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Notebook: Broncos Rush into Record Books

Posted Jan 1, 2012

The Broncos, led by Willis McGahee, set a single-season record for rushing yards; The defense steps up; Injuries cast a shadow.

DENVER -- For a franchise rich in rushing history, the Denver Broncos just completed their greatest season running the football.
With a 216-yard rushing performance Sunday against the Chiefs, the Broncos finished the season with 2,632 rushing yards, the most in franchise history.
"I think our running backs have done a tremendous job all year -- our offensive line, the whole blocking element, whether it be our fullback, tight ends, our offensive line," Head Coach John Fox said. "There have been some pretty good teams around here in the past, and to break a franchise record rushing the football, it has a lot of people's signatures on it."
One of the biggest signatures is that of running back Willis McGahee.
McGahee, who is in his ninth season, finished the regular season with 1,199 yards -- the third-highest total in his career and most since 2007 -- despite missing the better part of two games. He continued his dominance Sunday, running for 145 yards, the fourth-highest, single-game total of his career. It also marked the seventh time this season he has rushed for more than 100 yards, tied for the most in the NFL this year, and the most by a Bronco since Clinton Portis rushed for 100 yards in eight games in 2002.
But after the game, the veteran wasn't interested in flaunting his accomplishments. Even though he helped set the franchise mark for rushing yards in a season, he was more focused on the fact that the yards didn't translate into points Sunday.
"We didn't do a good job," McGahee said. "You can run the ball and get three- or four-hundred yards. But we didn't get a touchdown running the ball."
McGahee and the Broncos will work hard this week to ensure the running game has points to show for their effort and hard work.
After being blown out in the last two games, the Broncos defense stepped up Sunday and played the type of game it did during the team's six-game winning streak.
The Broncos gave up just one touchdown -- a 21-yard run to Dexter McCluster in the first quarter -- and forced the Chiefs to punt on seven of their last nine possessions, not including their two possessions cut short at the end of each half.

Perhaps even more encouraging for the Broncos was that they did this without veteran safety and captain Brian Dawkins, who was inactive for the second time in the last three games with a neck injury.
It was a performance that kept Denver in the game until the very end.
"It's tough, because you've got a defense that's playing so great and you want to be able to score some points and take some pressure off them," wide receiver Eric Decker said.
Unfortunately, the Broncos weren't able to get more than a field goal on the board Sunday. With the defense keeping Kansas City at bay, the offense knows it has to step up its game and hold up its end of the bargain.
"The defense played great," McGahee said. "They held them to seven points. The thing is, I feel like we need to step our game up more on the offensive side and just play on their level, because they're playing lights out right now."
The Broncos won the AFC West Sunday, but it wasn't without a cost.
Two of the team's key offensive players in fullback Spencer Larsen and right guard Chris Kuper suffered injuries in the game. Fox said Larsen sprained his knee after he was tackled on a reception in the second quarter.
However, perhaps more significant was the injury to the Broncos' most experienced starting offensive lineman in Kuper. Kuper suffered what Fox called a broken leg in a horrific injury in the first quarter, when he was bent back over tackle Orlando Franklin, who had been forced to the ground.
The game was stopped for about 10 minutes as the training staff attended to Kuper. During that time, the offensive unit formed a huddle, got on a knee and prayed for their captain's health.
"Kup is a great leader for our offense," quarterback Tim Tebow said. "Everybody knows he's a great player, but just his leadership is huge... That was just something that was very, very sad to see, and I know that we'll all be praying for him and his family … very, very disappointing to see."
Even Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton came over to check in on his former teammate and friend.
"I have a best friend in Chris Kuper," Orton said. "It looked like he went down with a serious injury, which is terrible for him; he's a great teammate and captain in every sense of the word. I wish him the best."
Kuper's injury means that for the first time this season, the Broncos will start next weekend's game without the same five offensive linemen that started for the Broncos in Week 1. However, Kuper will likely be replaced by 11-year veteran Russ Hochstein, who helped the Patriots advance to three Super Bowls and played in all 16 games in New England's 16-0 regular season campaign in 2007

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