In the Denver Broncos' 20-13 upset victory over the Miami Dolphins, the home team rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. It came against a stingy Dolphins' defense and if you were among the throngs of Broncos Country asking if something changed in Denver's rushing attack, head coach Vic Fangio confirmed post-game that indeed, it was a different scheme.
“We had a couple new runs because of the types of fronts Miami plays," Fangio said on Sunday. "It was good game-planning by the coaches. We had success with those, [a] couple of them popped nicely."
Both Phillip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon carried the ball at least 15 times, with Gordon hitting pay-dirt twice. It wasn't just the on-point execution of the running backs that jumped out but also the play design and absolute domination of the Broncos' offensive line.
Instead of the tired and transparent inside/outside zone that offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur had deployed all year long with increasingly diminishing returns, the Broncos' rushing attack took on a completely different bent. Denver ran traps and pulls, with left tackle Garett Bolles and left guard Dalton Risner pulling to completely cross the line of scrimmage to lead-block in the B and C gap on the right side.
“I think we just had a great scheme," Gordon said post-game. "I thought coaches did a great job with scheming up the fronts and the looks and being able to check some great looks for the runs—so I think that’s what it came down to. Then, honestly, everyone executed. I think the line did a phenomenal job.”
Even rookie center Lloyd Cushenberry got in on the pulling action. The icing on the cake, though, was Shurmur's commitment to stick with the running game.
"We were able to stay with it too and that’s two-fold," Fangio said. "Having success with it helped the early-down passing game too.”
With a productive rushing attack wearing down the opponent and keeping the defense on its heels, suddenly, Denver's play-action passing game took on life. Drew Lock, after an early interception, looked like a completely different quarterback for three quarters and finished with 270 passing yards.
Cut out the two turnovers, one of which was a lost fumble on the goal-line by Gordon, and the Broncos have finally stumbled upon their model for success. Dare I say, an offensive identity emerged in Week 11?
It might be too soon to say but the Football Gods telegraphed to Shurmur and Fangio that there is indeed another way to skin the cat.
“Without a doubt. A balanced offense is always the best offense," Lock said post-game. "Our run game tonight exploded and that’s a testament to ‘Munch’ [Offensive Line Coach Mike Munchak] and [Offensive Quality Control Coach Mike] Shula and [Offensive Coordinator Pat] Shurmur and all the guys—[Running Backs Coach Curtis] Modkins—all those guys planned their butt off this week. We had an awesome [game] planning going into this."