<
>

Broncos' run defense in free fall to 'unacceptable' level

play
Gurley posts first career 200-yard rushing game (0:27)

Todd Gurley rushes for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams beat the Broncos 23-20. (0:27)

DENVER -- History has plowed into the Denver Broncos defense with such force that it has left footprints.

A week after the New York Jets trampled the Broncos for 323 yards rushing, the Los Angeles Rams followed suit with 270 yards in their 23-20 victory Sunday. Isaiah Crowell's 219 yards rushing a week ago and Todd Gurley's 208 Sunday marked the first time in league history a defense has surrendered at least 200 yards rushing to individual players in consecutive weeks in the same season.

"As far as run defense, that's a mindset deal," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. "That's not nice to look at. We didn't tackle well, we didn't fit well, that goes back to, obviously, having the mindset to stop the run. That's two weeks in a row -- unacceptable."

It highlights the Broncos' growing defensive woes during their four-game losing streak. Linebacker Von Miller said it just after Denver's first loss of the season -- 27-14 to the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 23 -- and it still rings true a month later.

Miller said at the time that "we just haven't put it all together ... we get one thing right and don't get another."

Sunday was another entry in a growing pile of evidence, as the Broncos might have wobbled the undefeated Rams more than anyone else has this season, and might have even rattled Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff better than anyone else. But it was all simply lost in Gurley's dust. He averaged 7.4 yards per carry and had four runs of at least 21 yards, and seven for at least 10.

Asked if he could point to anything specific, Joseph pointed to everything.

"Well, the tackling, the fitting, getting off blocks," Joseph said. "We couldn't get him slowed down; that's a major issue when you're trying to call defenses when you can't slow them down, it keeps the playcaller off balance. It's tough when you can't stop the run."

It is a significant part of the big picture now for the Broncos. They led the Kansas City Chiefs by 10 points with just under seven minutes to play three weeks ago and couldn't hold the lead as the Chiefs scored touchdowns on their final two possessions before ending the game with a kneel-down.

That night, the Broncos limited Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes to just 65 yards passing in the first half, but the Chiefs responded with 98 first-half rushing yards. By game's end, the Chiefs had 142 yards rushing to Mahomes' 304 yards passing.

The Jets followed with the fifth-highest single-game rushing total ever against Denver, which in turn prefaced Gurley's career-high performance Sunday, another game where the Broncos' efforts to stop an opposing passing game seemed to open up run lanes against Denver's five- and six-defensive back personnel groupings.

"That was kind of in our game plan, we were trying to shut down the pass. ... We figured we could stop the run with our guys, but that wasn't happening," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said.

The Broncos kept Goff in check -- he finished 14-of-28 passing for 201 yards with an interception. The Broncos also sacked Goff five times, three of those by rookie outside linebacker Bradley Chubb.

On most days the Broncos (2-4) would have celebrated Chubb's breakout effort, along with Miller's 1.5 sacks Sunday, as exactly what they envisioned for their defense. But Denver's defense is now last in the league in stopping the run: It's allowing 161.3 rushing yards per game and has given up 593 in the past two games.

"It wasn't good enough," Chubb said. "If we have the pressure to make plays, we have to do more, so I want to do more. Losing is never fun, just got to man up and do what we've got to do ... I'm not happy no matter how good it was individually. So maybe it was a little bit of a breakout or whatever, but a loss is a loss. I want the win."

"Sacks, sometimes you get them, sometimes you can't," Miller said. "[But] running the ball, I take that personal because you can't rush the passer unless you stop the run, and we didn't do a great job, I didn't do a great job.

"I hate losing more than I love winning, so the spot we're in, I can't even put into words. ... That's my message to the guys is just keep playing. It's a championship fight and we lost a couple rounds at the beginning, but let's just keep playing and see where we end up."