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BMW Ultimate Performance: Broncos' exemplary work against the run starts up front

Posted Nov 22, 2017

Last Sunday, they prevented Cincinnati's running backs from getting even a single first down on the ground, as the Bengals' only rushing first down was from QB Andy Dalton.

Cincinnati running back Joe Mixon slammed his way into the Broncos' front seven 20 times last Sunday.

Not once did he emerge with a first down.

In a season that has seen the Broncos' run defense return to its place near the top of the league after a subpar performance in 2016, the work of the Broncos' front seven -- and their defensive line in particular -- was at its peak last Sunday during the 20-17 loss to the Bengals.

Nose tackle Domata Peko Sr. and defensive end Derek Wolfe combined for 11 total tackles -- including five behind the line of scrimmage -- as Mixon was held to no gain or a loss of yardage on eight of his 20 attempts.

Peko, Wolfe and defensive end Adam Gotsis repeatedly won their one-on-one matchups at the line of scrimmage as they have often throughout the season, helping the Broncos rank fourth in the league against the run when measured by average per game and second when based on average per carry.

"Those guys all work together great," Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods said. "They coordinate the games. Coach [Bill] Kollar does a nice job in terms of setting up what he feels can attack an offensive line, and those guys have really done well so far this year."

Peko's presence has been the primary difference, but Wolfe's return to health, Gotsis' emergence and Shelby Harris' arrival have all been contributing factors.

“Guys are just doing their job," Woods said. "It’s all about gap security. You have to win in your gap. Guys have to fit downhill to get double-teams off the D-linemen. That’s what we’ve done well the whole year. Then the effort to the ball, the pursuit, has been excellent.”

A few other numbers illustrate the depth of the Broncos' dominance against the run.

FIRST DOWNS: No team is allowing first downs at a stingier pace than the Broncos, who have allowed just one first down every 7.22 attempts. The next closest team, the Vikings, allow the sticks to move once every 6.11 carries.

STOPS FOR NO GAIN OR LOSSES: Denver is the league's third-best team at this, stopping opposing runners at or behind the line of scrimmage once every 3.67 attempts -- over a full attempt better than the league average of one every 4.82 carries. These stops help knock an opposing offense off schedule and are a key reason why the Broncos lead the league in forcing possessions that end without a first down.

PREVENTING BIG RUNS: The Broncos rank fourth in this statistic, allowing one run of double-digit yardage every 13.68 attempts, 4.39 attempts better than the league average. After struggling in this area against the Eagles in Week 9, the Broncos haven't allowed a double-digit carry in their last two contests.

RUNS OF AT LEAST 4 YARDS: These are the runs that keep an offense on or ahead of schedule, and the Broncos are the league's best at preventing them, allowing one run of 4-plus yards every 2.92 attempts. The league average is one every 2.37 carries.

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