ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – During the Broncos' 39-36 win over the Dolphins on Sunday, Denver was down by 11 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
For a team that has played consistently at home so far this season, it could have been disconcerting. But Adam Gase and his offense were confident in their game plan and their defense making the necessary stops to get them the ball.
During his Wednesday press conference preceding the game, Peyton Manning gave the Dolphins a fair warning about what the Broncos had in store for Sunday: "We might be an old school running game, so just be alert for that."
While that running game took some time to develop, the Broncos stuck with their game plan, developing a consistent two-dimensional offense. Heading into Sunday's game, the Broncos averaged 19.6 rushing yards in the first quarter. On Sunday, Denver had 33 yards in the first quarter, tied for their third-highest first-quarter rushing output of the season.
Look through photos of the Broncos' final practice before Sunday night's game, where Aqib Talib was back on the field.
But the Broncos had to work for each yard as they averaged 3.3 yards per carry and the longest run was by C.J. Anderson for eight yards. But the Broncos wanted to run so they didn't let up, keeping the pressure on the Dolphins' line. The Dolphins had the eighth-best rush defense heading into the game, so Gase wasn't sure how productive the ground game would be.
"That was a good front so not really sure how it's ever really going to work out but leading up to that game, in practice, we did a good job. We were on it all week in practice," Gase said. "Then when we got in the game, I think it helped they got in a good rhythm early. I think after the first or second drive, I remember going down there and [the offensive linemen] were just like, 'Hey, we're feeling pretty good about what you're calling, stay with it.' That just made me feel a lot better about let's keep dialing it up and ride those guys to the end of the game."
With the help of C.J. Anderson's 25-yard gain on second-and-8, the Broncos accumulated 32 rushing yards in the second. Patience was rewarded as the Broncos racked up 95 rushing yards in the third, a number they had reached in a full game just five times all season. Prior to the Dolphins game, the Broncos had topped that number in a half just once, with 99 yards in the second half against the Chargers.
While Gase has one of the best quarterbacks spearheading this offense, he didn't find himself tempted to utilize Manning's arm more, even when the Broncos were trailing by 11 in the fourth quarter. The game plan was working and he was happy with the direction the game was heading, despite the deficit.
"It felt like there was a lot of time left," Gase said. "It just seems like sometimes in those second halves, it just seems like that clock moves a lot slower for some reason. There was no impatience there, nobody really brought it up. We felt like our plan was good and we knew we were going to get the stops on defense and if we just kept sticking it in the end zone we were going to eventually take the lead."
The Broncos had a very productive fourth quarter with 41 rushing yards and 22 consecutive points, taking the lead and the win. Gase said he is still getting used to sticking with the run game and allowing the backs to get rhythm.
"Let those guys push through those 1-, 2-yard gains," Gase said. "The negative runs, you want to avoid those as much as possible. But I felt like our guys did a good job. They wore on them; they were physical the entire game and those runs really started popping. C.J. did a good job of finding things that weren't there and creating some explosive plays."
The Chiefs defense hasn't found success in the rush defense thus far as they sit in last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per play. The Broncos will look to continue their momentum on the ground on Sunday night.
Gase isn't getting ahead of himself and while Sunday's game was the balance he's been looking for, every game takes its own identity.
"Every game is different," Gase said. "I know that is our answer for the most part every week. I don't know if I can look at [Kansas City's] ranking. I just know the players they have, they're tough guys and that front is tough to run or pass on. So we're going to have to figure out what's best for us during the game. It's hard for us to go in and say we're just going to do one thing.
"We'll feel it out and try to figure out what the best thing for us to do is."