ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —Melvin Gordon III posted his most productive game of the season in the Broncos' 22-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and it was nearly even better.
Gordon rushed for a season-high 131 yards on 15 carries, including a 65-yard carry that set up a Broncos touchdown. But he also slipped a couple of times on the slick Arrowhead Stadium grass, which prevented him from chewing up even more yardage.
"He obviously had a couple of explosive runs," Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "I think that that was good. We were able to stay consistent with the run game. The field was kind of slick, and I think you saw a lot of players — not just the running backs — slip at times. So, there was even more out there. I think that's a good thing as well, but yeah, I think he did a good job with the carries that he had."
Gordon said Sunday that the Broncos came out with a chip on their shoulder and had a mindset to run the ball. Denver has now rushed for at least 179 yards in two of its last three games. Against the Dolphins, Gordon scored two touchdowns and nearly had a third as he and Phillip Lindsay each topped the 80-yard mark.
Gordon has rushed for 685 yards this season and scored six rushing touchdowns, but he is on pace for a career low in receptions. The Broncos have not targeted their running backs frequently, as Gordon and Lindsay have a combined 23 catches on 40 targets.
"Definitely we'd like to spread the ball around as much as we can," Head Coach Vic Fangio said Wednesday. "We haven't gotten to the backs as much. It was nice to see a screen pass the other day have some success. I think it comes down to most running backs catches — not all of them — are screens, check downs, third or fourth read, and we haven't gotten to many of those this year."
Shurmur, who mentioned the running backs as a central part of the passing game back in January, said he believes those check-down and swing passes can still materialize over the final stretch of the season.
"I think there's different ways to get the running back involved," Shurmur said. "I think we do a good job of running it, that's when they get their touches. There are probably times when the ball goes downfield and the check-down doesn't become an obvious place to throw the ball. I think our concepts are such where they're the outlet quite a bit, and the ball just goes to someplace else before it gets to them. We threw a screen the other night, which I think is good. But at this point, it's not something that we're trying to go away from. I think at some point some of these check-downs will materialize."
AN IMPROVING LINE
After the Broncos' offensive line gave up 13 combined sacks across Weeks 2 and 3, they've allowed just one in the last three games. Drew Lock was not sacked in the Broncos' "Sunday Night Football" loss to the Chiefs, and the Broncos have also posted strong performances on the ground in recent weeks.
"I just think they're getting better and better," Fangio said. "It's a young group, we've got a rookie center, a second-year left guard, [T] Garret [Bolles] still [has] got a young career going. Lack of penalties is always good, that's something we encourage and enforce and emphasize and are enthusiastic about from Day 1 in training camp — and I believe we've been one of the lower-penalized teams in the league. Those guys have done a good job. The bulk of our sacks that we've given up this year came in the two-game stretch against Pittsburgh and Tampa, I believe. Our guys have done a good job. [QB] Drew [Lock] does a good job of avoiding pressure sometimes, which helps. But overall, I think our line has slowly but surely been coming together and doing a much better job both run and pass blocking."
TAKING IT AWAY
As Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell prepares for his likely return in Carolina, he's hoping his defense can get more takeaways than they've gathered in the season's first 12 games.
And yes, that's takeaways — not turnovers.
"It's a takeaway," Donatell said. "A turnover somebody gives to you; that's the way we phrase it. Luck couldn't be farther from the truth. They're caused, and we're not there yet. Check our history. We've gotten there every time, every group we've ever coached. We're getting close to the top five, number one — just look at it. We're not there yet. There are all kinds of elements, disruption in the quarterback, there's ball pressure every down, every ball that's run, every ball that's caught. There's coverage confusing the quarterback, slowing him down, getting him to throw in the wrong place. Until we do that enough, they're not going to come. It's player awareness. That comes from all of us and all of our coaching and all of our assistant coaches together. So, there's a lot of things that go into it. I [can] just tell you we're not there yet."
The Broncos' 11 takeawaysare the fourth-fewest in the league.