Did the Broncos find the magic formula for running the football?
Nov 24, 2020, 5:40 AM
The Denver Broncos have something most teams don’t have – two 1,000-yard rushers. Melvin Gordon was brought in via free agency to be the lead back for the team when they already had Phillip Lindsay on the roster. This was supposed to be a fantastic 1-2 punch for the Broncos that would be nigh unstoppable.
Instead, the offense has been stuck in neutral most of the year. And the rushing attack has been disjointed at best.
That all changed against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
With the offense struggling, the Broncos turned to their rushing attack in the second half. Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay worked in tandem to compile 166 yards rushing and two rushing touchdowns. It was the first time this year that both backs came through in a big way to lead the team to victory.
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio knows the running game was a big reason why they came out victorious in Week 11.
“It was a big part of winning that game, obviously. I’ve always said a quarterback’s two best friends are a running game and a good defense and, for the most part, we had that going.” Fangio said.
Did the Broncos find their magic formula for running the ball? Let’s find out.
Actually Feed Phil
I started the hashtag #FeedPhil on Twitter last year and it’s been sorely missing from the offense this year for whatever reason. Last week against the Raiders, Lindsay only got four carries and barely registered in the box score. Against the Dolphins, Lindsay led the team in carries with 16 for 84 yards. He tried to reverse the field on a couple of runs that didn’t really go anywhere, and he was stuffed once or twice, but Lindsay kept running hard and gets through the line quickly.
His speed and relentless intent get him to the linebacker level quickly. Once there, Lindsay is the most athletic player in space and can make defenders take bad angles in pursuit. The carries for little or no gain can be forgiven with Lindsay because those big runs – 20-plus yarders – are right around the corner. He can make a house call anytime he touches the ball, and he needs to touch the ball as much as he did against the Dolphins.
Lindsay has a ton of attitude himself and that came through for the entire rushing offense on Sunday.
“At the end of the day, we came with attitude. You have to be able to remain consistent with the run game. That’s what it comes down to. When there’s a bad play, you still do it. When there’s a good play, you go back to it. You’ve got to stay consistent no matter what you do because you never know when you’re going to break one,” Lindsay said.
Limit Gordon’s Touches
Even though Gordon is paid like the lead back, the Broncos need to manage his touches in the game – mostly due to his ball security issues that seem to pop up at inopportune times. He leads the league in fumbles lost with four so far this season. Against the Dolphins, Gordon fumbled as he was about to score and the Dolphins took over with the game on the line. Instead of having the ball at the one-yard line with time dwindling down, the Broncos offense watched as the Dolphins marched almost 99 yards for the tying score.
Instead of tying up the game, Broncos safety Justin Simmons picked off Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the end zone to seal the victory for the Broncos.
Gordon admitted after the game that he was thrilled that his fumble didn’t cost the team a hard-fought win.
“I was happy as hell. It was crazy because it’s something I work on every week, something I think about, and something I try to be really cautious about. It’s cool to enter the game and pretty much score, and to have that taken away from you sucks. The defense came through, and we prevailed and got the win. I’m happy about that,” Gordon said.
The Broncos have to manage Gordon’s touches. He’s better in short-yardage situations than Lindsay because he’s larger, but that might be the only part of his game that is better. Gordon is careless with the football and this team is not good enough to overcome his fumbling problem. They need to limit his touches in order to keep Gordon from hurting their efforts when the game is on the line. Lindsay has not lost a single fumble during his over two-year pro career.
Move the Line of Scrimmage
You saw the Broncos get left tackle Garett Bolles and left guard Dalton Risner on the move against the Dolphins and the results were big runs down the right side of the field. The Broncos moved the line of scrimmage, putting big bodies on smaller defenders with running backs ready to burst downfield for long gains.
Bolles completely destroyed Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones on one play and Risner seemed to push around anyone he came in contact with. This strategy by the Broncos was new for this season, and Fangio revealed on Monday that the new look had to do with the way the Dolphins play defense up front.
“Miami plays some fronts that was popular in the ’60s. We play those fronts here a little bit. We mix them in and disguise them a little bit more. Because of the way they play their defense, those runs were appealing to us. We put them in, and the guys did a great job of executing them,” Fangio said.
Being the aggressor worked for the Broncos offensive line. The unit has had some struggles as a whole on the season, but run-blocking is something that all offensive linemen love to do. It allows the team to be the bully up front and impose their will on the opponent. It worked in a big way and helped spark the rushing attack which led the way on offense in the second half when Drew Lock only attempted 11 passes (completing 10).
Risner revealed after the game that the team’s “lunch pail” mentality and blue-collar work ethic came through in the game plan.
“(We) put on the work gloves before we came to work today. All of us put on the work gloves and today was about the guys on the other side of the ball and it was about winning that battle. It was personal. It’s personal every week. We don’t like to lose football games. We don’t like being 3-6. We came out today and we wanted to prove that we’re a good football team. I’m so proud of this organization what we did, so proud of Vic Fangio and the coaches. They prepared us in the best way possible. It’s a great day to be a Bronco, fellas,” Risner said.