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Broncos’ running backs make strong case for being a ‘run-first, 1960s’ offense

Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams combined for 184 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns on Sunday. That’s pretty good.

Detroit Lions v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Broncos’ veteran running back Melvin Gordon III has no problem sharing the spotlight or the RB1 designation with rookie Javonte Williams.

And after the two combined for 184 yards on the ground - and three rushing touchdowns on Sunday - Gordon believes they are as good as any team’s running backs.

“Yeah, definitely. We’re just both explosive. When our number is called, it’s a premium to make plays, especially at a time like this,” Gordon said after the 38-10 rout of the Lions. “We’re not thinking twice about what we need to do. We’re just putting confidence in the guys around us and going out there and making plays.”

Many a Bronco fan will point out what a depleted Lions’ defense the Broncos were going against. And they wouldn’t be wrong.

According to Pride Of Detroit:

This unit was hit hard by injuries and illness, particularly on the edges. Julian Okwara was out, Austin Bryant barely played, and it had already lost Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers for the season. The production from who was remaining—Charles Harris, Jessie Lemonier and Rashod Berry—was as underwhelming as expected.

Detroits’ Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike didn’t practice all week, and only one lienman recorded a “stop” according to PFF’s measures.

But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that the Broncos used the running game consistently and effectively - something that has not always been a guarantee under Pat Shurmur this season.

Gordon has 716 rushing yards and seven touchdowns plus two games of 100+ yards on the ground so far this season. Williams owns 743 yards rushing, three touchdowns and also two games with more than 100 yards rushing. And he is just the ninth Broncos’ rookie to reach 1,000 yards from scrimmage.

For the first time in Broncos history, there is a chance for two running backs to have 1,000-yard seasons from the ground game.

Coach Vic Fangio gave a game ball to both backs and the offensive line for the success.

“Our two running backs have been doing that all year, but I think a good bit of credit needs to go to the O-line and the tight ends. You know, anytime you hand it off 39 times and the other team knows you’re handing it off that many times, and you are able to grind out the yards—credit to the guys doing the blocking,” he said, but didn’t miss the opportunity to compliment Gordon and Williams. “But our two [running] backs are really, really good, and I love them both and glad we have them both. You know, no one is going to carry it 39 times by themselves.”

Williams believes the equal rotation between the backs is a good move, especially down the final stretch of the season.

“The coaches were just trying to be smart knowing that from here on out now that every game is going to be a playoff game,” he said. “We need both of us and everybody to be healthy, so I think it was more of a strategy instead of trying to get away from a rotation.”

One reporter asked Teddy Bridgewater about “playing 1960s football” in which a team “runs the ball and plays the pass off the run.” While a lot of fans and media types think the Broncos’ offense is going to have to mimic the high-flying offenses of the Chiefs and Chargers and Bills and Name-Your-Team-Here, the reality of the current Broncos’ team is that running is a strength, and whether it’s 1960s offense or not, if it produces wins, it’s the smart play.

“It’s just great balance,” Bridgewater noted, taking the question in stride. “We knew what the plan was, and we wanted to do whatever we could to come away with victory. I think we did a great job overall as an offense, defense and special teams.”

And Gordon made sure to give credit to both the tight ends and wide receivers who help the running game in their own right.

“It was blocked up well. We gave credit in the team locker room to the offensive linemen—as we should—but I just want to give just a brief moment to thank the tight ends and the wide receivers.

“Those guys fight their butt off to make plays. We’re fighting as a unit right now. I love to see it, and hopefully they hear this because I didn’t get to say it in there,” Gordon said. “I’m thankful for those guys as well because those guys help create the lanes and the receivers help really make the explosive runs—if you didn’t know. The line absolutely did their thing today and hopefully we can continue to finish this thing out the right way.”