Evaluating Mike Purcell's Role in Broncos Giving up 244 Rush Yards to Bills

Erick Trickel

The Denver Broncos' rushing defense has improved ever since LB Alexander Johnson and NT Mike Purcell were inserted into the starting lineup in Week 5. However, against the Buffalo Bills, both of these players had their struggles, especially Purcell. 

For being a man of his size, he found himself getting tossed around and missing the plays that he normally makes.

There is a lot of blame that falls on the Broncos' defensive line for how well the Bills ran the ball (244 yards). Of all Denver's defensive linemen, Purcell was the worst one out there. 

There were very few plays he managed to make against the run and saw himself end up on the ground too often. Analyzing the tape of Purcell's game, there were three plays in particular that stood out that highlight the issues Purcell had.

Play 1: 8:26 | First Quarter | Biting Hard

Situation: 1st-&-10

On this play, Purcell actually plays it well initially. He is going with the flow of the play and limiting the options of what the running back can do. The issue comes when the decision is made by the RB.

The RB fakes the cut-back inside, and Purcell bites on it and when he does, it allows the offensive linemen to get better control on him to keep the outside lane contained. From there, the RB takes it outside, while Purcell can’t get off the block in time to make a play.

These are the types of plays Purcell typically he makes. Normally he uses his strength to bully the offensive linemen and is able to read the play correctly, get off the block, and make the stop. Of course, a missed tackle from Kareem Jackson didn’t help things.

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Play 2: 0:57 | Second Quarter | Over-Committing 

Situation: 1st-&-10

This play is rather simple. Purcell gets a good jump at the point of attack and splits the blocks to get into the backfield, though he was helped by both blockers passing him off thinking the other had him. However, he ends up missing the tackle after the jump-cut from the RB.

A big part of the problem on this play is Purcell jumps too far inside before the running back is there. Purcell is typically more patient and reads the RB, but here he was too quick to try and make the play, and it hurt the defense.

Play 3: 14:04 | Third Quarter | Not Trusting Teammates

Situation: 1st-&-10

The Bills are running right at Purcell off the right guard. Purcell gives up his gap assignment to make sure the outside lane, Von Miller's responsibility, is covered. This was where the run was designed to go with the pulling lineman, but Purcell giving up his gap gives the RB the wide-open lane.

Purcell didn’t have the trust in his teammates and gave up his gap. Adam Gotsis got taken out by the blocker, but was also keeping his gap on lockdown for a possible cut-back through that lane. Todd Davis was also late to read and react to the play as he was sitting in the wide-open hole on the cut-back. 

Gotsis and Davis held their responsibility, but it looks like it's their fault when this falls on Purcell. You have to remain disciplined and control your gaps on the defensive line in this scheme.

The Takeaway

Make no mistake, Purcell is a good run-defending nose tackle, but he had a really bad game. There were a lot of issues with this Broncos defense, but their failure to stop the run didn’t help things at all. 

If Purcell managed to play better, even to just his norm, the Broncos defense would’ve looked a little bit better. 

Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel and @MileHighHuddle. 

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Comments (2)
No. 1-1

That first play you highlighted: Purcell does his job plugging the gap the running back is headed towards. You can tell the back has to change direction and break it outside. Gotsis got stood up and Reed had no contain. Purcell runs into the OL beating Gotsis as he pursues.