ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A defense staring across the line of scrimmage at Aaron Rodgers already has more than enough problems on its collective hands. Just start with his next-level arm strength, top-tier mobility and uncanny accuracy on the move.
But Rodgers pushing the pedal to the metal in the Green Bay Packers' offense, that’s a whole other problem entirely.
"Line up and play fast; the most important thing is get lined up, get the call and go," Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall said. "If you’re not ready and they’re playing tempo, that’s going to be bad, there’s going to be guys open, all kinds of bad stuff happens to you then. And he doesn’t need much room to beat you. So it’s line up, be ready and play."
The Packers' offense has transitioned to a more up-tempo style over the last two seasons. There was a time when Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy called the team’s plays and would test a defense by moving from one personnel grouping to the next almost play to play, within the same possession. McCarthy sped things up in the Packers' offense in the 2014 season and then surrendered play-calling duties to Tom Clements before this season. With McCarthy’s blessing, Clements has routinely pushed the pace on offense for the Packers even more, largely out of a three-wide receiver set.
And the Broncos have noticed. Whereas Rodgers and the Packers used to test a defense by challenging its ability to adapt to substitutions from play to play, now Green Bay will tend to challenge a defense by forcing the defenders to stay in the same look and prevent any substitutions by the pace they maintain.
With the amount of times the Broncos rotate their defensive linemen as well as personnel in the secondary, that will present some challenges Sunday night.
"We know they’re going to keep one personnel group out there and move the ball as quick as they can," safety David Bruton Jr. said. "They went from changing personnel every play to keeping one personnel grouping out there and going fast. They do a good job of keeping you in the same look and trying to wear you out."
The Packers do get down to their business quickly on offense. They have six touchdown drives of at least eight plays this season that have used up 4 minutes, 42 seconds or less on the game clock.
Overall, they have 10 touchdown drives of less than four minutes, and six of those have used up 2:48 or less. In their Week 6 win over the San Diego Chargers, the three Packers touchdown drives in the game went for 3:45, 1:26 and 2:48.
That is indeed working with purpose. The pace has largely kept opposing pass-rushers off of Rodgers as well. The Broncos hope their work of the previous three seasons -- in Adam Gase's warp-speed scheme for Peyton Manning -- will continue to pay some dividends this time around.
"Be disciplined in your rush ... they do a good job slowing down your rushes by going fast, staying on the field, not letting you substitute," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "It’ll be something we have to work."
Added Marshall: "We’ve practiced and played against tempo. If they push the tempo, we have to be ready, have our calls ready."