The Denver Broncos are riding high right now on the strength of Peyton Manning, but his high level of play is dependent on more than just his intellect and pre-snap brilliance. Without a criminally underrated offensive line, Manning might look more like he did in his later years in Indianapolis rather than his mid-decade brilliance.
Another huge factor is the running game, led by Willis McGahee, another player experiencing a late-career renaissance. Although the Broncos are really only running him on two plays, the execution has been so perfect that McGahee’s hard-charging style will almost always gain positive yardage.
The good news for the Bengals’ defense is that they are well-equipped to handle a running back like McGahee. He does have cutback ability on a zone running play, but it is not a violent and sudden change of direction like the Bengals saw in Reggie Bush.
Against the zone play or the trap play that the Broncos occasionally run, penetration is the key. Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga can run downhill like they were shot out of a cannon and backside contain will not be as vital. Geno Atkins can focus on getting upfield all day, as neither McGahee or Manning can make dynamic plays that will punish his aggressiveness.