Denver's Running Game Must Get Back On Track In Week 5

The Broncos have amassed just 141 total rushing yards over the last two games. At home, vs. a red-hot Atlanta offense, it will be vital for C.J. Anderson and company to get back on track.

The Denver Broncos will face a stiff test at home this week with the Atlanta Falcons coming to Mile High Stadium. Fresh off their latest win against the Carolina Panthers, quarterback Matt Ryan had a career day throwing the ball, with over 500 yards passing, to go in tandem with wide receiver Julio Jones getting 300 yards receiving.

The Denver pass rush and secondary will be tasked with slowing down the explosive Falcons offense. However, the Broncos running game, which has been missing in action the past two weeks, will also play a prominent role in helping the defense contain Ryan, Jones, Devonta Freeman and company.

Coach Gary Kubiak talked about his team's struggles on the ground of late and spoke about the need to play better this week. “We have not run the ball really well the last couple of weeks," Kubiak said. "We have been missing Virgil and Donald. That is not an excuse. We have to do it better. It’s an important part of our team. With the way we play defense, if we’re able to run the ball, it makes us a good football team on Sunday."

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison echoed Coach Kubiak's statements, while adding that minute details have made a notable difference in causing the Denver rushing attack to stumble as of late.

“I think, generally speaking, it’s just technique," Dennison said. "You’re not exacting on what you need to do. It’s hand placement, it’s footwork, it’s hand placement and then working together. I think we did a good job the first week and then we’ve slipped a little bit. Guys are too talented up front. Every team we play will have good talent up front. If you’re not on the same page and you’re not right with what you are doing, then you don’t get your creases. We’ll get it coordinated. We worked really hard the last couple of days making sure that we’re on the same page and that we’re doing it right, our placement is right. We’ll get it done. We’ve made some strides and hopefully we’ll reap some benefits.”

Coach Dennison would also add that it takes all eleven starters on offense to execute in order to unleash the running game. It's a symbiotic system. 

“It’s everything," Dennison said. "Everything works together. Technique for a running back is tracks, footwork and when to go downhill and finding that soft spot. I think it could be all 11. I can remember a play where everything was right but the perimeter. I think all 11 and coaches included. It’s not just the guys on the field. We have to make sure we are all on the same page and we’re getting it done.”

Optimistically, running back C.J. Anderson is confident that the hard work of his fellow running backs, offensive line, and coaches will get over the hiccups of the past two weeks. He's on pace for barely a 1,000-yard season.

“We’re just trying to find a way to run the ball and get back on track," Anderson said. "That’s all we’re going to do. We’re going to keep working, stay in the ground, keep our feet where it’s at and continue to push.” The team still isn’t sure if they will have starter Trevor Siemian or rookie Paxton Lynch lining up under center this Sunday. Whomever the starter may be, it would be a huge help if Denver could find the running game that performed well in its first two games to take pressure off both young QBs.

An effective run game preserves the health of Siemian’s frail left shoulder and keeps the Falcons defensive line from teeing off on him. If it’s Lynch who gets the call to play, a healthy running game sets the rookie up to see lots of one-on-one coverage down the field, without having to diagnose complex coverage schemes Atlanta could use to confuse him.

With a game that should see plenty of passing from Atlanta, an effective run game is vital to keeping pass rushers like Von Miller and Shane Ray rested, as well as the secondary. Long drives that chew up clock will slow the tempo of the game down so that Denver isn’t forced into a track-meet type of game and allow Denver to do what it does better than anyone else in the league — get after the quarterback.

With final scores of 48-33 and 45-32, Atlanta welcomes a wide open, shoot-out type of game. If the Denver running game can get back to its early season form, it will go a long way toward helping the team get a win on Sunday.

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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