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The offense works when Broncos stick with the run game

Denver’s offense ran for 168 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns in a second-half surge.

Arizona Cardinals v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos offense finally did what it has been saying it’s wanted to do all season.

It ran the ball.

Like actually ran it when it made sense, used the play action to sell it, didn’t abandon it at the first two-yard gain and actually used it to wear down the defense the way it is supposed to.

“We were able to present some different pictures, go with some different personnel, and we really committed to the run game,” coach Nathaniel Hackett said Monday, adding that it was offensive coordinator Justin Outten who was “forcing the run” and Klint Kubiak who was following through to call it. “I give so much credit to all those guys [for] making sure that we continually did it.”

But it was really a challenge to the offense in the second half to make sure the run game - that they were going to need to rely on - was going to work.

“They went out there and they were able to run the ball. They were able to execute the plan that we decided to adjust to. They just looked like a different team in that second half,” Hackett said. “We have a lot of room to improve. We have to do that right out of the gate, but it was great to see those guys come out and really get after it.”

By now you know the statistical outcome of that commitment to the run - 168 team rushing yards, 130 of which go to Latavius Murray; and two rushing touchdowns, one from Murray and another from Marlon Mack.

The two old dudes got it done on the ground.

“Coach challenged us that second half to step up and start putting drives together, converting on third downs. I think we also trusted the run,” Murray said after the game. “I’m going to say it again, it’s a mentality. You can’t get bored with three-yard runs, two-yard runs sometimes, even the loss of gain. It’s easy to get discouraged. You have to trust it. it’s a mentality. You have to believe in it and those big ones will come. That was a big part of it, too. We trusted the run game and that opened up the rest of the offense.”

The Broncos’ offense attempted 26 passes and put the ball in the hands of running backs 34 times. The run game averaged 4.9 yards per carry but Mack (7.4) and Murray (5.4) averaged higher.

“As a running back, you always want to run the ball about 30 times and win a game off just running the ball,” Mack said post-game. “It’s a great feeling. We appreciate those guys up front, our tight ends, our wide receivers and the guys that were blocking down the field so we could get those big major runs that we had today.”

In fact, the two backs had fun with each other during the drive that Mack had multiple runs and Murray went in to score.

“For me, it’s all about winning. That’s the feeling at the end of the day right now, that’s what it’s about. I just want to win,” Murray said. “I did mess with him. I said, ‘If you didn’t get that [touchdown], you were coming out.’ We feed off each other, and I think that’s what’s important in the running back room. When I got that opportunity next, I had to make sure I punched it in. Again, it feels good to win though.”

Given that backup Brett Rypien was starting, relying on the run was a no-brainer. But “no-brainers” haven’t really been this coaching staff’s forté, and thankfully the first half’s lack of offensive production forced the point on coaches and players.

“You ask any quarterback, and they’re going to want a run game,” Rypien admitted. “...I thought we did a really good job managing [the pressure] and I thought it helped the run game as well. I can’t say enough about the offensive line. They have been through so much this year—a bunch of guys moving around in different positions. Our running back room today—’Tae’ (Murray) and Marlon are guys who literally just came in here four weeks ago and then went out there and played their butts off. I am just so proud of those guys.”

With a constant revolving door on the offensive line - including two more o-linemen going out in the first half - finding a rhythm in the run game has been difficult to say the least.

“We did have a couple guys go down, and we decided we needed to run the ball,” the coach acknowledged. “We challenged the offense to be able to step it up and they did in a very good way. We were able to run the ball continuously in that second half. That is what we had to do to win the game.”

Dalton Risner loved that the offensive line was able to be a contributor rather than a liability this week.

“We put a lot of great things together tonight. What I’m really excited about is the offensive line and the way we were able to run the ball in the second half and really impose our will,” he said. “Then get the ball at the end of the game with six minutes left and take four minutes off the clock. ...It doesn’t take away the fact that we’re 4-10, but I’m really proud. I’m proud that Rypien was able to be out there and get a win as well.”

Murray added that the O-line was particularly helpful on Sunday.

“I think it has to start up front—giving us some lanes,” Murray said. “Especially on those big runs—getting outside, getting on the edge, and blocking, and just hitting it when it’s there, gaining the yards that need to be gained. Those big gains again, those guys [the offensive lineman] getting out on the edge and giving me an opportunity [to make a play].”

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