Monday, October 1, 2007
Notes: Seeing Red Inside the 20
Glenn Martinez played against the Colts Sunday after watching the first three games of the season as a member of the practice squad.
By Christopher Smith
INDIANAPOLIS -- The red zone.
The area inside the 20-yard lines gets a special name. It even has its own statistic, invented by University of Colorado sports information director Dave Plati.
It's no coincidence Old Spice has a deodorant body spray called the Red Zone. It's where teams win or lose games.
Right now it's a word that makes Broncos fans cringe. The perception is that Denver's offense can't punch it in, but the Broncos actually rank 15th in the NFL for touchdown percentage, tied with the Indianapolis Colts by converting 50 percent of their opportunities.
It could certainly be worse; the St. Louis Rams have scored two touchdowns in their 10 red zone trips.
"We've got to score more than we have in the red zone. We had an opportunity to have a number of big plays and we were just a hair away," Head Coach Mike Shanahan said. "You play the game offensively like we did against Indy, good things are going to happen. We played hard, made a couple mistakes but if we give that type of effort, good things are going to happen. We let a couple opportunities slip by, but it'll come."
The offense may not need a defibrillator, but with the additions of Daniel Graham, Travis Henry and Brandon Stokley to go along with a healthy collection of talent and a successful offensive line, fingernails are raking through scalps and shoulders are shrugging.
"I don't know... I mean we move the ball pretty well," Selvin Young said, failing to find a legitimate explanation. "I believe stuff like that happens. It's a long season. I believe statistically by the end of the season, we'll be scoring above 90 percent in the red zone. I'm looking forward to scoring every time we get in the red zone from now on out."
Brandon Marshall maintained a positive outlook, comparing it to a sprinter trying not to peak too early in the season. But he refused to deflect criticism or deny the assertion that the offense needs to score more points.
"It's like (LaDainian Tomlinson said). I'm at a loss for words right now," Marshall said. "No, it's just one of those things where again, when you're playing against the Colts, you can't afford to make any mistakes, and when you get the opportunity to punch it in and score touchdowns instead of field goals, you've got to take advantage of it. We didn't do that and it came back to haunt us in the second half."
Meanwhile, Jay Cutler and the offense are sixth in the NFL in total offense and 19th in total points.
"We're real close. We came in and watched film; it might be one or two people that have to make their block and we're scoring touchdowns. We just have to work harder in practice, and when we work harder in practice, it'll turn over to the game," Graham said.
So what exactly is the problem?
It's a bit like writing a novel; there's going to be ebbs and flows in the plot as the pages turn and some parts may be better than others, but there's just a few pages devoted to the ending. Either it's riveting or it's lacking. There's no in between.
A bad ending can spoil the whole book, posing a delicate balance of risk and reward.
"By the time you get down there, you've got one play, two plays to make something happen," Young said. "At the same time, you always want to reserve the right to kick, so when you're play-calling down there in the red zone, you honestly get limited in some of the things you can do."
The defense has an advantage in the red zone. The receivers have less room to run and the back of the end zone boxes in the offense. Defenses are less likely to give an extra cushion to receivers and more likely to play aggressively. Coaches would sum up the challenge with the word execution.
"We have to execute better. No one's really stopped us; we've stopped ourselves when we got down there," Graham said.