As the third quarter wound down in Denver on Sunday, the Broncos appeared to be in trouble: Trailing the Dolphins 28-17, the Broncos faced a fourth-and-2 and decided to go for it. Get stuffed there, and the Dolphins have a two-possession lead and the ball as the fourth quarter begins.
But the Broncos pulled off a great call, changing the formation and the play at the line of scrimmage, and going with a handoff to C.J. Anderson that picked up 20 yards. Denver scored a touchdown three plays later, took the lead on its next possession and won the game 39-36.
Usually, when the Broncos change a play at the line, Peyton Manning gets the credit. But Manning said it was offensive coordinator Adam Gase in his ear, telling him what to call.
“To tell you the truth, Adam made the change,” Manning said. “We got to the line of scrimmage pretty early and we had time on the clock and so Adam actually made the change from the sideline. It was critical. We ran the ball to the left and it was a good thing that we changed it because we really didn’t have a good play based on the look that they were showing early and we did make the change. I think it was what Adam wanted to get to all along.”
Anderson had a huge day, with 27 carries for 167 yards and a touchdown, and he said Gase told him the Broncos would need to win with the running game.
“Coach Gase came to me and said, ‘If you give me four here, we’re going to call another one.’ And if the O-line is like, ‘Man, keep calling them,’ the O-line wants to keep punishing, they want to keep pushing, they want to keep grinding,” Anderson said. “That’s just amazing.”
The Broncos will always be a pass-first team, as long as Manning is the quarterback. But on Sunday they showed they can win games on the ground as well. And they can win games with someone other than Manning calling all the plays.