Looking back at Denver’s dominant run game in the late 1990s


Eleven things about the Broncos as they try to put a two-game skid to rest Sunday against the Jets.

1. The Broncos on Sunday are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the franchise’s Super Bowl XXXII championship team. The group, led by coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback John Elway, is set to be recognized throughout the game and the proceedings include a ceremony at halftime.

2. “As a team, you’re always looking to try to win the Super Bowl,” Denver head coach Nathaniel Hackett said. “It’s so difficult to do. There are so many things that have to fall into place. The fact that those guys did that — I remember watching that team a long time ago. I have so much respect for them and all the things that those guys accomplished. They’re such a good football team and I’m honored to be on the same field as them and be part of the same organization. … It takes a whole team and that was a true team, that whole group. We’re very excited to see them all.”

3. That team was in the midst of a stretch during which it dominated in the run game. From 1995-98, Denver never finished lower than third in the NFL in yards per rush. The 1997 team averaged 4.6 yards per carry, second-best in the league, and then the 1998 team finished second at 4.7 per carry.

4. Denver expected to look something like those teams did in terms of offensive schematics under Hackett, who brought with him an outside zone-based offense re-popularized around the NFL by coaches such as San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan — Mike’s son — and the Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay. The Broncos haven’t gone entirely away from it through six games, but have run less wide zone than many expected before the season.

5. “It’s been a combination of a lot of things, both what defenses are doing to us and how they’re trying to take certain things away,” Hackett said when asked about how the outside zone has been limited this year. “We want to be efficient. When you go to the inside zone, you think more efficient runs, trying to get yourself in manageable third downs. The outside zone gives you a little bit more stretch for possible bigger plays. There were times that we were just having too many negative plays and we wanted to concentrate a little bit more on that.”

6. One player Denver could use a breakout performance from is receiver Jerry Jeudy. He’s made some plays down the field, but out of 125 players in the NFL with at least 20 targets this year, he is No. 120 with a catch percentage of 47.2%. That’s not exclusively on him — quarterback Russell Wilson has missed him a handful of times — but it’s a number that needs to improve.

7. “Just keep doing what I’m doing,” Jeudy said of his approach when trying to navigate a rough patch. “There ain’t too much I can really do except to keep working and staying level-headed. That’s the biggest thing, for real, is just staying focused on being better than or improving to be the best version of myself.”


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