There’s no stopping the run, it seems, for the Denver Broncos.
Running back Todd Gurley ran for a career high 208 yards and two touchdowns _ the second back in as many games to surpass 200 yards against Denver’s beleaguered defense _ and the Los Angeles Rams remained undefeated by downing the Broncos 23-20 on an icy Sunday in Denver.
“That’s not nice to look at,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “We didn’t tackle well, we didn’t fit well, and it goes back to having a mindset to stop the run. That’s two weeks in a row. It’s unacceptable.”
Gurley’s touchdown runs came earlier in the but he also chewed up yardage down the stretch, when the Broncos were desperately trying to slow him down to get the ball back for their offense. Gurley’s gains in the late going helped to set up Cairo Santos’ third field goal, a 23 yarder with 3:15 left to play. It came at the end of a 13-play drive that consumed 5:39 and showcased the Rams’ ability to run the ball productively even when Denver’s defense had to know what was coming.
“Obviously, you want to go with what is working and that’s kind of what we did today so credit to those guys up front,” said Gurley, who averaged 7.4 yards on 28 carries. “They did a great job and we finished the game. We were feeling it in the running game.”
The game was played amid intermittent light snow with temperatures in the mid-20s. In last week’s loss to the New York Jets, Denver gave up 219 yards to Isaiah Crowell.
The Broncos went into the game geared up to stop Jared Goff and the Rams’ high-powered passing game and they did have some success in that area, intercepting Goff and sacking him five times.
“That was kind of in our game, to shutdown the pass this week and play more coverage because we figured we could stop the run with our guys,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “But that just wasn’t happening today.”
Case Keenum drove the Broncos the length of the field, aided by three defensive penalties, before completing a 1-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas with 1:22 remaining to pull Denver within three points. But Denver’s subsequent onside kick attempt was pushed out of bounds by the Rams, giving the ball to Los Angeles. Goff came on to take a knee twice to run out the final moments and seal the win for the Rams (6-0).
It was the fourth straight loss for the Broncos (2-4) who opened the season with a pair of wins.
“We’ve just got to keep pushing and keep fighting,” Chubb said. “Sometimes, there’s going to be some bumps in the road. We just can’t let that get us down and we’ve got to keep playing.”
Denver cut the deficit to 20-13 on Brandon McManus’ second field goal, a 24-yarder with 8:54 remaining. A 41-yard completion from Keenum to rookie wideout Courtland Sutton, plus a personal foul call on Rams pass defender LaMarcus Joyner gave the Broncos a first down at the Los Angeles 11-yard line. Denver settled for the field goal after second and third down passes fell incomplete.
Trailing by 17, the Broncos pulled to within 10 points on Keenum’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders late in the third quarter. Safety Darian Stewart’s interception of a deflected pass from Goff led to the Broncos’ first touchdown, with Denver taking over at the Rams’ 12-yard line. After an offensive pass interference penalty set the Broncos back to the 22, Keenum hit the open Sanders over the middle, and as two Rams defenders tried to bring him down, Sanders extended his arm with the ball over the goal line for the score.
The Rams stretched their lead to 20-3 on Gurley’s second touchdown run, a 1-yarder, midway through the third quarter. The scoring run was aided by a pass interference call on cornerback Tramaine Brock in the end zone, which set the Rams with a first-and-goal at the 1.
The Rams led 13-3 at halftime lead as Gurley broke through for a 10-yard touchdown run on a 4th-and-1 play early in the second quarter.
Gurley kicked off the drive with a 29-yard run that advanced the Rams into Denver territory and helped to get them within striking distance with a 13-yard catch over the middle that took the Rams inside the 20.
Denver’s best chance to score a touchdown in the first half was done in by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Keenum completed a 43-yard pass to Sanders that initially was ruled a touchdown. In the immediate aftermath, Sanders was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting the defender he beat, cornerback Troy Hill, and a replay review nullified the touchdown when it was determined that Sanders was down by contact at the 1-yard line.
Rather than have the penalty enforced at the kickoff it pushed the Broncos back to the 16, and the Broncos settled for a 28-yard field goal by McManus after Keenum’s third-down pass intended for tight end Jeff Heuerman fell incomplete.