(Reuters) - The Denver Broncos have failed to reinvent themselves as a run-first team this season, yet their old Peyton Manning formula and a ferocious defense have them atop the NFL.
When new head coach Gary Kubiak arrived in Denver he vowed to emphasize the ground game to take pressure off his aging quarterback, but thus far his vision has not materialized.
The Broncos defeated the Detroit Lions 24-12 on Sunday and improved to 3-0 despite rushing for just 41 yards on the night.
“We’re just going to keep working and try to create more balance,” Manning told reporters after tossing for 324 yards and two scores.
“We have five new starters on our offensive line that haven’t played together. We’re just three games in, we’re still learning a lot about ourselves.”
What Denver has learned thus far is that they may need to rely on their air attack more than they had hoped.
They entered the contest against the Lions averaging just 65 rushing yards per game, and they failed to even reach that mark.
Neither of the team’s primary runners, C.J. Anderson nor Ronnie Hillman, has distinguished himself which is alarming for a Kubiak coached team.
In Kubiak’s 20 previous seasons as a head coach or offensive coordinator, his teams have featured a 1,000-yard running back in 15 of those campaigns.
While Manning has launched an aerial assault on the NFL throughout his career, the franchise knows they must create a running threat in order to succeed in the playoffs where the Broncos fell in their divisional round last season.
On the bright side, this year’s version of the Broncos has shown off a stout defense. The defensive unit entered the night leading the NFL in fewest yards allowed and most touchdowns scored.
Denver terrorized quarterback Matthew Stafford in their latest win, sacking him four times and recording two interceptions.
“It’s how we prepare during the week. We harped on getting turnovers,” said Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware. “We’re aggressive on the back end and we try to win in the trenches (on the defensive line).”
So long as they do it just might buy Denver more time to find their winning combination in the run game.
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Sudipto Ganguly