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Strength Versus Strength

Posted Sep 29, 2012

The Broncos are expecting the Raiders to rely on the versatility and talent of Darren McFadden, so on Sunday, 11 sets of eyes on the Denver defense will be on the running back.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Running back Darren McFadden is the center of the Oakland Raiders' offensive attack. On Sunday, he'll also be the focus of the Denver defense.

"For the last couple of years, I've said he's the best back in the game because of what he can do," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "All the different things -- he picks up blitzes, he does it all. If they're not using him enough then they're hurting themselves. That guy's an amazing player and we're aware of what he can do."

Because of the involvement that the fifth-year back has in the Raiders' offense - he leads the team in rushing yards, carries, and receptions -- swarming McFadden will be the number one priority for Denver.

"They get the ball to him," Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio said. "They feature him in the run and the pass game. It'll be important that we get hats around him and tackle him. He's just a good football player. Good football players get the ball in their hands and they do things that cause problems."

Causing problems is exactly what McFadden has done, averaging 6.3 yards per carry in his career against Denver.

During the Broncos' current home losing streak to Oakland, which stretches over the last four games in Denver, McFadden has piled up 478 total yards and six touchdowns.

One major difference in the Denver defense this year is the mindset that has come with the new defensive coordinator.

Since he arrived in the Mile High City, Del Rio has predicated the defense on stopping the run.

"Coach Del Rio is always harping on, 'Hey, nobody runs the ball on us. No matter what, nobody runs the ball,'" rookie linebacker Steven Johnson said. "We've taken pride in that and we've just been trying to live up to that standard and just executing and doing what we have to do to be able to stop the run."

Through most of the 2012 season, the defense has followed through on Del Rio's demands. In three games, there has been only one half in which the Broncos allowed their opponent to run for more than three yards per carry.

They shut down the Steelers and Falcons on the ground, and even though the Texans started off strong, Denver responded by limiting Arian Foster and company to 60 yards on 20 carries in the second half.

McFadden, however, brings yet another challenge to the table.

"Defensively, that's kind of your mindset week in and week out - you don't want a team to establish the run," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "You want to make it a one-dimensional game. We have our hands full this week and it's a tough test for our defense and we'll be ready for it."

Last week against the Steelers, McFadden showed he has fully recovered from a knee injury in 2011 by rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, including a 64-yard touchdown burst.

Brooking believes McFadden's big-play ability is what the Broncos must ensure doesn't come to fruition on Sunday.

"I think he's the best back we face, no disrespect to the other guys we've faced this year so far but he's explosive," Brooking said. "The explosive runs when you turn on the tape, they're very evident, and they stick out. He can get the edge of your defense and when he gets outside, there aren't too many guys in this league that are going to catch him."

As the Raiders offense and the Broncos defense look to capitalize on their strengths this Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the victor could be decided by the success that McFadden does or doesn't have.

"He's definitely a key," rookie defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "We stop him, that's kind of the heart of their offense, the run game at least. So if we get him, we'll be alright."