ENGLEWOOD — The juxtaposition remains striking.
From the outside looking in, the Broncos arrived in Dallas as nothing more than a bug on the Cowboys' windshield. An inconvenience at best. An annoyance at worst.
From the inside looking out, the Broncos might as well have channeled Tom Petty.
They felt so good, like anything was possible. They were Running Down A Dream.
Like sprinting. Stepping. And striding. The Broncos set season highs in rushing yards (190) and attempts (41) in the convincing 30-16 victory. Rookie Javonte Williams — who is the author of at least one angry run per week — and veteran Melvin Gordon put on a show.
In training camp, I insisted this team's offensive identity would/should be on the ground. Denver ranks 13th overall at 113.2 yards per game rushing, including 4.5 yards per carry.
It's starting to crystallize.
"I think when it comes to the run game you have to be able to run the ball to try and establish it, not five, 10 times, but 20 times," left guard Dalton Risner said. "It was the first game where the offense and defense really meshed well together. Some games the defense was ballin' and we just couldn't put up points. And there were some games where we were playing well and our defense was struggling. It was a situation where we were up early in the game, and we were able to run the ball and not worry about playing catch up. It's an offensive lineman's dream to be up by a lot of points and run the ball."
It was eye-opening. As a 10-point underdog, it represented Denver's biggest regular season upset since trouncing the Chargers 23-7 in 2005 when San Diego was a 11.5-point favorite.
It's impossible to overstate Williams's impact. He delivered a career-best 111 yards, but it's not the total, but the method. He runs with evil intentions, driving his legs for extra yards when plays appear over. According to Pro Football Focus, he leads the NFL with 35 forced missed tackles on runs.
"He's a very special football player," Risner said. "He’s just a beast. I love blocking for that dude.”
While Wiliams produces weekly wow moments, Gordon demonstrates consistency. He has scored in three straight games and boasts 16 touchdowns in 24 games with the Broncos.
“Our identity is slowly becoming we can run the football," Risner said. "That's the identity we would like to have."
The Belly's Up Next
Rookie Quinn Meinerz opened eyes with his hustling block down field on Williams' latest long run. Meinerz is expected to start at right guard with Graham Glasgow lost for the season with a fractured leg.
"I’m extremely frustrated and saddened that this is the end of the season for me. With that being said, I know I’ll come back better and stronger than ever for next season. I appreciate all the well wishes and am grateful for all the support I’ve gotten," Glasgow tweeted. "For now, I’m gonna focus on being the best teammate I can be and be a resource for the room."
The expectation is that standout rookie cornerback Pat Surtain II suffered only a sprained knee on Sunday. He might miss some time — that has not yet been determined — but escaped serious injury. ...
Netane Muti has cleared COVID-19 protocols and will practice this week. Tight end Noah Fant still has a hurdle to clear. Quarterback Drew Lock arrived back in Denver separate from the team after testing positive for COVID-19 upon arriving in Dallas. Brett Rypien will serve as Teddy Bridgewater's backup until Lock returns.