ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Nothing that Brock Osweiler and the offense did Sunday in terms of formations and alignments was anything that the Broncos did not work on during OTAs, training camp and the preseason. It was familiar. It didn't require much adjustment.
But with 51 of the Broncos' 68 snaps coming from under center, it was a dramatically different look from the shotgun and pistol-intensive offense of the previous eight games.
And for the running game in particular, which had its best game of the season, it worked. Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson were equally effective, bouncing outside with each averaging 4.9 yards per carry. The longest run for each was exactly the same: 15 yards.
With Hillman breaking the 100-yard mark for the third time since Week 4 and Anderson adding 59 yards, the Broncos had their largest ground output of the season: 170 yards.
That's a magic number for the Broncos; they're 132-32-1 all-time when hitting that mark, including 44-11 since 1999.
The offensive line had perhaps its best game attacking off the snap and getting momentum to create the seams that Hillman and Anderson found.
It was the Broncos' fourth game with at least 144 yards on the ground in their last seven contests. The inconsistency is maddening -- in their other three games in that span, they averaged 49.0 yards per game.
"It's not just from game to game. One drive we're high; the next drive we're three-and-out," Anderson said. "We've got to find something in between to get this going [consistently]."
Some of that is due to rushing infrequency and getting away from the ground game; in those three contests, they averaged 16.0 runs per outing, compared with 31.8 runs in the other four in the last seven games.
But the per-carry average is dramatically different: 4.93 yards in the four big games -- all of which saw at least 24 runs -- and 3.06 in the other three, none of which saw more than 18 Broncos rushing attempts.
Although the Broncos did well under center Sunday, they don't believe that their rushing success is solely due to that.
"The run game was definitely going by us executing up front and in the backfield," Anderson said. "It doesn't matter if we were under center; we ran the ball well against Green Bay and we were sitting in the pistol. But we did that because we executed, and when we execute and do our job, things are easier."
Added TE Owen Daniels: ""It's all the same for us; we still run the same scheme," Daniels said. "But I think maybe the running backs have a little bit better vision from start to finish without having to stand behind a 6-foot-5 guy or a 6-foot-7 guy all day."
Perhaps, but Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison sees better technique as a major part of the difference, too.
"I think our technique was good. We got on, we finished and we ran well," he said.
"I think that we just became more consistent. We stayed in the game and we weren't behind. There were a lot of good things that happen that way. You can certainly run the ball better when those things happen."
The formation can help. But the principles are the same. Now the Broncos just need to string together multiple successful games on the ground -- which comes down to execution, and against New England, winning the one-on-one matchups the Patriots try to set up.