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BMW Ultimate Performance: Broncos' rushing game rediscovers its footing

Posted Nov 2, 2017

Against Kansas City, the Broncos got back to their early-season form on the ground.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Given what the Broncos will face on Sunday in Philadelphia, with the Eagles leading the league in rushing defense, it was imperative that they get their ground game back to form Monday in Kansas City.

Once the Broncos shook off the frustration of Jamaal Charles' first-quarter fumble Monday night, they did that, finishing with a season-high 5.7 yards per carry while racking up 177 yards.

The game saw the Broncos bolstered by double-digit runs; a season-high six of their 31 attempts went for at least 10 yards. That gave the Broncos more double-digit pickups on the ground in any game in over a calendar year, since their 27-9 win over Houston on Oct. 24, 2016.

C.J. Anderson had three of the double-digit pickups, with one each for Charles, Devontae Booker and Trevor Siemian. For Anderson, who once again led the Broncos in rushes and rushing yardage and is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season, that wasn't enough; he wants the breakaway run.

"[After] my first 41-yard touchdown [in 2014], I am considered a home-run running back. We just want to make plays. I thought the run [game] was really good and we stepped up," Anderson said. "Now it’s time to make that next step in our room. That’s protecting the football and making long runs.

"Nothing wrong with 10-to-12-play drives, but we can get it done in two.”

Some of that explosive production from the running backs could come as targets in the passing game, which opens the door for Booker in particular. Among the 49 running backs with at least 10 receptions so far this season, only seven have a higher yards-after-catch average than Booker, who has picked up 9.5 yards after the catch per reception.

That explosive potential is why Booker could become a larger part of the offense in Week 9 and beyond.

"He’s had limited touches, but in those touches, he’s had explosive plays. He’s a young guy with strong, fresh legs," Head Coach Vance Joseph said. "As we go along here, he should get more opportunities.”

But whenever Booker, Charles and Anderson succeed on their own, they will celebrate together.

"We have three very, very unselfish guys back there and we all share it," Anderson said. "When ‘Book’ scored, we were all in the end zone. Just like when I’ve scored they’ve been in the end zone with me, and when Jamaal scored against Buffalo, we were all out there.

"We know we’re sharing the carries and we’re just trying to be the best backfield in the National Football League any way possible."

DEFENSE LIMITING YARDAGE AS FEW HAVE

On the defensive side of the line of scrimmage, the Broncos have done something they haven't accomplished in over a decade: hold eight consecutive opponents below 5.0 yards per play.

That is the team's longest regular-season streak since an eight-game run that extended from the last two games of the 2005 season through the first six games of the 2006 season.

Denver is also the only team in the league to hold all of its opponents so far this season to below 300 yards in each game. No other team has done that more than five times. The Broncos are the first team since the 2008 Steelers to hold their first seven opponents below 300 yards, according to pro-football-reference.com.

Making matters all the more exasperating is the fact that the Broncos are the first team in 19 years to hold their first seven opponents below 300 yards -- but not post a winning record in those games.

As Joseph has mentioned, this is where everything comes back to the issue of turnovers.

"We’ve outgained our opponents in the four losses," he said. "Our numbers and stats for Monday night, it’s silly. We won the yardage. We won third downs. We won the red zone. We lost one battle, and that’s turnovers."

Unfortunately for the Broncos, that has made all the difference -- for all the wrong reasons.

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