In his first game as a Bronco, Willis McGahee looked like he was going to prove his detractors right: he carried the ball just four times and gained only three yards as the Broncos lost to the Oakland Raiders at home to start the 2011 season. The following week, when the Broncos hosted the Cincinnati Bengals, was a different story.
McGahee's first carry in that game came on 1-10-DEN34. He burst through the middle of the line for an 8-yard gain. Two plays (and one penalty) later, McGahee again plunged through the middle of the line, this time for a 7-yard gain. Two more plays and then McGahee blew through the middle for a third time picking up 12 yards and a first down. McGahee finished the day with 101 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown.
This proved to be the first of seven games in which McGahee would gain 100 or more yards -- a feat which had not happened since Clinton Portis recorded ten 100-yard games in 2003.
Last time, we looked at the Broncos 100-yard rushers from the 1960s. This time we will look at the 100-yard rushers from the 1970s.
Take the jump with me.The decade started off slowly, in terms of 100-yard rushers. In the 1970 season, the Broncos had just one game with a 100-yard rusher. It is probably no surprise that that running back was Floyd Little. Little carried the ball 16 times for 140 yards and a touchdown in a game in San Francisco on October 25, 1970. Unfortunately, his efforts went for naught as the 49ers won the game 19-14.
1971 was a better year for Broncos rushers, as they were able to log 100-yard games five times. RB Bobby Anderson was the first 100-yard rusher of the season when, on October 17 in a home game versus the San Diego Chargers, he rushed 25 times for 106 yards and a touchdown. Denver won the game 20-16. Floyd Little recorded the other four 100-yard games. On October 24, the Broncos played in Cleveland and Little turned 25 carries into 113 yards and a touchdown as the Broncos defeated the Browns 27-0. The following week he gained 123 yards on 24 carries and scored a touchdown in a losing effort against the Eagles in Philadelphia (Eagles 17, Denver 16). On November 14, Little had his third 100-yard game of the season. A 22 rushes for 101 yards effort was not enough to power the Broncos past the Bengals as Cincinnati defeated Denver, in Denver, 24-10. Little's final 100-yard game of the season came in a 6-3 Denver victory over Chicago. He rushed 29 times for 125 yards as the Broncos beat the Bears in Denver.
In 1972, Little added three more 100-yard games to his career total. The Broncos hosted the Houston Oilers on September 17. Little's 22 rushes for 101 yards contributed to a 30-17 win for Denver. A month later, on October 15, the Minnesota Vikings came to Denver. The Broncos lost that game 23-20, despite Little's rushing 18 times for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. Denver traveled to New York to play the Giants on November 5. Little rushed 14 times for 124 yards and a touchdown in a 29-17 losing effort.
The Broncos had three games in 1973. The first came on October 14, when Denver traveled to Houston to face the Oilers. Little carried the ball 19 times, gained 123 yards and scored a touchdown as the Broncos dominated Houston 48-20. RB Joe Dawkins had the second 100-yard game on October 28 when he turned 30 rushes into 117 yards and helped Denver defeat the New York Jets 40-28. Little had the third 100-yard game of the season when the Broncos faced the San Diego Chargers in Denver. Little's 22 rushes for 109 yards and two touchdowns helped the Broncos win 30-19.
The 1974 season saw Denver facing a major change: RB Floyd Little was supplanted as the leading rusher for the team by second-year RB Otis Armstrong. Armstrong came on strong, recording seven of the Broncos' eight 100-yard games in a 14-game season. Armstrong had not looked particularly impressive in the season opener gaining just 30 yards on 12 carries. The following week was a different story. On September 22, the Broncos hosted the PIttsburgh Steelers. Armstrong gained 131 yards on 19 carries against them as Denver forced a tie game, 35-35. Five weeks later, on October 27, in a game in Cleveland, Armstrong had his second 100-yard game -- a 17 carry, 142 yards and 1 touchdown effort -- in a 23-21 losing effort. Two games later, on November 10th, Armstrong notched his third 100-yard game. Against the Raiders, in Oakland, he carried the ball 29 times for 146 yards as Denver snuck by Oakland 20-17. Interestingly enough in that game, the Broncos did not just have Armstrong as a 100-yard rusher. Rookie RB Jon Keyworth torched the Raiders for 148 yards on 15 carries and scored a touchdown. Just four days later, on a Thanksgiving Day game, Armstrong logged his fifth 100-yard game of the season. Denver went to Detroit, where Armstrong burst through the Lions for 144 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Denver won the game 31-27. In the very next game, on December 8, Armstrong tore into the Houston Oilers in Denver: 31 rushes for 183 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Broncos won that game 37-14. Armstrong's final 100-yard game of the season came on December 15, in San Diego. He rushed 18 times for 142 yards. Sadly, the Chargers won the game 17-0.
Armstrong was not able to repeat his 1974 success in 1975. He was injured in the fourth game of the season and did not play again in that year. The burden of the rushing attack fell on sophomore RB Jon Keyworth. Keyworth managed just one 100-yard game. On November 30, the Broncos faced the Chargers in Denver. Keyworth rushed 20 times for 132 yards. Denver won the game 13-10.
In 1976, Denver saw four more 100-yard games -- three by a running back, one by a quarterback. The first came on October 24 when the Broncos traveled to Kansas City. Armstrong returned to form and rushed 16 times for 101 yards and a touchdown to help Denver to a 35-26 victory. Armstrong repeated the feat on November 7 when Tampa Bay came to Denver. This time, he turned 18 carries into 116 yards and helped power the Broncos to a 48-13 win. Armstrong had another 116-yard game on 26 carries when Denver defeated the Chicago Bears 28-14 in Chicago. The Bears not only gave up 116 yards to Armstrong, they also surrendered 120 yards to QB Norris Weese. Weese gained his yardage on just 12 carries.
Denver's AFC Championship year of 1977 saw Armstrong earn his last 100-yard game of the 1970s (you'll have to wait for the next article to see whether or not he earned any in the 1980s). On November 20, the Broncos faced the Chiefs in Kansas City. Armstrong turned 21 carries into 120 yards in a game that Denver won 14-7.
In 1978, the NFL extended the regular season to a 16-game schedule. Second year running back Rob Lytle was the only Bronco to post a 100-yard game in the first 16-game season. On November 19, he rushed 16 times for 110 yards against the Green Bay Packers in a game in Denver. The Broncos won 16-3.
Lytle had the final 100-yard game of the decade in 1979. On November 25, he turned 18 carries into 102 yards and a touchdown in a 14-10 losing effort against the Raiders in Denver.
BY THE NUMBERS
|Total # Games||144||284|
|Games w/100-yard Rusher||26||36|
|Record in those games||17-8-1||26-9-1|
|Norris Weese (QB)||1||1|
Records Against Opponents
|Team||1970s||1970s Home||1970s Away||Overall||Overall Home||Overall Away|
|New York Giants||0-1-0||0-0-0||0-1-0||0-1-0||0-0-0||0-1-0|
|New York Jets||0-1-0||0-0-0||0-1-0||2-2-0||2-1-0||0-1-0|
Next Up: 100-yard rushers of the 1980s