ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson wanted to jump-start the Broncos' two-minute drive against the Raiders at the end of the first half, he looked to one of Denver's offseason additions, running back Samaje Perine, to make a play.
On first-and-10 from the Broncos' 43 just inside of the two-minute warning, Wilson found Perine for a solid six-yard gain. On the next play, Wilson targeted with Perine again for a 10-yard catch and run, moving the chains and advancing the Broncos into Raider territory. The next play: another Wilson-Perine connection, the third straight Perine reception.
Though the final play of the drive, a Wilson touchdown pass to wide receiver Courtland Sutton with 12 seconds in the half, made the highlight reel and gave Denver the lead, the impact of Broncos' running back duo of Perine and Javonte Williams was a theme throughout Sunday's game. Perine finished as Denver's leading receiver with four catches for 37 yards, while Williams also added four receptions.
Perine said the receiving dimension of his role can help open up the Broncos' offense in the coming weeks.
"With how offenses are going nowadays, running backs have to be able to adapt and catch out of the backfield," Perine said Monday. "I feel like we did a pretty decent job of that yesterday, and we're looking to get that going more and more so defenses [do] not only have to worry about us running the ball but also catching out of the backfield. Again, it gives the defense something else to have to think about."
Of course, Denver's lead backs made their presence felt on the ground as well, with Williams recording 52 yards on 13 carries in his regular season return and Perine averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 41 rushing yards.
Perine believes the backfield's punishing running styles can wear down opposing defenses and become a major asset for the Broncos late in games.
"It's working out great," Perine said of his partnership with Williams. "I mean, obviously it was only the first game, but I can see us really down the stretch going into third and fourth quarters really leaning on defenses when they are getting tired and we're still relatively fresh because we're two physical backs, and some teams just aren't going to want to go against that for four quarters."
Though the Broncos lost to the Raiders by a slim 17-16 margin, their offense showcased its ability to sustain drives and keep the opposing defense on the field. Both teams finished with only six offensive drives — an anomaly in today's fast-paced NFL — and Perine sees that trend as a major aspect of the Broncos' offensive identity.
"It's going to be a huge strength for us, just to keep drives going, just to take time off the clock, just to wear people down," Perine said. "When we get the explosives figured out, then it's really going to be difficult to stop us because you have to worry about the run game, the quick passes, but also the deep threats, so you can't just load the box all the time. It's definitely going to help out as the season goes along, and we'll just see where it takes us."