Broncos need to run more if they want to win more

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos are second in the league in rushing yards per game at 148.3.

They're second in the league in yards per carry at 5.6. And they're third in the league in rushing touchdowns with six.

So, it would seem they shouldn't be tied for 11th in the league in rushing attempts. In short, the Broncos run the ball better than almost everyone in the NFL, but a third of the teams in the league still try it more than they do.

The Broncos might need a little more quantity of that quality.

"We ran the ball well. We started off so many series just pounding the rock at second-and-1, first-and-10," quarterback Case Keenum said after Monday night's 27-23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. "Even with some loaded boxes that K.C. brought, our offensive line played really well. ... We've got to keep running the ball well. If we keep running the ball like we do, we're going to win a lot of games."

That's just it -- the Broncos have gone 2-2 with a dip-your-toes-in approach to the run game.

On some level it stands to reason. It's a passing league and the Broncos were in comeback mode during their first two games of the season. But in Monday night's loss, the Broncos averaged 7.2 yards per carry and held a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, but they had just 22 carries overall and the game got away from them when they stopped running.

Of particular interest was the possession they had with 6 minutes, 27 seconds left in the game, when they held a 23-20 lead and began at their own 25-yard line. Despite all of the success they had on the ground to that point, the Broncos lined up Keenum in the shotgun, in a three-wide receiver set on three consecutive plays, including two called pass plays -- one for no gain to go with a sack. They didn't gain a yard.

The Broncos then punted after running fewer than two minutes off the clock and watched the Chiefs drive for the win on the next possession.

"I thought [the play selection] was OK," said Broncos coach Vance Joseph. "Obviously you can walk in the next day and question, question playcalls, but it's about first downs. And how do we get first downs? Throwing the ball, running the ball, it's about getting first downs.

"We went three-and-out -- not good; we didn't burn any clock," he added. "Not good versus that offense. We can look back and say, 'Boy, you know, we could have handed the ball off two more times and gained some yards and burned some clock. If you get a first down, you're not saying that today."

When Joseph made the change at offensive coordinator last season -- he fired Mike McCoy in November and moved Bill Musgrave into the role as playcaller -- he said it was about making sure the team was true to itself on offense.

Monday, in a game they dominated on the ground to earn the lead, they ran the ball just three times in the final quarter.

"I thought we had great plans, but the bottom line in these tough games, we have to be our best as coaches," Joseph said. "You can call a great game for three and a half quarters, but for half a quarter, when the game is on the line, we've got to be our best. That's my job to help our players pull these games out, because our players are playing hard."

Joseph did admit Tuesday it might be time for the Broncos to see a little more of rookie running back Royce Freeman, who finished Monday with 67 yards on eight carries -- 8.4 yards per carry. -- to go with a touchdown. Freeman played just 16 snaps on offense. He has played 16 snaps in two of the Broncos' four games and 29 snaps in each of the other two.

"I tell you, Royce, the last two weeks, he is playing at a high level," Joseph said. "And to watch him last night ... a couple times he turned nothing into something, that's Royce. ... I'm looking forward to getting him more touches."