Remember last year, when Denver couldn’t run the ball and couldn’t stop the run? A quarter of the way through 2017, the Broncos have improved dramatically in both facets of the game.
C.J. Anderson, Jamaal Charles and a revamped scheme and offensive line have Denver humming on the ground. Defensively, well, I’ll just let Shelby Harris say it …
“We’ve played four straight games and we’ve played four all-pro running backs,” Harris said. “And they’ve done nothing against us.”
He’s not wrong. It wasn’t pretty, but the Broncos got it done again this week. They’ll go into the bye week with a decent 3-1 record.
Now, to the numbers.
Yep, 24 rushing yards was all Oakland finished with in 48 minutes of play. Marshawn Lynch ran for a grand total of 12 yards. The Broncos have faced four of the best backs in football this season and won the battle every time:
Denver’s run defense, which is giving up 50.8 rushing yards per game and 2.4 yards per carry, is the stingiest in the league by a comfortable margin. It’s night and day better than last year’s unit, which allowed 130.8 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry.
The Broncos rushed the ball 32 times for 143 yards. They won the ground game once again. Are you noticing a pattern? Denver is averaging the third most rushing yards per game in football, while giving up the fewest. Mix that in with the No Fly Zone and you have a recipe for success.
C.J. Anderson (20 carries, 95 yards) and Jamaal Charles (five carries, 32 yards) form a nice one-two punch. Anderson is off to the best start of his career, and Charles clearly has some gas left in the tank. It’s been fun to watch.
The Raiders converted 2 of 12 third-down chances. They went 0 for 3 on fourth down.
The Broncos drove inside the Raiders’ 20-yard line four different times but failed to score a touchdown on any of those possessions. That’s why Oakland was in it until Justin Simmons’ interception.
“Running the football, with our offensive line and the backs, has been excellent,” Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said. “My issue with our football team right now is we make a lot of critical errors. That’s got to stop.”
Denver has been much better than many anticipated a quarter of the way through, but Joseph is right: There are still some things to clean up. The Broncos are positioned well right now. That’s good because things get real shortly after the bye. Denver plays seven of 10 games on the road from Week 7 to Week 16.
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