ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Denver Broncos have struggled to consistently find their lane this season.
Facing injuries all of over the depth chart, the Broncos ran the ball effectively, and when the time was right, they put their foot on the gas for some big-play pop in big moments. The defense, meanwhile, kept one of the league's high-powered offenses without a point into the fourth quarter.
The Broncos need to become comfortable playing this kind of football.
"Our offense, we ran the ball well, we moved the ball," said Broncos coach Vic Fangio. "... We were getting first downs, which is critical when you're playing a team that good. You want to play keep-away, keep away as you're moving it and scoring."
Start with the Broncos' 190 rushing yards on offense, including rookie Javonte Williams' first career 100-yard game (111 yards on 17 carries) and 80 more from Melvin Gordon III. The Broncos were patient with the run game overall and reaped the massive rewards.
The Broncos are now 4-0 -- including the win over the previously 6-1 Cowboys -- when they keep the ball enough to squeeze out at least 28 carries in a game; they're 1-4 when they have 23 or fewer. Not coincidentally, when they run the ball more, with more intent, they also create more big plays in the passing game and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater works under center far closer to 50% of the time.
On Sunday, the Broncos had two 40-yard pass plays, including Tim Patrick's 44-yard touchdown in the second quarter. It was the first time this season they had two 40-yard pass plays in the same game. Bridgewater averaged 13.1 yards per completion, which is where the league's most productive quarterbacks have been this season -- Joe Burrow came into Week 9 leading the league at 13.3 yards per completion for the year.
"We knew what we're capable of, we just haven't put it all together," Patrick said. "... A complete team like that, it just gets you excited. Now that we've seen it, we know we just have to stick to the plan and continue to do it week in, week out."
The Cowboys stoked the Broncos' ire on their first two possessions of the game when Dallas tried to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Denver 38 and fourth-and-2 at the Denver 20, both in the first quarter. The Broncos' defense held both times and Denver turned the second one into its first score of the game.
"Disrespectful," Patrick said. "That s--- disrespectful. That's what happens when you try us."
"We take the field [after the fourth-down attempts], with a little anger, honestly ... because they're saying our offense is not going to score or something," Bridgewater said. "We talked about it."
The Broncos' task now, with Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles (3-6) next before a much-needed bye, is repeating the effort against the Cowboys. Asked after Sunday's game if this is where the bar is for this team now, Fangio said simply:
"We're 5-4; the bar is to get to 6-4," Fangio said.