Oct 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) catches a touchdown pass in front of San Diego Chargers cornerback Richard Marshall (31) during the first half at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Two facets ensure teams win in the NFL: running the football and defense.
The Denver Broncos did both in big ways on Thursday Night (Oct. 23) in their 35-21 win over the San Diego Chargers.
Denver (6-1) couldn’t do either a season ago on a consistent enough basis and still somehow played in the Super Bowl. Add those two pieces to an already dangerous team and you have the best team in football right now.
Who would have thought Ronnie Hillman would be responsible?
Prior to Hillman saving the running game against the Cardinals, there was no hope. The Broncos had no clue what they were doing when it came to the run game. The offensive line looked as if it had never run blocked before and Montee Ball thought he was trying out for “Dancing with the Stars.” Yet all of sudden Hillman gets his chance and he’s ran with it … and hasn’t fumbled it.
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This success in the run game is no accident.
This is the third straight game Denver has ran the football with efficiency, confidence and authority. Hillman finished the game with 20 carries for 109 yards. As a team, the Broncos ran it 30 times for 139. Even more impressive is that Denver has a power back to pick up those tough yards on third down with Juwan Thompson. It’s a gorgeous sight this franchise and Broncos Country hasn’t seen in ages. Denver has a running game?
Coupled with that vaunted and dangerous passing attack Peyton Manning and the Broncos possess, and the offense is near impossible to stop. As we saw for the second straight week. This is another very good defense made to look silly after playing Denver.
When you stop to think about it, the Broncos running game is only getting started. As the success mounts, so does the confidence of the line, the coaches, Manning and Hillman.
The other aspect Denver has now is a defense. And talk about a sight for sore eyes. This team is known for defense. This town is known for defense.
The Broncos don’t have just any defense, but one that is fast, mean, tough and nasty. Denver gets after the quarterback, can cover, stop the run and make the play when it needs one.
Two impressive drives by Philip Rivers and the Chargers (5-3) got the heart beating a skosh faster, but right on cue the Broncos defense gets the turnover and ends the game.
Oct 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (98) and defensive end Derek Wolfe (95) combine for a sack on San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) in the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The last time Denver played on Thursday, San Diego dominated on the ground and in time of possession. It was a microcosm of the Broncos’ season on defense, as we would see in the Super Bowl.
This season, Denver’s defense is one of the best, if not the best, against the run. The Broncos held the Chargers to 61 yards on 15 carries, with most of that coming on the last play from scrimmage and Rivers scrambling for 17.
Denver also forced two turnovers – something else it couldn’t do last season – and got two more sacks. Linebacker Von Miller now has nine on the season to lead the NFL. If you didn’t know, he’s back.
Some will mention those two San Diego scoring drives but at that point the defense looked tired since it was Thursday and it looked like it let up. Not to mention, when an offense throws it 41 times your pass rushers get gassed. I would have loved to see the Broncos defense put the hammer down and not give up those two drives, but it will come. And it was Thursday Night.
Denver still held Rivers and the Chargers to 306 total yards. That’s one of the best and most efficient offenses in the league. It’s the same unit that torched the Seattle Seahawks.
As with Hillman and the run game, this success for the Broncos defense is no accident.
Of the six wins, Denver has now beaten the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and San Diego. Prior to the season, if you said the Broncos would be a coin flip away from being undefeated with that schedule, you would have been laughed at.
It’s no accident.
When teams can run the football and play defense like the Broncos can, you win in the NFL.
It’s about time Denver got back to that.
Oct 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman (23) is tackled by San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32) during the second half Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports