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Commanders used screen play to take advantage of Broncos defense

There are plenty of reasons why the Broncos blew an 18-point lead to the Washington Commanders on Sunday. Their inability to stop Commanders quarterback Sam Howell’s screen passes was part of it.

Denver was clinging to a 24-21 lead early in the fourth quarter when Howell threw a short pass to his left to running back Antonio Gibson, who had plenty of green grass in front of him as he raced down the field for 36 yards. . Two plays later, sophomore running back Brian Robinson Jr. powered into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown to give the Commanders their first lead at 28-24.

With Washington facing a second-and-8 with 10:15 left, the Broncos blitzed six defenders. As linebacker Josey Jewell and defensive end Zach Allen closed in, Howell threw the ball to Robinson, who took advantage of another open field near the Washington sideline and ran 21 yards for a first down .

Finally, Robinson scored on a 15-yard rushing touchdown, extending the Commanders’ lead to 35-24 with 7:11 left in regulation.

“It was just crucial moments in the game where we needed key stops,” Broncos cornerback Pat Surtain II said after the game. “It’s frustrating as a defense because we have a standard for ourselves.”

In a chess match between two friends and former Colorado football teammates, Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy used screen play to expose Broncos defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and earn a 35-33 victory .

Howell went 7 of 7 for 92 yards with an average of 13.1 yards per screen pass attempt, according to Pro Football Focus. Three of those screens traveled more than 20 yards. Robinson caught two passes for 42 yards – both gains of 21 yards.

“I think the screen play was one of the biggest things that helped us win that game,” Howell said. “The (offenses) did a good job. The offensive line did a good job in space. We were coming to the screens because these guys were starting. Getting to those screens was huge for us.

Head coach Sean Payton was disappointed with Denver’s defense, which allowed 21 points and 198 total yards in the second half. Inside linebacker Alex Singleton said the Commanders had a good game plan, but the defense should have done a better job of getting stops.

“(When it comes to) screens and backhands, you have to get to the ball,” Singleton said. “Collectively we need to be better at this. »

Bonus points

• Payton isn’t used to seeing big tracks crumble before his eyes. As of Sunday, Payton-led teams were 72-0 — including the playoffs — when leading by at least 18 points, according to ESPN Stats and Info.


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