came after us, especially in the second half they came after us, blitzed us a little bit more and he’ll learn from that. Yes, protecting him and doing a better job, that’s important right now. It really is.”
Part of the problem is that at 6-foot-7, the athletic and agile 25-year-old Osweiler is a big target even though he’s much more mobile than the 39-year-old quarterback he’s replaced.
C.J. Anderson, whose 48-yard touchdown in overtime sent the Patriots (10-1) trudging off the field cursing and clinging to a one-game lead over Denver and Cincinnati in the AFC standings, said Osweiler’s ability to bounce right back up showed what kind of leader the Broncos have.
“I saw the TV copy, there was one hit he took, I saw his whole face looking like this,” Anderson said, scrunching his nose. “I was like, ‘Whoa!’ You know, he’s got a huge frame and they’re going to attack it, but he’s a tough kid, he’s going to get up and he’s going to do what’s best for the team.”
The Broncos are 2-0 in Osweiler’s starts, and the Broncos are now able to open up Kubiak’s playbook, with its assortments of bootlegs and play-action passes. Not only has the running threat improved under Osweiler — 175 yards a game compared to 86 when Manning was the QB — but the Broncos’ passing game has improved, too.
Osweiler hit Demaryius Thomas for 36 yards and Emmanuel Sanders for 39 on the go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, the kinds of throws that have become few and far between for Manning, whose last game featured just five completions and four interceptions before he was yanked.
The Broncos are plus-2 in turnover differential in Osweiler’s starts. With Denver owning the NFL’s best defense, that’s just the kind of ball control Kubiak needs out of his offense.
“I think the No. 1 thing that’s impressed me is I think he understands exactly what he needs to do for the team to be successful,” Kubiak said of Osweiler. “What I mean by that, sometimes guys will get put in situations and they’ll try to do too much. I think he understands he’s on a good football team. If he’ll just do his job, handle the ball well, handle the team well, then our football team will have a chance to be successful.
“I’m really impressed with how he’s approached that. He’s very comfortable in his preparation, his work and obviously he’s confident in his abilities. I really think just understanding the situation he’s in and handling it might be the No. 1 thing.”
With Manning still in a walking boot this week and facing more arduous rehab, Kubiak said rookie Trevor Siemian remains Osweiler’s backup a week after Christian Ponder was signed as insurance.
Asked for a timetable for getting Ponder up to speed, Kubiak said, “I don’t really have one. I just think it’s a matter of us having an idea. Is he comfortable enough to go in there and battle with Trevor to be our 2? Do we get to that point? Trevor is doing a good job. I think we just stay the course and continue to work with Christian.”
Quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp “has got his hands full,” Kubiak said. “He’s got a young quarterback he’s working with right now going on his third start, then he’s got Trevor and now he’s got a new guy.”
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