Don’t fumble. Or you may not get the ball back.
With the Broncos trying to make a comeback in the closing minutes of what became a 39-33 loss to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday night, Hillman lost the ball on the Colts’ 3-yard line. A score could have potentially cut the Colts' lead to two points at the time.
The fumble, in a season when both Hillman and Montee Ball have had more than their share of troubles with ball security, has cost Hillman a spot on the team’s game day roster against the Washington Redskins. Hillman will be a game day inactive and rookie C.J. Anderson will be in uniform for the first time. Last season Knowshon Moreno was a game day inactive for eight consecutive games after a Week 2 fumble in a loss to Atlanta and only returned to the lineup after Willis McGahee injured his knee.
The most recent move is a departure from the confidence Broncos coach John Fox had expressed in Hillman earlier in the week. When asked about Hillman’s fumble in Indianapolis Fox said:
“If you follow the game and look around the league, most of your top backs have two or three fumbles. It’s not anything you like; it’s not anything we’re happy about. I’m sure if you ask him, he’d probably reply the same. But it’s no different than I feel comfortable having (wide receiver Andre Caldwell) be out there catching the ball. (Hillman) is part of our running back corps -- he actually had some very nice runs in the game.’’
The depth chart adjustment does rob the Broncos of their best big-play potential in run game, given Hillman’s speed. But the coaches have grown increasingly frustrated with the fumbles, especially since Hillman’s was the Broncos’ second lost fumble of the season inside the opponents’ 10-yard line and continue to try to get the message through.
Ball fumbled at the Giants’ 6-yard line in the Broncos’ game-opening possession of the win over New York. Hillman had also fumbled against Jacksonville two weeks ago, but Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker dove into the pile to secure that one. And Hillman lost two fumbles in the preseason, including one into the Seahawks’ endzone that Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner returned 106 yards for a touchdown.
Heading into this week’s games the Broncos running backs were tied for the league lead in lost fumbles by the position group with three – with Green Bay -- and the Broncos’ backs tied for the league lead last season, with Buffalo, with seven lost fumbles.
Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase was asked Thursday how to fix the problem.
“You just keep working him at practice and probably have a lot of guys going after it, especially on defense … And we’ve got to keep working on it. The way that we’re fumbling, it’s just unacceptable. We’ve got to get this fixed and that’s been a big focus for us again this week. Hopefully we can restart everything; we’ve got a fresh week to get to zero turnovers.”
Gase was also asked if Anderson was ready to play after missing time in the preseason and early in the regular season with a severe knee sprain, and said:
“I think so. It’s just depending on whether or not we can get him up. It’s all going to be based off of what Coach Fox wants to do.’’
Anderson made the Broncos roster to start the season as an undrafted rookie.