Broncos must snap historic rushing-TD drought to counter Browns defense

Nov 26, 2023, 12:49 AM | Updated: 1:15 am

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Edge rusher Myles Garrett is just the beginning for a Cleveland Browns defense that, for the last 10 games, is arguably the best seen in the NFL since the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50-winning “No-Fly Zone” defense of the 2015 season.

Nearly two-thirds of the Browns’ quarterback hits — 45 of 68 — come from players other than Garrett. And over 75 percent of their pressures — 147 of 195, per the data compiled by Pro Football Focus — are from Garrett’s teammates.

Four other Browns have at least 15 QB pressures this season — Za’Darius Smith, Ogbo Okoronkwo, Dalvin Tomlins on and Maurice Hurst. Only the Ravens allow fewer yards per pass play than the Browns, who surrender 4.8 yards per pass play.

And the last time the Broncos faced a team allowing fewer than 5.0 yards per pass play this season, they faced the Kansas City Chiefs — and mustered just 169 passing yards — total — in two games against the AFC West leaders. The Broncos averaged just 3.31 yards per pass play against Kansas City this year.

Now, two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward won’t play for the Browns on Sunday. But their pass rush is undiluted.

For Mike McGlinchey and the rest of the Broncos offensive line, this is their greatest challenge yet.

“Ric Flair always said, ‘To be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man,’” McGlinchey said. “And if we can do that up front, we can answer the bell with this challenge, it’d be a great step forward for us.”

And as far as NFL front sevens go, the Browns are “the man.”

That said, Denver’s offensive line has improved over the course of the season. Constancy in the starting lineup — 10 games, one offensive-line combination, a marked contrast to last year’s instability — has helped make this possible.

Until last week, the Broncos had five-consecutive games of at least 115 rushing yards. That, along with a strong defense, helped the Broncos use tempo and pace win four of the five games in that span despite some pedestrian offensive-yardage totals — a per-game average of 274.2 yards in that span.

To that end, the key for the Broncos is to focus on themselves — not staring down the potential NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

“We’re just worried about improving. We’ve gotta get better. We’ve got to do our job. We’ve got to do the best things possible to put our team in position to win games.”

But for the Broncos offense, something has been almost entirely missing this season: rushing touchdowns.


Rushing touchdowns scored by the Broncos through 10 games this season. Jaleel McLaughlin’s 5-yard scoring gallop early in Denver’s Week 2 loss to the Washington Commanders remains the Broncos’ only rushing touchdown of the season.

No team in the last 87 seasons — dating back to 1937 — has had fewer rushing touchdowns through 10 games, according to data compiled via and The Broncos are one of 17 teams with exactly one rushing touchdown through 10 games, club whose most recent member is the 2019 Jacksonville Jaguars.

But in terms of the percentage of offensive touchdowns coming through the air — 95 percent, or 19 of 20 — the Broncos stand nearly alone. The 2015 Jacksonville Jaguars scored 20 of their 21 touchdowns through 10 games via the pass.


Consecutive games without a rushing touchdown for the Broncos — the longest streak in team history since at least 1970.

The Broncos’ streak of games without a rushing touchdown is also the longest in the NFL in nearly six years, since the Chiefs went eight games without a rushing touchdown during the 2007 season.

But that being said, the Broncos have still been much more effective than other teams with similar streaks. The Broncos’ 4.4-yard average per carry in the last eight games is the second-highest for a team with that long of a rushing-touchdown drought since the AFL-NFL merger. Only the 2006 Seahawks were better; they averaged 4.5 yards per attempt while going without a rushing touchdown from Oct. 1 hrough Nov. 27 of that year. (Seattle snapped the streak during a 23-20 win over Denver on Dec. 3, 2006, when Shaun Alexander score on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter.)


Yardage per game allowed by the Browns defense so far this season. This is the lowest average through 10 games for any team in 15 years, since Pittsburgh allowed 38.1 yards per game in its first 10 contests in 2008.

The Browns are just the eighth team since 2000 to allow fewer than 250 yards per game in their first 10 contests. Each of the previous seven made the postseason, with two — the 2000 Ravens and the 2008 Steelers — winning the Super Bowl. Coincidentally, five of those eight teams came from the AFC North: Baltimore in 2000, Pittsburgh in 2001, 2007 and 2008 and now, Cleveland.

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