Limiting the Cowboys’ rushing attack to less than 100 yards is extremely difficult to do. Limiting the Cowboys’ rushing attack to less than 50 yards is unheard of — at least it was until Sunday, when the Denver Broncos bottled up Ezekiel Elliott and Co. in a dominant 42-17 win.
The Cowboys rushed the ball 14 times for 40 yards in the Week 2 beatdown. It was just the second time Dallas had been held below the 100-yard rushing mark since the start of the 2016 season. It was also the Cowboys’ least effective game on the ground in the Elliott era.
The Broncos, who last year were rated as the eighth-worst defense in football against the run, dominated Elliott and the Cowboys’ offensive line. Elliott finished the game with nine carries for eight yards. Denver completely neutralized Dallas’ biggest strength.
The Cowboys asked Dak Prescott to drop back and throw when their ground game stalled and they fell into an early hole. Prescott wound up attempting 50 passes, a recipe for disaster against football’s best pass defense. Prescott threw for only 238 yards — a 4.8 yards per throw average — and was picked off twice. Aqib Talib’s 103-yard pick-six late in the fourth quarter was the cherry on top of an impressive drubbing.
Broncos general manager John Elway made shoring up Denver’s defensive line a priority this offseason. Denver inked Domato Peko, a 325-pound nose tackle who spent the first 11 seasons of his career in Cincinnati, to a two-year $7.5 million deal. That signing has appeared to already be paying dividends.
The Broncos’ improvement in stopping the run this year could also have something to do with Denver’s suddenly competent offense. The Broncos racked up 380 yards of total offense Sunday. Trevor Siemian threw for four touchdowns and looked in command all afternoon. C.J. Anderson rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown. Being able to sustain long scoring drives allowed Denver’s defense to get some rest, which helped, defensive end Derek Wolfe said.
“Man look at the snaps we’re playing,” Wolfe told Andrew Mason. “That’s another reason our defense had a tough time last year. We were on the field way too long. That’s how you wear guys down.”
The Broncos’ rush defense looks vastly improved compared to last year. So does Denver’s offensive line. Anderson has looked great two games into 2017. All of it added up to a 25-point win over a team some picked to reach the Super Bowl at the beginning of this season.
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